Skydive Tennessee for the Ultimate in Thrills
Kneeling in the open doorway of the airplane, arms crossed and fingers locked in the straps of my harness, I balance in the slipstream. At 14,000 ft the sky is an ethereal deep blue, white stratus glowing in the rays of the setting sun. “Kneel further forward,” my tandem master instructs. I’m already on the edge! Obediently I maneuver past the point of no return, wind whistling in my face.
Have you ever stepped out in faith? This is the ultimate! We may not be Felix Baumgartner hovering on the edge of space at 128,000 ft, but the level of commitment is the same. Minutes earlier I had sat inside the airplane watching other jumpers tumble out and vanish. “Am I really going to do that?” I asked myself in amazement.
My husband, a career pilot with over 16,000 hours and military training as a fighter pilot, had always said he would never jump out of a perfectly good airplane. He was my mentor and I trusted his judgement. But when he passed away four years ago, my perception of time and space and eternity expanded. Why should I stay earthbound?
Ninja Man, my instructor, tilts my head back into his chest so that it doesn’t snap back and knock him out (so I’m told) and we dive headlong into thin air in a slow tumble, legs tucked back, feet pointing upwards. He taps me and I spread my arms out wide as we stabilize in the rushing air, balancing spread-eagled in our freefall. A grin splits my face. Wow! We’re flying! Hard to believe we are actually descending at 120 feet per second! It feels like we could stay up here forever.
Brandon, our videographer, appears out of nowhere, flying towards us. How does he do that? He zooms in and grabs my outstretched hands and we spin in wildly exhilarating circles. The horizon swirls, flashing blue sky painted with broad streaks of iridescent ice crystals. The Tennessee River snakes across the shadowed landscape, a burnished gold ribbon far below clouds of cotton suspended in a misty haze.
He drifts away and we experiment changing the position of our arms. I’ve piloted planes and flown in gliders, where the wings feel like extensions of your body, but this is a whole new experience. Freefall is learning to use your body as though you’re a bird. Arms beside your body to glide forward; push the upper part of your arm downward to turn; arch for stable flight with hips pushed down, arms spread, head up looking at the horizon.
A sudden jerk takes me by surprise and the noise and motion stop as the chute pops open, leaving us hanging vertically in our harness straps. In less than seventy seconds we have descended nearly 10,000 ft. As we float like a balloon the quietness is extraordinary. We could speak in a whisper and hear every word. Ninja Man, with over 4,000 jumps under his belt, controls our descent under the blue and white canopy, pulling on cords to steer us. We eventually join the landing pattern for an approach into the wind, and flare out over the airstrip. “Feet down…now,” he says, and we make a perfect stand-up landing. Alright!
Harry made his first jump with the 82nd Airborne in 1954 and has made over 1997 sport jumps. “It’s a wonderful feeling to be flying through the air,” he confesses. “To drift over and take someone by the hand.” They prepare ahead of time by dirt diving – planning on the ground the role each will take when they leave the airplane.
Are you ready for the biggest thrill of your life? Head to Waverly, an hour and a half west of Nashville, and you’ll find Adventure Skydiving Tennessee not far from Loretta Lynn’s Hurricane Mills ranch. The main skydiving season runs March–November, with flying year-round, weather permitting. You may spend hours waiting if the winds are too gusty, but that just gives you time to hear some good stories and build the anticipation!
A tandem jump is a great way to get started. Highly experienced instructors, many with military training, make all the decisions for you. Ask for the videographer package and you can take home a visual record of your flight to relive the thrill over and over. You’ll be amazed every time you watch it! The intrepid may choose a one-day Accelerated Freefall (AFF) course to make a solo skydive. A little more serious? The seven jump intensive AFF course takes you through detailed instruction and aerial maneuvers to first solo as a certified skydiver.
Life will never be the same once you’ve taken the leap! Would I do it again? You bet!