Skydive!

Will and Grannie Annie after the jump.

Courtesy photo

Strap on your harness. Hop into the small airplane and climb to two miles above the ground. Open the door and jump out. Fall about a mile then open your parachute and float peacefully to the ground. Challenging, thrilling a wonderful experience! Well, perhaps not in the mind of your writer a long time pilot who is of the opinion that only two things fall out of the sky — bird doo and fools.

Now for the rest of the story. Last January your columnist attended the annual Nebraska Aviation Expo in Kearney. The Nebraska Skydiving School at Holdrege generously offered a free tandem skydiving jump as a door prize. “The winner — Dick Trail” was drawn from the hat much to the amusement of the crowd that night!

What to do? Firmly convinced that this octogenarian had no business parachuting and possibly making a bone bending landing an opinion firmly reinforced by Grannie Annie. Yes, I had been trained on how to make a parachute landing fall by the Air Force and also by the Army at Ft. Benning, Ga. many years ago in the event that I might have to eject from an airplane. The occasion never arose, thank the Lord, and though I have logged somewhere in the neighborhood of 16,000 flight hours I have never feared landing the aircraft that I was flying.

Hi-five, Will and Bubba

Courtesy photo

Yet the generous offer of a free jump was too valuable an entity to waste. So when Will, one of my flight students, opined that he always wanted to skydive I offered it to him. Two stipulations, he had to ask his mother if it would be okay. Her answer understandably “I can’t tell you no”. The second that I wanted to accompany him. Will made the appointment to jump on Saturday, June 30th so Grannie and I went along to watch, take pictures and share the experience with you, my dear readers.

The school is located in one of the hangars on the Holdrege Airport “Brewster Field.” First stop, a nicely appointed office classroom where Patty Sabatka briefed young Will on the procedures to be followed for his tandem jump. Will would be strapped to the front of a professional skydiver, “Bubba” who would be wearing the large parachute, opening it and guiding it to a safe landing. The signing of a waiver of responsibility in case of an accident was required after the dangers of the operation was fully explained. A short video of others enjoying their jump experience was shown and an offer to video Will’s actual experience was made and accepted. Then Will was suited up and he and Bubba plus another sport jumper crawled into the waiting airplane. Only the pilot had a seat, the jumpers sat on the floor each secured by a seat belt. And away they went.

It took awhile for the Cessna 182, like I fly, to climb to altitude so Grannie and I lounged in the nice viewing area that the school prepared for spectators. Meanwhile, many other prospective jumping thrill seekers appeared. The school staff worked with them and other instructors prepared their students. Busy place. Heard the comment that they would be super busy the next day as 50 customers were coming for their skydiving experience. Honestly, I had no idea that the skydiving side of sport aviation was so popular in this area!

Instructor Patty Sabatka

Courtesy photo

More power to those who promote the sport. Inquiring into how to become a solo jumper I was told that each student had to do a second tandem jump and then go through a rather intensive course of ground instruction there at the school and then they could jump on their own under the guidance of an instructor. Evidently there were quite a few satisfied students because the sport seemed to be quite popular last weekend.

Peering into the sky partly covered with puffy white clouds punctuating the blue we finally spied two colorful blue and red parachutes. Then the solo sport jumper made a decent landing on the groomed grassy field before us. Buba and Will circled above us and came to a perfect stand up landing right in front of we spectators. They unhooked their harness “hi-fived” and the smile on Will’s face showed how much he enjoyed the ride. No doubt that he’ll be back and the skydiving sport has earned a new advocate. Mission accomplished.

Now if any want to challenge their inner-self and jump out of a perfectly good airplane feel free to call (308) 240-1881 or skydiveatlas@gmail.com and make your own arrangements. Their website is www.skydiveatlas.com and the Nebraska Skydiving School has this old guy’s stamp of approval. Challenge yourself and tell them that I sent you.

Floating over Brewster Field.

Courtesy photo

Freedom. Tomorrow we celebrate our nation’s birthday! Fireworks, picnics, parades, the beach, fishing,the family together doing whatever we are free to choose. “We drink to those who gave their lives of old and down we dive to touch the rainbow’s pot of gold” so sings the Air Force song. Yes, we live in the freest most prosperous nation the world has ever known. Sure at the moment, we are a nation politically divided between those who seem to want an ever more progressive powerful government (with them in charge of course) and those of us with a more conservative political bent.

Nevertheless, we are all brothers and sisters together bonded by our love of personal liberty. We inherited it so let us celebrate and remember. It is good to be alive.

That is how I saw it.

Dick Trail

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