High above the ground the silvery outline of a small plane was barely visible as it climbed ever higher into the bright blue sky. Then a tiny black speck appeared to tumble from the plane and then another and another. Quickly those specks were lost to normal vision, but soon the sky blossomed with color as, one after the other, brightly hued parachutes flared and floated downward in giant spirals.
Harnessed to some of those parachutes were five members of the SaddleBrooke Adventure Club who took to the air on March 3 to sample the exhilaration of skydiving leaping from a plane at 13,000 feet into the infinite space above the desert floor. In the 60 seconds between the leap from the plane and the opening of parachutes the skydivers maneuvered downward, turning this way and that, at a speed of about 120 miles per hour. Wind howled, hair stood on end and facial skin fluttered as the skydivers descended 8,000 feet in free fall.
At 5,000 feet above the ground the parachutes, thankfully, were deployed and sanity and serenity were restored. Wind and noise abated, the brown and green patchwork of the desert surface approached more slowly and various landmarks, especially the landing zone, were identified. While swooping in wide arcs the skydivers observed below them the colorful parachutes of jumpers who had been among the first to exit the plane. All too soon it was time to raise feet and line up for landing. With a final swoosh of air and flapping of fabric the parachutes slowed dramatically and the parachutists’ feet touched down to gentle landings.
Across from the skydiving venue a second contingent of the SaddleBrooke Adventure Club, eight in number, were engaged in another exhilarating activity that simulates skydiving without the need to plummet 13,000 feet through the sky. These club members took turns in a wind tunnel which is a circular chamber through which a powerful flow of air is forced by huge fans. One at a time, in two separate one minute sessions, participants stepped into the wind tunnel and immediately were supported by the airflow, enabling them to fly and maneuver just as they would have been able to do in the open sky. No plane, parachute or leap of faith was necessary, but the experience was stimulating nonetheless. v