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Art py Nick uemos
zigged and zagged his way across the sky in a ride that
seemed like a rollercoaster. With the sharp banking turns,
and my nervousness, I was glad I had not eaten all day. I
think I turned a little green:
If you like rolling around in the dirt,
(learning how to land) is kind of fun.
Judging from the mud I was wearing, I
know why they gave us the white over
alls. Afterjeveling off at 3000 feet, the jumpmaster threw
out a marker to determine which way the wind was blow
ing. That way, after we jumped, we would drift toward
the airport and away from the trees and power lines.
When he opened the door, I glanced out at the ground
below. It was a long way down
Finally, we were over the spot for the first jumper me.
The first thing I had to do after the jumpmaster opened
the door was to hang my feet out. Before stepping out on
the platform to jump, I asked the jumpmaster if anyone
had ever fallen out the door. He said, "you've got to go
anyway." He was right; I wasn't about to turn back now,
kiss $65 goodbye, or worse endure the shame in front of
So, picture this: wearing overalls, the parachute and
heavy boots, I put my feet out on the 10" by 18" plat
form under the wing. Leaning forward, I grabbed the wing
strut, and lifted one leg up. Standing on one foot, under
the wing of a plane 3000 feet up is difficult. It's even
harder when the plane is flying at 100 miles an hour. (And
the pilot had even slowed it down!)
I don't remember praying, or cursing or anything. Men
tally I was numb. I do remember having to turn back to
the jumpmaster he had told us we had to smile before
he would let us go. I smiled. He said go.
I let go of the strut and pushed back away from the
plane. The only memory I have is looking up as the plane
flew on. I did not yell ARCH, LOOK, etc. until after my
chute had opened. I didn't really arch, either. But I damn
sure looked up to make sure my parachute had. opened.
That's when the whole trip became worth it.
In the air; 3000 feet up, the earth looks beautiful. That
afternoon, with the sun getting lower, everything was
tinged with gray and orange. I looked down and saw the
runway to my right. I steered toward it. (The parachutes
have small openings in them that help you steer them). I
turn around 360 degrees to look at everything. Off
behind me, I could see Louisburg. The rest of the ground
The relief that it was all. over was im
mense. I laughed, cried, shook, felt sick
and in general, had a minor nervous break
down after folding my parachute up. But I
had done it.
Only one minor detail remained landing in one
piece. To help beginner parachutists, a radio is strapped
on to the front of the chute. The controller down below
tells you which way to steer, for a safe landing. I had a
weak radio, and whenever I wasn't facing the airport; the
radio died. The only sound I heard when that happened
was the wind rushing by.
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I came pretty close
to the target if you call
15 yards close. But I land
ed hard. From above, it ap
peared if I Was lazily floating
to a soft landing. No way. It
was like jumping from the sec
ond floor of a two story house.
Instead of looking straight ahead
as I got ready to land (Like .I had
been told), I looked down. And I did
not roll very well when I slammed (yes,
slammed) into the ground. As a result, I
pulled a tendon on the top of my foot. (It
swelled up for a while, but I was all right
within three days.) After my friends landed.
our jump instructor pointed out a young wo
man getting ready to go up for the 30th time.
She had broken her leg in three places the first
The relief that it was all over was immense. I
laughed, cried shook, felt sick and in general, had a
minor nervous breakdown after folding my parachute
up. But, I had done it.
I could now say that I had taken off in a plane, but
never landed in one. I just wished I could tell my parents
Ken Mingis is a staff writer for The Daily Tar Heel.
'On top of the world
By JIM WRINN
Nearly 20 million Americans have participated in sky
diving, and their emotions and passions for the sport make it
a habit if not an addiction.
On the UNC campus, there is an informal skydiving club.
There are no meetings, no officers. and no dues in this club: .
only people who enjoy skydiving.
Andy Bertron, a 22-year-old international studies major
from Tampa, Fla., is one of those people.
He became interested in sport parachuting after jumping
in an ROTC exercise almost two years ago, and his logbook
now" credits him with 62 jumps.
Bertron, who took his training at the Franklin County Sport
Parachute Center at Louisburg, said his only concern during
his first jump was to make a good exit from the plane.
"At 3,000 feet, you're riding on the wheel (of the airplane),
hanging on a strut, looking at this guy who's going to tell you
to jump. I just wanted to make a good fall," Bertron said.
During that first jump Bertroi was in freefall for only
about three seconds. A static line, a device which automati
cally pulls out the parachute, popped out his canopy almost
immediately after leaving the plane.
That was too short a time for Bertron. He now goes to the
Franklin County jump site regularly on weekends and makes
several jumps a day.
"There's a few of us that love it so good, we can't stand it
without it," he said. -
Bertron, who has jumped at the nationally acclaimed Flor
ida jump site, Zephyr Hills (near Tampa), said there's a cer
tain camaraderie among skydivers.
"We have our meetings at the drop zones and meet in the
air sometimes," he said. "Those are the best meetings we've
There is a good feeling to feel the parachute come out,
but arv even better feeling to have performed a formation
with other skydivers while plunging towards the Earth at 120
mph, Bertron said.
Ralph Hardy, another "member" of the UNC club, shares
Bertron's enthusiasm for the sport.
Hardy, a 21 -year-old English major, said, "There's an elec
tricity when four of us make a formation in the air. It's just
like connecting a circuit the feeling flows through the
whole group. -
. "You go back because there's a certain enthusiasm.
You've jumped and you're rot hurt. You face your fears in a
way that's difficult to do in today's society." he said.
Hardy, a veteran of 43 jumps, said freefall was the great
est of skydiving's experiences. "From 12,000 feet, there's 70
seconds of freefall," he said. "You can do a lot in 70 sec
onds." . '
For the beginner. Hardy said instruction is relatively sim
ple with the primary focus on making a safe jump and learn
ing what to do on the way down.
One girl who sang on the way down of her first jump is
Lynn Johnson. A junior from Franklin, she described her first
and only jump as a quiet experience.
"You just swing back and forth. It was so quiet and yu
could see so far," she said.
Johnson said she never really considered jumping until
seeing an ad in The Daily Tar Heel. "It just hit me as some
thing I'd like to do," she said. "I'd like-to do it again."
Hardy, who quit jumping for a year, said he started jump
ing again last September. ,
, "My dad didn't like my doing it," he said. "He'd send me
newspaper reports about people getting hurt or killed doing
it, so I quit."
What made him go back? "It was a pretty day in early Sep
tember," he said. "I saw an airplane flying over and I just
had to go."
What made the millions of Americans who've jumped go?
Bertron probably summed it up the best. He said, "You're sit
ting on a huge air cushion with the wind blowing at you, and
you are quite literally on top of the world."
lim Wrinn is a staff writer for The Daily Tar Heel.
Spotlight January 28, 1982