Soaring with the Skyhawks
Skydiving is the ultimate thrill, a free-fall from 12,000 feet where you reach speeds of 120 miles per hour. Very few people know the sport better than the men and women of the Canadian Skyhawks demonstration team.
Member Dave Smith, who has parachuted more than 1,400 times, let me come along for a jump at the Salute to Veterans Air Show in Columbia. First, I signed a form, acknowledging that skydiving is a "dangerous and life-threatening activity."
Safety was the most important aspect of the morning's preparations, to assure I wouldn't come out of my harness or become disconnected from my jump partner. The team also checked the parachute several times to make sure it would open.
After getting the stamp of approval from the jump's commander, we were ready to go airborne. Once in the plane, jump coordinators took several wind measurements by dropping streamers onto the airfield at Columbia Regional Airport. Their direction of travel let us know what to expect after we dropped from the plane.
After a few tense moments, I watched mid-Missouri roads and buildings get smaller and smaller. I was briefed one last time before I took the plunge.
In the few seconds after four team members leaped from the plane, there was little time to think: there was no contemplating whether I should jump or not. We just did.
After the parachute opened, we floated slowly to the ground while doing a few spirals and other tricks on the way down.
Two-and-a-half minutes after we abandoned the solid footing of the plane, we arrived back on Earth in a successful landing.
Thanks to videographers Scott Schaefer and Brad Noblitt.