2017-12-01 / Front Page

Skydiving should be on everyone’s ‘to do’ list

Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Laura Levering and her instructor, Dan Schiermeyer, take in an aerial view of Chester, South Carolina, and surrounding areas. Jumping from an altitude of around 14,000 feet, jumpers can see the Charleston, South Carolina skyline at a distance. 
Quincy Kennedy / Skydive Carolina Sky Team Laura Levering and her instructor, Dan Schiermeyer, take in an aerial view of Chester, South Carolina, and surrounding areas. Jumping from an altitude of around 14,000 feet, jumpers can see the Charleston, South Carolina skyline at a distance. Quincy Kennedy / Skydive Carolina Sky Team There are people in life who ask “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” And then there are the ones who ask “Why not?” I am the latter.

Last week, I took the plunge some people talk about but often do not follow through taking.

On Nov. 19, I, along with my friend, Olivia Sloan, experienced our first tandem skydive. It was an excursion we had been anticipating for nearly a year after I purchased gift certificates from Skydive Carolina as early birthday gifts thanks to a 2016 Black Friday deal. The certificates were to expire soon, so we had to make it happen before the opportunity passed us.

Once we nailed down a date, I called to make reservations. Typically, reservations are made online, but with the Black Friday deal, I had to call. In return, we received an email that included a waiver requiring multiple signatures. Similar to the time I enlisted in the Army, I felt like I was signing my life away, only in this case it was in case the parachute did not open.


Laura Levering and her instructor, Dan Schiermeyer, experience a freefall from about 14,000 feet above the ground and 120 mph. The fall lasted about 60 seconds and was followed by about 10 minutes of steering through the sky. 
QUINCY KENNEDY / SKYDIVE CAROLINA SKY TEAM Laura Levering and her instructor, Dan Schiermeyer, experience a freefall from about 14,000 feet above the ground and 120 mph. The fall lasted about 60 seconds and was followed by about 10 minutes of steering through the sky. QUINCY KENNEDY / SKYDIVE CAROLINA SKY TEAM A few days prior to the trip, I called Skydive Carolina and explained we were first-time jumpers who wanted to make sure we set for the Nov. 19, 2 p.m., manifest, I tried not to sound nervous as I asked questions like “What do I wear? How long will it take? Can our kids tag along? What happens if the equipment malfunctions? What if I don’t have a will?” The woman on the other end was thorough in her responses, which I suspect calmed any anxiety she may have sensed on my end.


Geared up and ready to fly, Laura Levering and Olivia Sloan smile for the camera before taking off to flight. 
Patrick Mercier / Skydive Carolina Sky Team Geared up and ready to fly, Laura Levering and Olivia Sloan smile for the camera before taking off to flight. Patrick Mercier / Skydive Carolina Sky Team Located in Chester, South Carolina, Skydive Carolina is about 140 miles northeast of Fort Gordon; between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Columbia, South Carolina. When I purchased our gift certificates, the purchase was not made with haste nor merely because it was bargain-priced. I did research, read review after review, compared it to others in the country, and of course consulted Olivia’s husband. All signs indicated Skydive Carolina was a premier destination to skydive, so I felt at ease making the purchase.

We gave ourselves plenty of time to arrive and get situated on the day of our jump. The Skydive Carolina employee I spoke with on the phone said to plan on being there four to six hours total, so we planned accordingly, bringing games and snacks for the kids.


Laura Levering and her instructor, Dan Schiermeyer, moments after they departed the plane, a Twin Otter, which was carrying several other skydivers. Tandem skydivers at Skydive Carolina experience about 60 seconds of freefall at about 120 mph from around 14,000 feet. 
Quincy Kennedy / Skydive Carolina Sky Team Laura Levering and her instructor, Dan Schiermeyer, moments after they departed the plane, a Twin Otter, which was carrying several other skydivers. Tandem skydivers at Skydive Carolina experience about 60 seconds of freefall at about 120 mph from around 14,000 feet. Quincy Kennedy / Skydive Carolina Sky Team We checked in about 30 minutes ahead of our 2 p.m. slot, then waited outside with our families. The site reminded me of a large campground with a huge, fenced off space for the runway, plane, and of course skydivers.

The waiting area has a small merchandise shop, snack stand, picnic table, about a dozen Adirondack chairs, restrooms, and plenty of outdoor space for spectators to get comfortable as they wait and watch for jumpers.

About an hour after arriving, we were summoned indoors to watch a safety video and given a chance to back out. All but one of the eight jumpers in our manifest were firsttime jumpers, and to the best of memory, all eight of us made it on the plane.

Following the video, we returned to the waiting area where we listened for our names over the loudspeaker. When called, we were to report to the hangar. That’s when things seemed to speed up. We got acquainted with our instructors, got suited up, had a brief interview with our videographer, then we walked past our families and to the runway where the plane awaited us. I was ready to go. Olivia was ready to go. It was time to do this.

Packed tightly inside a Twin Otter, I was thankful to be seated at the very front, and as I found out a short time later, was the first in our manifest to jump (yes, I was relieved to go first)!

Olivia and I chose to have videographers along for the jump because as they say, “If it isn’t on video, it didn’t happen.” That, and we wanted to be able to share our experience with family and friends. It definitely made for quite an experience – being on camera so much. As someone who is not a fan of being in the spotlight, I think it helped distract me from the inevitable: I was about to fall out of a plane.

Less than minutes in the air, and the time had arrived. My life was literally in the hands of Dan Schiermeyer, my instructor.

Leaning over the ledge of the plane, hooked to each other, we rocked back and forth. There was no push. There was no jump. There was sitting on our bottoms, my feet tucked under the ledge, a gentle rocking, and then on the count of three, a forward lean that sent our weight plummeting through the sky.

A two-mile high free fall at 120 mph that lasted about 60 seconds. It was pure exhilaration … followed by more exhilaration. The opening of our parachute (by my instructor) gave a strong jolt back and was followed by smooth flying. At that point, my instructor advised I remove my goggles and enjoy the view. For the next five or 10 minutes, I soaked in everything I could. Schiermeyer asked if I wanted to steer. Of course I did! Wanting to spin, he showed me how and we did a couple 360’s.

Landing time came quickly. I longed for more time in the air, but as they say, all good things must come to an end.

To say skydiving exceeded my expectations would be a lie, as I honestly did not know what to expect. One thing I did not expect was for the experience to leave me grinning internally for days. I felt like I was on natural high. For days.

I asked Olivia to sum up her experience in a few words.

“It was exhilarating,” she said.

Exhilarating. Yes. It was exhilarating in a way that leaves you wanting to return for another jump.

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