Two years ago my brother, and two college buddies took a weekend trip to Pittsburgh. At that point, It’d just been to Pittsburgh for the first time a few months prior and had been singing the city’s praises. We wanted to see somewhere new and had a weekend full of activities planned. On Saturday we went ATVing at Mines and Meadows, which was a blast and then spent a great Saturday night carousing Pittsburgh’s southside and table dancing at Hofbrahaus.
We had planned to go skydiving Sunday in Chambersburg PA. We chose Chambersburg because it was just a little out of our way home from Pittsburgh. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t exactly excited for the proceedings. I have a well documented fear of heights and while I’d actually been skydiving previously and highly recommended it to people, I’d always sort of assumed that it was a one and done and I wouldn’t have to experience it again. I was terrified to the point that I had to make myself vomit as soon as we got to the airport.
We got suited up and watched the safety program but unfortunately high winds and clouds prevented us from skydiving. I was sort of embarrassed that I pulled the trigger for no reason but we were reassured that we could go back at any time. It sucked, but we had a good weekend prior to that, and really what could we do. We just said that we’d just have to get together again, no big deal.
Then, life got in the way. The following summer I went to Ireland, our one buddy took a work assignment for a couple of months in Australia and my brother decided to go to law school. We still kick around the idea of going but it’s been hard for all four of us to coordinate at weekend. I was reminded of this on my way home from Pittsburgh this weekend when I had to stop for gas off the exit we took to Chambersburg.
Skydiving is one of those things that seems to be on a lot of bucketlists , and which I’m glad I experienced. It was definitely a rush, it gives you a bragging rights, and for a whole year I was able to post a picture of myself looking badass in a flight suit as my Facebook profile.
I went skydiving the summer between my junior and senior year of college. A friend of mine was really into skydiving at the time, even going so far as to look into getting certified to jump solo, and convinced my brother and I that we would love it. We drove to Endless Mountain Skydiving in Tunkhannock PA on a cloudy August Saturday afternoon, a convenient half hour away from where I grew up.
I was expecting to jump out of some sort of cargo plane. I’d seen videos of people skydiving before and that seemed to be the way they did it. They’d open the back chute and your whole group would get to jump out one after another. The plane we had was a two seater. It had enough room to house the pilot, and two jumpers (you’re not allowed to jump on your own your first time so ride tandem with someone more experienced). I was not thrilled.
The instructions that the jumpers gave us, the video we had to watch, the suiting up process, and watching my friend jump was all a haze to me as fear took over. My brother and I volunteered to jump second, scared that if I didn’t go as soon as possible, I’d wuss out.
They attached us to our jumping instructors, and loaded us into the airplane. In order to be prepared to jump, you have to kneel with your arms crossed. They told us we didn’t necessarily have to hold that pose until they told us, but again fear made me think I better be safe than sorry. I didn’t realize how scared I really was until we were back on the ground and the pilot asked if I was alright. He told me I was the worst looking jumper who ever actually went through with it. I chose to take that as a compliment.
When we got to 10,000 feet they opened the passenger door. I was literally kneeling inches from an open plane door. I mentioned it was cloudy earlier because they were obscuring the pilots view of the ground and they needed to fly around a little bit to find a “hole” in the clouds to jump through. They didn’t close the door. It felt like 15 minutes but was probably three and I’m surprised I didn’t vomit. I was really regretting my decision. Finally the pilot gave us a thumbs up and the instructor attached to my back yelled to walk forward. I froze and both of them yelled again. I still didn’t move so the pilot simply banked the plane and we fell out.
The freefall lasted about 30 seconds and was surreal. You have no real concept of time or place or even how high you are when you’re falling, it’s just a rush. The instructor yelled for me to pull the shoot when it was time put I declined, scared I’d completely mess something up, and let him do it. As soon as he did, I wasn’t scared anymore. I was relieved that I’d survived it and the ride down once the parachute was open was relaxing and exhilarating and at that point I realized my earlier fears were completely off and that I’d recommend skydiving to anyone.
Luckily, there’s quite a few locations around PA if you want to try it out for yourself. Here they are:
Endless Mountain Skydiving: Factoryville
Skydive Pennsylvania: Grove City
PA Skydive: Hazelton
Skydive Pennridge: Penn Ridge
Allentown Skydiving: Allentown
Skydive Philadelphia: Philadelphia
Reading Skydiving: Reading
Sky’s The Limit: East Stroudsburg
Keystone Skydive Center: Kutztown
Chambersburg Skydiving Center: Chambersburg
Maytown Sport Parachute Club: Marietta