The only way to describe seeing someone exit the plane is the following analogy. Imagine that you and a friend are walking along. Your friend who is walking in front of you suddenly gets hit by a speeding train. Except it's a train made of air. One minute they were there, and then -WHAM- they are gone.
When it became my turn to leave the plane. I took my position outside the door (without looking down) and with a "Ready, Set, GO!" The plane was in front of me. Then, that weird feeling came over me... no not free fall, it was being upside down! Let me explain: when you jump out, you are riding on a wall of air (as well as a wave of endorphins and adrenaline). The wall of air initially comes from your forward motion of the plane. Therefore you are lying on your belly against a vertical wall of air... but there is no guarantee how you'll be lying there! As for me, I spun on my belly until my head was pointing down. It was an odd feeling, and had I not been warned about this, I would have started thrashing around in the air like a crazed man! Or is that sane man?
In about five seconds, I had leveled out, and it was time to look and communicate with my jump master. I looked under my right arm and there he was... that was reassuring! He held up two fingers, and I was thinking "Two what?". Five seconds before jumping, I had correctly identified two fingers as the hand signal to straighten out my legs. Here in the air, my brain had turned to jello and all I could think was "Two what?" Confused, I moved on to my practice touch, read my altimeter, looked back at my jump master. He found this amusing but kept insisting that I straighten my legs. Only then did I finally realize the hand signal that he was giving me (by this point we had dropped 4,000 feet).
The whole free fall of 8,000 feet was over in under a minute. I would say that it was an experience similar to being in a car accident. The whole process makes sense, you are aware of everything going on around you, there is a whirl of activity, but it happens so quickly that a fit of temporary confusion is equivalent to a majority of the free fall experience. It is my opinion that a majority of the people who jump a second time are motivated to experience it without all of the confusion which accompanies your first jump. This confusion quickly ended as I pulled that trusty little handle, my body was rocked by tugs from my back and the two people holding on two me suddenly disappeared as the force of the parachute ripped me from their grasp.
Suddenly I was surrounded in silence. Ever since I boarded the plane, it had been noisy. Try sticking your head out the window of your car while driving at 50mph and realize that you are not even traveling at half the velocity of a free fall! Then in 6 seconds, all that noise disappears. It's replaced with the gentle breeze blowing by your head. The silence is a little nerve racking, you realize that you're all alone! No one holding on to you. There's just you, the Earth, and a lot of air around you. This is the point that your head bolts up and you make the desperate appraisal... is this chute going to hold me?
There it was. All laid out in a beautiful rectangle. In fact, it was so comforting that things were going right that I didn't want to mess with it! Don't fix something that isn't broken. So my first turns were tentative. In fact, they were so conservative that the person on the ground who was directing my landing (via a one-way radio) was yelling at me "Turn, Chuck. TURN Chuck! Come on TURN!!!" With a yank of the controls, the chute pivots forward, I was pointed downward, I shit a couple of bricks, and I turned! As I let up on the line, I was rocked back to my original position. A little unnerving? You bet! Even by the end of the ride, I was wary of sudden turns. But as I said before: I have to go again and experience it without all the confusion!
The landing was uneventful. Just your typical three point landing: two feet, followed quickly by one butt!
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