Action/Adventure, Extreme Sports, Skydiving
Skydiving with Skydive Philadelphia at Pennridge Airport (Perkasie, Pennsylvania)
By Caitlin Doherty — February 10, 2011
Every action-adventure aficionado at some point in their lives is drawn to sky diving. (And if you’re not into adventure, at least it’s a sure-fire way to cure yourself of a fear of heights!)
Our Action-Adventure, extreme sports reporter, caitlin doherty, seen here in her first skydiving experience back in 2006, at skydive philadelphia at pennridge airport in pennsylvania. (Photo © richard grigonis)
At a very basic level, the allure of skydiving is that it’s basically the world’s longest thrill ride—instead of a few seconds of plummeting toward earth on a 300 or 400-foot high megacoaster in an amusement park, you’re diving thousands of feet for a minute or so with air wooshing past you (imagine sticking your whole body out of a car window racing down a highway), while you enjoy a 360-degree view of everything above, around and below you. Then, your parachute opens and you get three or more minutes of aerial sightseeing as you descend back to earth.
On another level, of course it’s an extreme sport that’s a bit risky, which is part of its allure. There are singles’ skykdivers, naked skydivers, people who have gotten married while skydiving and people who have gone skydiving when they turned 100 years old. It’s a great way to get a quick adrenaline rush.
Tandem skydiving is easy and perfect for first-time freefallers such as caitlin Doherty, since the instructor (in this case, brian North) is fastened to your back and controls the parachute. (Photo © richard grigonis)
My first skydive took place on July 2, 2006 at Pennridge Airport, home of Skykdive Philadelphia. (A competitor of theirs that close to me in New Jersey is Freefall Adventures, near Williamstown, New Jersey, which has been serving Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York since 1984. They're about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia.)
After falling about 1,000 feet, a skydiver's descent levels off at about 120 mile per hour. (Photo © richard grigonis)
To get into the air and skydiving as quickly as possible—especially if you just want to try doing it once and not want to learn all of the details about it—you would do what I did, and buy a “tandem” skydive. This now costs about $200, including a gear rental fee.
Tandem skydiving is easy because you’re strapped to the front of your experienced instructor and he takes care of the parachute (specially designed for two people) and so he becomes a sort of extreme sport tour guide, and you’re the sightseer. After a training session, their plane takes you up to up between 5,000 and 10,000 feet (In the case of Skydive Philadelphia, I paid an extra $10 for the extra height). From up there you can see the skylines of Philadelphia, not to mentioin the surrounding farmland and towns.
Once your parachute opens, you plesantly float above the picturesque farmland and housing developments for several minutes, as you continue your descent. (Photo © richard grigonis)
The day I went for my tandem jump, the winds got so bad they actually didn’t let anyone jump after me. But I did get to make my first jump and it was great!
When you reach the right altitude, you and your instructor do a final safety check, and then you bail out….Wow! After falling the first 1,000 feet (300 meters) you reach a speed of about 120 miles per hour (54 meters per second), at which point air resistance fights gravity and you stay at that speed. You’re in freefall for about a minute.
Caitlin doherty makes her landing back at pennridge airport. Videographer Belvin Wells is in foreground (note the digital video and still cameras on his helmet.) (Photo © richard grigonis)
A cameraman also bails out of your plane, and documents your aerial adventure. My cameraman or "videographer" was named Belvin Wells; he had two cameras attached to his helmet: a digital video camera and a digital still camera. It was really cool. At one point Belvin and my instructor Brian, who was still attached to me, grabbed hands and stayed linked for a few seconds, and we all slowly spun around as we plummeted toward the ground. Then my instructor gave a queue by pointing, and everyone let go. The circle was broken. Because my instructor and I had more wind resistance than the sole cameraman, we rose up and away from him as he continued to photograph us from below.
My instructor then released the parachute, and we zoomed upwards and away from him, and then the cameraman’s chute opened. We peacefully floated down for about three or four minutes, admiring the Pennsylvania countryside right to the far horizon. Of course, you also sort of work with your instructor to help guide the parachute back for a landing at targeted landing area.
A completely energized and refreshed caitlin doherty has successfully completed her first skydive! (Photo © richard grigonis)
When we reached the ground, two people on the ground crew ran up to us to take our parachute off so the wind didn’t start dragging us along. That’s what so funny about skydiving—the few injuries that occur don’t happen in the air, they happen on landing, especially if the wind catches your parachute and pulls you into a fence or thorn bushes or a barbed wire fence. As long as you pay attention to your instructor, however, there shouldn’t be a problem.
The nicest part is paying for the cameraman, the videographer who records the whole session from “gearing up” through the freefall and landing in front of your friends and family waiting on the observation deck. During the fall, the camera guy is only a few feet away, then gets to the ground before you do so he can record your landing and comments about the whole experience, followed by your reunion with your equally-amazed family and friends.
caitlin Doherty gives skydiving a thumbs-up, exclaiming, "nothing tops skydiving!" (Photo © richard grigonis)
When I first did it, the video was on VHS tape, but now the video (which is set to music and is ready to go within a half hour of your landing) is placed on a DVD. And you also can get a CD of digital stills documenting your experience.
Keep in mind that, for reasons of safety, skydiving isn’t for everybody. If you’re 10 years old or weigh more than about 250 pounds, you’d better reconsider.
But for those of us who are able to do so, skydiving is a fantastic, exhilarating experience.
Caitlin Doherty, when not functioning as Interesting America's pizza-ologist and fun eatery afficionado, is our action-adventure/extreme sports reporter. She also likes fun places to visit when she can find the time. A New Jersey native, she is a pharmacy technician for a hospital.