This tiny plane is only big enough to hold a handful of people. It’s a tight squeeze. Students strapped to the front of their Argentine instructors like human backpacks. Huddled closely together, the small group shout over the roar of the engine as the plane makes the 20 minute ascent to 12,000ft. There is a lot of air between us and the ground right now. Enough distance for my acrophobia to disappear. Adrenaline has taken over and I feel like I’m watching someone else about to jump out of a plane.
The sky is a clear summer blue streaked with thin white clouds. I wonder what it will be like to touch those clouds. My instructor Eduardo checks his Altimeter and decides its time to open the hatch. The noise is deafening as we dangle our feet over the edge. The only way is down right now. I don’t have much say in the matter as Eduardo pushes us both forward and we tip into the sea of air. I scream wildly for a few seconds, as the world turns upside down. Below me, the earth seesaws in and out of vision. We regain our balance with our arms and legs stretched out in a star shape. It’s a bit like that feeling in your stomach when you are driving and you go over a bump, but times 100!
As we gain momentum, the air becomes thick and heavy, like falling through something more solid. A lot of people describe the sensation as a feeling of floating, but I definitely feel like I’m also falling. Its way more pleasurable than I had imagined. There is nothing to grab onto and so I give myself over to just falling freely. The air feels like its pushing up against me, but its me pushing down against it. Invisible forces press into my skin pulling it tight across my face. Like being blasted by a gust of wind, although I wouldn’t call it wind since the air isn’t moving, it’s US doing the moving.
We are plummeting towards Buenos Aires at the rate of 140mph, although it doesn’t feel that fast because we haven’t passed anything but empty air. The cloud vapours are too thin to notice, and if the clouds were any thicker, we would not have been allowed to jump because its against the rules and apparently quite dangerous.
Suddenly, the chute goes up and the drag cuts our speed to a much slower pace. Now we are falling more gently. I have a chance to look around, but all I can think as the ground gets closer is that I don’t want this to end so quickly and I need to go straight back up and experience it all over again (minus the screaming). No chance of that though, my flight to Australia is tomorrow and I won’t be jumping out of that plane.