So, a few years ago (2015) I got licensed in sky diving.
My first tandem jump took place when I was still at university, somewhere close to Wiener Neustadt. I had a comrade in arms, who, although afraid of heights, had done this before and wanted another go. This combination puzzled me at first (skydiving? fear of heights? how does that go together?) but he explained it was somehow too far up to register properly. So we ended up jumping out of a garish pink airplane together with our tandem masters – it was exhilarating!
I absolutely loved it, but at the time, I didn’t have the money to start a proper sky diving training.
A couple (well let’s just stick with that for kindness’ sake) of years later, I finally had both means and opportunity to finish what I started. So I took the AFF (accelerated free fall course) at the Hohenems airport.
The trainers there where absolutely awesome. You start by practising drills, so you know exactly what to do once you’re in free fall. Honestly, I think this is what the military must be like. But still, very effective – you know every step by heart in no time.
The first few jumps, you do with 2 trainers, who are there to keep you staedy if necessary. Then you start jumping with only one trainer. You learn to do turns, saltos back and forward and how to regain a stable position should you lose it. On the ground, you learn how to fold your parachute correctly (a cumbersome but necessary evil). After only 10 jumps, you do your first solo jump.
After that, you are pretty much left to your own devices for the next 20 jumps. You get to practice and have fun. Although, honestly, I enjoyed jumping with a trainer more. It was more interesting, there was direct feedback and you learned a lot more.
Getting the license consists of a written and a practical exam. For the practical exam, two jumps need to be done. One from normal altitude, going through all the figures you learned to perform, and one from a lower altitude, to demonstrate you can get stable quickly enough to be safe in case of an emergency.
After getting my license, I started jumping with a few other girls – all of them outgoing and vivacious. It was fun but it also showed me that I had just scratched the surface with what we had learned at the course. Moving in the air, together with somebody else, trying to fall at the same speed wasn’t quite as easy at our trainers had made it seem.
That`s when it started to dawn on me, that I would have to invest a lot of time to do this properly. Time, however, is something that I don’t have in abundance any more. So I had to establish priorities and to my own surprise, skydiving didn’t make the cut. I think part of the reason is that I found the whole process a bit strenuous. The build up of tension during the 20min climb of the airplane, the first hit of adrenaline rush as the door is opened and the first jumpers disappear below you, then the second rush as you jump and feel the acceleration, the time spend on the parchute with the high slowly ebbing away, followed by a rush to the hangar to repack and do it all over again. I just realised that it’s not how I want to spend my time.
Still, it was fun and I’m glad I got to do this, that I got to finish this chapter.