On July 30th 2014, my 60th birthday, I celebrated with a HALO tandem skydive from 17,500 feet. It was my first skydiving experience. I jumped with Mario and my videographer was Ryan. I have flown in Navy jets, and even instructed Naval aviators on how to eject and properly use their equipment for parachute descent and landing, post ejection. So I’d always been curious about this experience. As a former Navy Aerospace Physiologist, we received basic flight training, and water survival training, which included being dropped from a para-sail to water entry; to practice disentanglement from parachute in water. We were dropped from approximately 1,200 feet which would be like ejecting from aircraft carrier height. We were pulled up in a para-sail (like vacation para-sailing) but were completely detached when we released, to float down and practice water entry in Pensacola bay; but I’d never had done real skydiving. I always wanted to skydive, but also had been following the mantra of why jump out of a completely good airplane?
I wasn’t afraid of heights or speed, although I never enjoyed roller coaster sensations, and I was told that feeling was absent when skydiving. Back then, my Navy job at the time included investigating aircraft mishaps including when aviators ejected and had problems or failures with their parachute descent. But what really got me motivated to finally try this, was watching the Felix Baumgartner space jump. I thought that was the ballsiest, coolest thing I’d ever seen, and said, if I could do that I would in heartbeat. I know jumping from space wouldn’t happen, but then I found Skydive Orange. When I decided to scratch the skydiving experience from my bucket list for my 60th birthday, and then found Skydive Orange’s HALO experience, I knew I had to up the ante and not just skydive tandem from 13,500′, but do it from the 17,500′ mark. If they had a higher jump, I would do it. The experience was everything I dreamed of. Of course, once in the plane and heading up, I was nervous and a bit scared, but had complete confidence in my preparation and short training with Mario. The plane was full for first flight of the day, but I was the only tandem jumper that day. One of the experienced jumpers went out at 6,000 feet, and then a couple at 13,500 mark. Watching them jump and how fast they ‘disappeared’ when at the door was a bit nerve-wracking for me, but we climbed higher. I think that day there was one solo jumper who went out at the HALO altitude before I went. As the only tandem jumper we went out last. It was finally our turn, we scooted down the bench after final equipment check. Getting close to the open door was probably the scariest part of the jump and those few seconds where we were standing in the open door before going. Ryan of course was hanging outside first to get last minute shots of me preparing to go with Mario, then he jumped. After maybe 2 seconds of standing at the open door and looking out and down, yikes. With the wind screaming in my face, Mario made the ‘push’ and we were out the door- WOW what an experience- free falling from 17, 500 feet, I thought we actually had turned upside down as we went out the door before straightening out- and this was confirmed on the video. Then we’re hurtling down 8,000+ feet of free fall, 120 mph. I’ve been in Navy fighter jets, flown inverted participated in training air combat maneuvering, had the experience (from the back seat) of trapping aboard and being catapulted off an aircraft carrier, but this experience topped all of those experiences by far. We had planned for me to pull the handle for the chute deployment, but once Mario signaled me to deploy, I just couldn’t get my hand in the right position to find that ball, and he deployed the chute. Then a nice descent with some maneuvering by him and a turn by me. I think the wide swings as we turned under the chute were more nerve wracking to me then the actual free fall. I think I was concerned I’d make a turn so angled that the chute would collapse, but, of course, we had a perfectly safe and textbook descent. Followed by a smooth, great landing, and I said upon landing that I would go right up and do it again if I could. It was the most fantastic experience I could have hoped for. I will definitely do it again and am contemplating going ahead with the AFF training. But I like the high altitude jump so much. I’ve searched the web for higher HALO tandem jumps and that is the way to go. I’ve found one from 30,000′ in another part of the country, pretty pricey but maybe one day will try it. Most likely will go back to Skydive Orange for another HALO or AFF training. I’m hooked. I recommend the HALO experience to anyone, and give 1000% endorsement of Skydive Orange and their professional staff. I felt completely safe, and would have no hesitation doing it again (I hope soon). And would request Mario again as instructor, he made me feel safe and comfortable with the equipment and procedure and made the experience everything the web site made it out to be. Thank you Skydive Orange. Dr. Ken Green Commander US Navy Washington, D.C.
The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.