One of my best friends in high school was Jim Madden. Jim was quite an adventurer. He was proficient with sailboats and motorboats, was a SCUBA diver and a sky diver.
Jim used to sky dive out of the Zephyrhills facility close to Tampa. If you’ve ever seen video of sky divers forming circles in large groups and other feats, there’s a good chance it was done there as it is world famous.
One day at school, Jim asked if I was interesed in a plane ride. I had never flown before so I said yes. He said it only cost $5 (remember this is a while back) and I would fly in a plane from the Zephyrhills facility on Saturday morning.
That Saturday I drove over to the airport and met Jim as he and his friends were getting ready to sky dive. Jim introduced me to the pilot whom I gave $5. He said I would sit on a box next to the pilot’s seat and I would have to wear a parachute. I was taken aback. Why would I have to wear a parachute? Just procedure, the pilot told me.
Reluctantly I put on the parachute which was tight and uncomfortable but I was getting my first airplane flight!
Finally everyone was ready. Jim and three of his friends with their parachutes and gear were in the back, the pilot was in his seat, and I sat facing the rear looking at Jim and his crew as I sat on a wooden box next to the pilot.
The plane took off, and it was exciting as the plane flew to thousands of feet above the ground. Above the loud engines, the pilot shouted, “Get ready!”
Jim and the crew got up and crouched down ready to jump.
Then the pilot yelled above the din, “Go!”
The first skydiver went over to the door, turned the handle and the door flew up. Jim and his friends then jumped out the plane. It was so strange to see them there and then gone.
Then the pilot yelled to me, “Close the door!” To do this I would have to reach way out of the plane up to where the door handle was and pull the door down. Now I knew why I had to wear a parachute.
“No way!” I said.
“Just reach out and pull the door down,”said the pilot.
“Easy for you to say,” I said. “What if I fall outside the plane?”
Grumbling, the pilot put the plane on auto pilot and stepped over me to reach out and close the door.
Later after we landed, I met Jim who had landed safely with his friends.
Jim asked,”How did you like your first flight?”
“It was memorable,” I responded. “I’m sure I won’t forget it!”