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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!

Back in the hangar we meet up with seasoned skydivers who do this regularly for fun. Harry Ervin is celebrating his 80th birthday, preparing for a formation jump with his son and daughter.

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.

My friend Cheryl is also celebrating her birthday, and her daughter has come along to make their first jump together.

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!

Hi! I’m Dayle Fergusson. As a transplanted Aussie living in Middle Tennessee since 1986, I have been a freelance travel...Read on

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    Larry Frankenbach

    Great article! Skydiving is like happiness, it’s better when you share it with others!
    Blue skies!

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    Marcelle Sweet

    Great article! Dayle, we enjoyed talking to you at the drop zone and appreciate being part of your article representing skydiving. We are blessed to be able to answer the skies call. I am so glad that you decided to experience our awesome sport for yourself. Congratulations on your first tandem.

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    Dayle

    Larry, I’m totally intrigued with how you guys fly, manoevering through the air at will! You’re amazing!The freefall is such a total sensory overload, one simply has to go again to savor it and pay attention. This could very well be the next great adventure to master!

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    Michael Conner

    While I enjoyed your article, I must admit that, in my opinion, it is highly misleading. The basis for my stern comment is my experience this past weekend. My wife and son wanted to experience skydiving. So they purchased a tandem skydiving from Adventure Skydiving Tennessee (AST). We were told to arrive at 11:00 AM, which we did. My wife and son completed the required paperwork. Upon returning the forms, the counter staff “highly recommended” that we upgrade to skydive from 15,ooo feet as opposed to the 10,000 feet that we had purchased for merely $10, which we did. It was also “highly recommended” that we purchase the video of our Skydiving for $95 – this seemed highly overpriced as the video was almost as much as the experience itself, hence we declined.
    We were then told to wait and we would be called when we were “manifested”. So we sat in the office. During the next 4½ hours:
    • We listened to the counter staff complain to each other about customers who were booking on-line – even calling them idiots,
    • Observed the owner (Brooklyn?) make multiple jumps while we and other paying customers waited – at one point upon returning from a jump, she told the counter staff “It’s just too nice a day not to jump.”,
    • When we asked the counter staff as to our expected wait time, we were told we would go when we were “manifested”,
    • The office had no water potable available; however a vendor was available behind the office to purchase refreshments,
    • We had to use a Port-O-Toilet as the office had no restrooms,
    • We spend part of our extended wait in the Observation Area, where smoking is permitted (within 50 feet of the airplane) and where the staff sits and smokes,
    • AST staff assisting in loading the airplane without hearing protection, or other Personal Protective Equipment,
    • We observed several solo skydivers show up, speak to the counter staff – never seeing one make any payments, and be loaded onto the plane within forty-five minutes,
    • We observed tandem skydivers show up 3 hours after we did and be harnessed and loaded on the airplane within thirty minutes.
    • The only safety training provided to my wife and son was four minutes of instructions while being placed into the tandem harness.
    Generally, I would consider this a “redneck” operation where they paying customer (tandem skydivers) funds the operation and gets “manifested” as space may be available after the solo skydiving regulars. We would have addressed our concerns with the Brooklyn; however, after watching her make all the jumps, we realized that she and her company had no regard for paying customers.
    On the positive side, much like your article details, my wife and son concur that the instructors and the experience are wonderful. We will skydive again; however, we will not use or recommend Adventure Skydiving Tennessee.
    I also plan to voice my concerns with the Better Business Bureau, Humphreys County Chamber of Commerce, OSHA, and the FAA.

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    Kim Lewis

    I must admit I loved the actual skydiving but by the time I waited 4 hours it took a little off the fun. The desk staff was rude and could not give any information. When I finally did get to jump it was wonderful and do plan to do it again but will use Chattanooga Skydiving. I have already contacted them to get information and plan to take a group there in the spring. I have posted this on my facebook and also told anyone who did not believe what a wait I had to read the reviews of Adventure Skydiving. I think everyone should try it but make sure and read reviews (all the reviews first) not just the ones by writers who I am sure there experience was wonderful due to writing a story

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