Students talk skydiving



    Some BYU students are daring, while others only dream.

    “I love taking risks. I live for it,” said Jeff Peterson, a senior from Dayton, Ohio, majoring in accounting.

    “Oh sure, I would bungee jump. I would go sky diving. I’ve never gone.

    “The coolest thing I want to do is get dropped off in a South American jungle with a bunch of guys and find my way out,” Peterson said.

    Despite his desires, Peterson said he doesn’t have time to do these things.

    “I used to rock climb and repel when I was younger, but now I just don’t have the time,” he said.

    David Williams, a graduate student from Ashland, Ore., majoring in accounting, also likes to take risks. He wants to bungee jump, but has never been.

    “I have … the desire to jump by my ankles from a big bridge,” he said.

    While Peterson and Williams think about these ventures, Harry Terrill took a date to Utah Fun Dome, and bungee jumped.

    Terrill, a senior from Monrovia, Calif., majoring in English said, “I’d been wanting to do it for a long time. I jumped probably eight times. Every single time it was still scary.

    “It was just weird, like you’re not supposed to be jumping that high.

    “The first time you fall, you bounce back up probably 10 feet below where you jump off. You fall a good height two or three times. That’s probably the fun of it for me, bouncing up and down,” Terrill said.

    Terrill said his date had a good time, too.

    “I had to stand there and talk her into it. She wanted to do it, but she was really scared.”

    Terrill also jumped by his ankles.

    “When you do an ankle jump, you have to dive off. It’s just like diving off the high dive. The only thing I didn’t like about the ankle jump was all the blood rushes to your head, and your eyes felt like they were going to pop out.”

    Candace McCain, a graduate student from San Jose, Calif., majoring in recreation management, said “No way.” when asked if she would ever bungee jump by her ankles. Although she has bungee jumped, she said, “Sky diving is more fun than bungee jumping.”

    McCain talked about going sky diving with two of her friends.

    “I was the one that initiated it, and they wouldn’t let me chicken out.”

    Commercial jumping does not require much instruction if you tandem jump with an instructor, she said.

    “We had hardly any instruction. They told us how to jump. In the plane, they told us how to land.”

    A tandem jump is when two people go out at the same time, said Debbie Zimmerman, sky diver at Skydive University on Highway 73, 10 miles from Lehi.

    She said you wear a harness, which is hooked up to your tandem master. You exit together and go through free fall. You or the instructor will pull the cord, and then a canopy opens.

    McCain said jumping with an instructor helped her feel more comfortable. She said she had to initiate everything for the 9,000-foot jump.

    “They opened the door, and I was like a robot. I just kicked my legs out, crossed my arms like they told me and went out. I think the only reason I did it is because I didn’t think twice about it,” she said.

    She said they free fell several thousand feet until the cord was pulled.

    “It felt like you were just floating. You don’t really have the falling sensation. The only thing that let you know you were falling was the 120 mph wind in your face from the speed of the fall.”

    While some pay for this thrill, others get paid to jump from planes.

    Marcus Hunter, a junior from Washington D.C., majoring in molecular biology, said he went to jump school in Fort Benning, Ga., as a member of the Army ROTC.

    “I volunteered for jump school. I actually wanted to do it,” he said.

    His training was more extensive, than commercial jumps lasting three and a half weeks.

    “The first two weeks, I learned basic procedures for jumping out of a plane and how to properly land. The third week, I actually jumped.

    “You jump five times static line, meaning you’re hooked up into a cable inside the plane. As soon as you jump out, your chute deploys. You have a reserve chute on your chest in case the chute doesn’t deploy.”

    Unlike the commercial jumps where people jump from thousands of feet, Hunter only jumped at 1,250 feet, he said.

    “The first three to four seconds after you jump out … there’s nothing holding you. Then the chute deploys and you feel a sudden jerk. It’s not very comfortable, but necessary.”

    Hunter said he had to wear several hundred pounds of gear while he jumped.

    “It’s all very heavy. With all the extra weight, it jerks you all the harder. Sky diving is much more of a joy ride.”

    He said he was not afraid to jump.

    “We train so much and practice so many times, it was just routine. They prepare you enough that you’re a lot more comfortable.”

    Hunter said commercial jumping would be more exhilarating than jumping with the military, but it has its trade-offs.

    “You jump higher so the element of free fall would be more exhilarating, but you only get instructed a couple of hours. As far as landing, they’re hoping you’re athletic enough to land properly.”

    His friend jumped commercially and landed wrong.

    “She dislocated her shoulder. Commercial jumping has some problems with that.”

    Hunter said landing is the most dangerous part.

    “They don’t drop you very softly. You just fall like a rock. One of the biggest parts of the training (at jump school) was landing.”

    But not everyone has the luxury of extensive training.

    “For a civilian opportunity,” Hunter said, “(commercial jumping) is the closest you’ll ever get.”

    In addition to jumping from planes, Hunter said he jumps from bridges — attached, of course. He jumped from a railroad bridge across New River Gorge in Kentucky.

    He said he clipped into a chain on the bridge, like those used for rock climbing. Then he pulled his cord tightly before letting himself go.

    “It’s a straight drop for a couple hundred feet and then you swing back up … like a pendulum. It’s like a big swing.”

    Not everyone goes for the free-falling sensation. Duane Wesemann, a senior from Bountiful, majoring in molecular biology, flies planes for fun.

    “Right now I feel as comfortable flying as I do driving. I trust myself. I consider it an honor when people want to go flying with me because I think they realize their lives are in my hands.”

    Wesemann said he took a pilot course while in his junior year of high school.

    “It cost $1,800. I took lessons after school and loved it so much I just kept going. I had my license by my 17th birthday.”

    Before he got his license, Wesemann said he had to fly solo to another airport.

    “I remember feeling really unsure of myself. I was confident in that I knew what to do, but there was no instructor to take over,” he said.

    Wesemann said he had a close call when a storm came in right above him.

    “I turned around and had to fly straight into it. I remember thinking I was going to crash.

    “I couldn’t climb because there was icing on the wings so I couldn’t gain altitude to fly over the mountains. I had to fly over the canyon and go back the way I came,” Wesemann said.

    Despite the pressure, Wesemann said he got through that incident.

    He said he trusts himself and likes to take dates and friends flying with him.

    “I like the idea of flying somewhere, landing, parking and then coming back to fly home. With the kind of airplanes I fly, it takes half the time (to reach the destination) than if you were driving.”

    He said renting airplanes costs $40 to $80 an hour. “You only pay for when the engine’s on. The rental is wet which means gas is included.”

    Wesemann said he trusts the aircraft. “To be on rental, it’s got to be pretty safe. I check it out before I go, too.”

    Although some students would never take such risks, the ones who do should be safely insured. For students with BYU insurance, accidents related to recreational activity are covered.

    Heather Freestone, health benefit representative at Deseret Mutual Benefits Administrators, said, “If they had the BYU student plan in place, it would cover it. Usually they’d go to the emergency room. After their release, they would have to notify Ralph Simpson at the Health Center.”

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