Canton Air Sports, OH

'Twas a beautiful day for skydiving: hot and humid with scattered clouds, fairly light winds, and only a few ominous rain-producing thunderheads to dodge around mid-afternoon. We set out for Canton Air Sports (outside of Alliance, Ohio) at 8am and arrived before the first load of the morning had gone up. Matt Buchovecky, Averie Yang, and Lilly Chen all made their first-ever tandem jumps, while Alastair Firth successfully completed levels one and two of the Accelerated Freefall Program, currently the most popular method of achieving solo skydiver status at many dropzones. (Traditionally, folks went through the static line progression program, but AFF puts you into freefall from high altitude on the very first jump.) Averie got a longer-than-usual ride under canopy, and a shorter-than-usual freefall experience, because her tandem instructor's parachute accidentally deployed shortly after exiting the plane. I did my first two jumps with a friend from the dropzone; we worked on falling relative to each other and generally chasing each other around in the sky. I exited from the end of the wing strut each time while he followed me out very shortly thereafter from the door position. Although we were not close enough to each other during freefall on either jump to actually do contact relative work, working on staying relative (on the same level as each other) was good practice. Having a few fluffy clouds in the vicinity made for beautiful mid-air scenery. On my last jump, I watched Alastair and his instructors, Mark Katich and Chuck Bramel, exit the plane together, and followed them out about five seconds later. I was close enough to Alastair when he pulled his ripcord (though not so close as to present a potential risk!) to watch his canopy open, which was very cool. All in all, it was a fantastic day--and as always, I can't wait to get back up in the air!

-M. Jehn