Adventures in Free-Flying

2.5 years, 2,500 jumps, Sep 2000 - Feb 2003

Ray & Jenny Jardine

From Sept 2000 to Feb 2003, Jenny and I were full-time skydivers. Altogether I jumped 2,591 times, and Jenny 1,850. This page features some of those jumps.

Click to play this video of us Skydiving.

At an altitude of 13,000' above the ground, the plane is flying head into the wind at 90 mph. We exit the plane and "fly" heads into the wind also. The plane's wings and tail give it stability, preventing it from tumbling. We use our arms and legs in the same way.

Assisted by gravity, we begin to accelerate. Photo Tim S.

Reaching terminal velocity at 170 mph, we continue "flying" head into the relative wind. This is called "head down," and is the most efficient means of body flight because even the slightest movements provide excellent maneuverability.

Holding the arms and legs out in such powerful wind requires great strength. We are basically hanging on them, and if we relaxed and "penciled," we would quickly accelerate to well in excess of 200 mph and lose much of our control. Photo R.

Controlling our airspeed so that we are both falling at the same rate, we fly "proximity," and just for fun reach toward each-other for a closed-fist "dock." As we do so, we are still flying very carefully to maintain stability.

The freefall lasts about 60 seconds, which is sixty - count them - 60 seconds of pure exhilaration. Photo Steve C.

Descending to 3,000' agl, we deploy our parachutes and fly them for about 5 minutes to the landing area. The landing is a fast "swoop" at something like 35 mph. My feet slide across the ground, yet my weight is still hanging from the canopy. This produces a very fast but gentle touch-down. For this to work I must build a lot of speed prior to landing. I do this by putting the canopy into a dive, starting at about 800' above the ground. At the last moment I use this speed to generate the canopy lift needed for the long and fast swoop. Photo Jenny.

This time we exit with Jenny flying head into the relative wind (the 90 mph airplane's speed), and me feet into the wind. Clasping each-others legs in this orientation is called a "vertical compress." Tim S. follows. Photo Steve H.

I flip backwards and fly head down with Jenny. Carefully, I reach out and place my hand on her helmet. This is called a "spock." Then while holding the spock I begin to rotate my body to the side. Photos Bullet Bob

What makes this move challenging is I have nothing to hang onto. Trying to grip Jenny's helmet is like trying to grip a bowling ball. Even the slightest flinch would send us zooming apart. So in order to maintain proximity, both of us must fly our slots with precision.

The transition I am making, from head down to head up, is called a "joker"

Once I am upright, we stabilize out, and fly it.

Jenny spocks me in return, and at this point I have a lot of weight on my hand.

Jenny transitions to upright, and we fly a "totem."

This entire sequence is shown at the end of our Atlantic Caper DVD video, along with a couple of skyball jumps and a couple of landings.

On another jump, here is how the totem works. After the joker double spock, Jenny drops down and grabs my ankles.

From the dropped position she brings her legs together, tucks her knees to her chest, and rolls forward still hanging onto my ankles.

The totem is flying nicely. And while it appears that I am standing on Jenny's shoulders, actually there is very little weight applied. We are both flying upright and suspended by our outstretched arms. Photos Bullet Bob.

Sometimes we fly with friends. Sven, Marcus, Jeffro, Jeremy, R., Photo by Jenny

Preparing to exit with cameraman Marcus hanging out. Photo by Jim C.

The skyball is a tennis ball filled with lead. It is quite heavy, and by adjusting the length of its tail we have fine-tuned its speed to match ours.

Flying upright with the ball while practicing catch and release. Near the end of the jump I pocket the ball into the black zippered pouch sewn to my jumpsuit.

The skyball is excellent practice and a great deal of fun. Altogether I jumped with the ball 240 times. Photo J.

Hanging from the skyvan in flight.

In all my jumps I experienced only two equipment malfunctions. Jenny experienced none. Here my canopy has spun up and is basically flying a downplane towards earth, while I rotate so rapidly around it that I am horizontal. However, I was able to kick out of the line twists and regain control. Otherwise I would have cut away the canopy and deployed my reserve.

My other equipment failure occurred when the steering toggle (Voodoo container) jammed in the slider, preventing me from steering or flaring. This happened 3,000' above the ground, giving me plenty of time to sort out the problem and land uneventfully.

In three years of skydiving and a total of 4,451 jumps between us, Jenny and I were fortunate not to need our reserve parachutes. This was mainly because we flew very conservative canopies (other than the one in this photo which I quickly sold) and because we very carefully packed them ourselves.

Jenny leaps with abandon from a hot-air balloon. Photo R.

Flying upright is a natural orientation; very comfortable and fun. Photo Sven Z.

Hello, World! Photo Jason P.

Returning gently to earth. Photo Jason P.

Next: Ray & Jenny fly with Peter Pan & Wendy
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