Amplifying life at 12,000 ft

On a bright and sunny day in November 2012, I jumped out of a perfectly good plane at 12 000ft…don’t worry, I was attached to a guy with a parachute who knew how to use it.

Skydiving had been on my Dream List since I was 15 years old. I always imagined that it would be as close a sensation to flying as I might ever get. I had dreamt of skydiving in a stunning location- with pristine lakes, mountains and a blue sky open to me falling out of it. And, I dreamt of doing it with someone special- like my sister, a boyfriend or one of my best friends. All my dreams came true on this perfect November day in Lake Wanaka, South Island of New Zealand.

My dear Canadian friend Priscilla, one of my partners in crime and adventure since university days, had flown across the world to meet me in Christchurch to do a whirlwind 10 day tour of the South Island.  We were no strangers to the adrenaline rush of extreme sports. Afterall, we had paraglided in Brazil, whitewater rafted and cliff jumped in Canada and we were both waiting with baited breath to jump out of a plane. Things were definitely lining up as we picked the one gorgeous blue sky day amongst a few rainy ones to do our jump. We signed up for the full package of jumping at 15 000 ft and videoing the whole 60 sec freefall adventure.(Unfortunately, due to some strong winds we had to do the 12 000ft jump instead which meant 45sec of freefall instead of 60 sec).

After we signed away the rights to sue Lake Wanaka Skydive center in the case of injury or death, we suited up, our harnesses were triple checked and within 3 minutes of meeting my expert skydive instructor Ollie, we had boarded the small plane and were lifting off the small runway.

Awesome is the word I use to describe the amazing and very quick experience. Additional words can’t quite describe the actual feeling of falling out of a plane so I’ll let the video give you the full picture:

As if completing one death defying activity in a day wasn’t enough, we had heard of a national airplane aerobatic champion who was offering tourists a chance to learn aerobatics….at 6000 ft directly above Lake Wanaka. We signed up without hesitation.

Ivan, two time national aerobatic champion, gave us trendy Top Gun pilot suits to wear and briefed us on exactly how to fly a small plane. We had a very vivid explanation of how to maneuver in the wind using a sophisticated training tool- a toilet plunger with a small toy airplane stuck on top.  Ivan toured us around the hanger, showed us the flight plans and even patiently participated in a mega photo shoot alongside our plane.  His Kiwi sense of humour, friendly demeanor and obvious flight expertise made us feel as ease jumping into the tiny aircraft. I went up first while Priscilla enjoyed a cup of tea in the hanger and continued snapping photos to document our monumental experience.

Right from taxiing to the runway, Ivan allowed me to help fly the plane. After authorization from air traffic control, we were charging down the runway to make a unique upshot take off.  We started slow and relatively horizontal until the end of the runway when we pulled the control sharply back to jet up into the sky. It felt like an awesome rollercoaster where my gut was winded just long enough to send happy tingles of excitement through my entire body.  Once we were safely at around 6000 ft and above Lake Wanaka, Ivan explained each thrilling acrobatic stunt he was about to perform. I surrendered to shrieking, screaming, crazily laughing and gasping for air whenever my body allowed. Sitting beside a pilot as he was performing death defying stunts in the air was one of the most incredible and thrilling experiences I’ve EVER had, until…. it was my turn to perform the stunts.  Ivan quickly gave me control of the plane and after some major hesitation (fear and cold sweats), I took control of the aircraft. He carefully walked me through each stunt step by step and I laughed like an absolute crazy woman as I spun the plane upside down in the Loop stunt or turned us side to side in the Barrel. It was crazy scary yet felt electrifyingly good.  Ivan even allowed me to fly back to the hanger and assist in our smooth landing.

Here is the actual footage of my Maverick experience (please note: this video contains some course language and high pitched screams….hey, you would have cursed too if you were in a plane upside down! Notice the amazing lake-mountain-sky scenery out the window and how it swirls around as we fly!)

Now, I’ve got 30 min of piloting experience under my belt (in case I ever want to grab the controls and train to become a pilot).  After landing, my friend Priscilla had her chance at piloting. She found it to be as riveting as I did and we treated ourselves to a nice New Zealand lamb dinner to celebrate that we had not only survived the day….we triumphed.

My key learnings:

-          The scariest thing about skydiving is having your feet dangle out of a plane at 12 000ft and then the split second you realize you have gently fallen off the plane. The 45 sec freefall was definitely enough time for me to get over the fear and enjoy the exhilarating feeling and spectacular views…oh and perform some theatrics for the camera J

-          I have a new founded deep respect for pilots. They carry a the huge responsibility of other people’s lives ( as well as their own) when they take off the ground. There are a lot of gadgets and switches on the dashboard and it seems to be a delicate science to have them harmoniously working together with the forces of nature that linger outside.

-          It’s an amazing feeling to conquer a fear.  Something deep inside you snaps and releases the courage you need to get through the challenge or quest that lies ahead. The Captain in you appears and you realize that you are bigger and more confident than 2 minutes ago.

-          My first few steps on solid ground both after skydiving and piloting, I felt a strange feeling of invincibility. I did it! I really did it! Oh my gosh, I jumped out of a moving plane! Holy cow, I piloted a plane freaking upside down! If I could do all that in one day….what was I going to do tomorrow?




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7 Responses to “Amplifying life at 12,000 ft”

  1. Jay Seshadri Says:
    December 8, 2012 at 1:33 am

    Tania: Your mom and dad are my friends. I went to engineering school in Mumbai with your dad. Wow- what an experience you are having. It si so wodnerful to see that you are following your head and heart and having such a great joy in life.
    Peter and Brenda; Thanks for sharing Tania’s journey with me.
    Christchurch is a great location for skydiving. I only flew on an helicopter ride when I visited that wonderful city in 2002.
    Om Shanthi Om
    Jay from Minneapolis, USA.

  2. Two thumbs up, my friend. Jumping out of a plane is on my bucket list for next year. It’s nice to see you on video; it almost feels like you are here.

  3. Wow!!!! Good for you – what guts. Glad to see you doing everything you ever dreamed of. Enjoy the journey!

  4. I am not sure why… But watching you jump out of that plane I started to cry!! LOL I know drama queen.. But why would I cry…You know I thought about it for a while and realized that seeing you so filled with excitment and how happy you were made me feel sooo good!! Tania I am more proud than words can explain and love your blog and updates!! Keep Safe and live the dream!! xo

  5. The Global Sponge The Global Sponge Says:
    December 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Hi Jay, Anne and Terry- thanks for your words of support! That day in the sky will be with me forever and this journey is getting better and better!

    Hey Roch- you are too cute! Thank you for your encouragement and love. Sorry I can’t be with you guys for xmas but I am there in spirit and I can’t wait to share stories with you in person when I return!

  6. Tania… proud to see and read all that you are accomplishing…enjoyed reading your blog, – enjoy yourself and stay safe.
    Merry Christmas and a very happy and safe new year. Love you.xx A.Mena

  7. Absolutely Incredible, Tan!!!! My jaw was dropped and now my face hurts from smiling for the entirety of that video! I hope by the time I make plans for a NZ trip, Ivan will still be guiding crazy tourist through that experience… I want to meet the true top gun pilot!:)

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