I was 6-8 years old living in southern NM on an air force base, when the show "Ripcord" was on the TV. We received 3 channels via a special box & antenna. Even through the poor reception and snowy screen we would watch this show in awe. The premise was a variety of adventures surrounding the then-new, thrilling sport of skydiving. The two men and their private Cessna airplane were placed in unusual situations where their special skills and abilities were needed. This led them on exciting weekly adventures from chasing dangerous criminals to performing difficult and daring, if occasionally absurd, rescues.
I decided I wanted to do this and maybe even be a smoke jumper to fight forest fires! I was finally old enough in college & the Air Force ROTC was going to send me to the Jump School at Fort Benning, GA for two weeks. Alas, this wouldn't happen as I would miss the first two weeks of the spring semester which included calculus & chemistry. 🙁
Making new Air Force friends who were skydivers reminded me of my childhood dream & missed opportunity. I got married, had children and had two careers. I had no time or money for skydiving and at one point lived a half a mile from CPI in CT(It was painful to see the weekend jumpers and no way to participate!) I turned 65 in December of 2020 and forced retirement from American Airlines.
We moved to Amelia Island, FL as my wife always wanted to be near the ocean. I called 2 DZ's on the eastern Florida coast and was denied entry into AFF because I was over 40 years of age. Another place had a cutoff of 45 and told me "you people have brittle bones and we don't want to take any chances.” This really pissed me off & I feared I would never get to jump. I wanted just one time to go out of an airplane not hooked up to someone.
The summer before retirement I was in Croatia on an airline trip and was sea kayaking. We saw people cliff jumping. I had multiple times in the Air Force been dragged by vehicle or boat up on a 300' rope on a round canopy to practice landings/PLF's after an ejection. I decided if I could not do this 35' jump into the Adriatic Sea, I would never be able to jump out of an airplane and would be a pussy! I jumped, arms straight like I was a cross. Damn that hurt when I hit the water!
I found Skydive Danielson, CT had no age restrictions and could start in August of last year. I did my first nine jumps there. 12 days I sat there from 0900 until 1700 hoping for the clouds to dissipate, the winds to die down or come from the right direction. I had moved from “I want one jump to I want my "A" license and do the heads down or sitting stuff." My wife came back with a resounding "No" after my first non-tandem jump. Somehow I kept going to her chagrin.
The season ended on Halloween last October. I kept hearing Skydive City in Florida was the place to go. Way too far away to go from Fernandina Beach. I came to Z-Hills last December. 16 jumps Sunday-Friday and "A" license in hand! I'm at 42 jumps with water and canopy courses complete. I have half the accuracy landings and touches completed for my "B" license. I got into an awesome flat spin on my back yesterday when our 4-way went to shi* coming out of the plane that accelerated and the other jumpers watched in rapt curiosity to see how this was going to turn out. Skydive City instructors trained me. I am writing this today because of that training. When I landed after that jump I landed on my feet like on pillows - AWESOME! I was jumping up and down like a 6-8 year old in front of a snowy picture screen imitating his heroes on TV.
The story above is posted in its unedited form just as Bob submitted it to us. If you'd like to write share your skydiving story with us please email ClarkeAirSports@gmail.com and include a picture for us to use as well. You may be entered to win some free gear in our next gear giveaway!
Thank you so much for sharing your perspective with us Bob. I had no idea that you'd been dreaming of skydiving for such a long time. I'm so glad that 6 year old kid got to become a skydiver when he grew up, and I'm so glad you feel like that 6 year old kid! -Noah