It was my grandfather’s opinion of parachutes was that they were wholly unnecessary unless (A) it would be otherwise unhealthy to stay on a plane, or (B) you are invading Europe. His opinion of Europe was somewhat constrained as well: “It’s dirty and people shoot at you.” He didn’t plan his visit there at its best moment.
Parachuting has changed considerably since he formed his opinions. Take Skydive Twin Cities, for example. Since they began in 1975, they’ve gone from using round military surplus parachutes to steerable square ones, and their 900 HP Cessna Grand Caravan only takes 12 minutes to carry divers 14,000 feet up in the air. You’ll be plummeting back to earth at terminal velocity within as few as 30 minutes of arriving.
Skydive Twin Cities is owned by John Bucsko and Kerry McCauley. Kerry, their chief pilot and instructor, is a veteran of the Army National Guard where he flew helicopters for 12 years. It was not during his service that he fell in love with skydiving, however.
“The army doesn’t give you a parachute when you fly helicopters,” explained Kerry. “When there’s a problem on a helicopter, you’re much better off trying to land it than taking your chances with the spinning blades.”
“After my service ended in 1986, I was eager to get back up in the air,” Kerry continued. “One day my friend and I started talking about parachuting, so out of the blue we just decided to go and try it. We went to this little shack out in the middle of nowhere, where this hippie taught us the basics of skydiving and then flew us up. As soon as I took my first jump, I knew I’d be hooked for the rest of my life.”
“Like me, a lot of our first-timers come to jump on a whim, something they get to cross off their bucket lists. After their initial plunge, most of them are too dumbfounded to even find words — we get a lot of ‘wows’ and ‘oh my Gods!’”
“Our most memorable first jumper was a 98 year old lady. She saw on television that George H.W. Bush had gotten his wings, which are what the army gives to you once you’ve completed five jumps. She figured if the president could do it, then so could she — and she did. She made all five jumps, and got on the Today Show because of them.”
“I took her for her sixth and final jump when I scattered her ashes. She lived for nearly a century, and it was that place she discovered right at the end of her life where she wanted to be forever.”
When you go to Skydive Twin Cities, you’re first given a 15 minute lesson about what to expect and what to do. You can go solo for your first jump, but many opt to do a tandem dive, judging that it will be a great comfort to be attached to a professional instructor with over 10,000 dives under their belt. However you choose to do it, you may expect about 60 seconds of pure electrifying bliss as gravity hurdles you groundward, and then eight minutes of dangling gently in the breeze, suspended only by fabric.
“When you take your first jump, be prepared for the most exhilarating experience of your entire life,” said Kerry. “It’s something you’ll never forget. You have to remember: Collect moments, not things!”
Skydive Twin Cities has two locations: one in Baldwin, WI, and another in Winsted, MN. To learn more about the moments of perfect freedom that they offer, visit skydivetwincities.com.
By David Scheller