Redefining “Fall Risk”

Glen Bollinger marked skydiving off his bucket list at the ripe, young age of 90 this past month, proving you’re never too old! Here’s how he remembers it.

When Laura and I first discussed our interest in sky diving, I barely entertained the thought that it could happen, but soon the possibility started to sense reality. A friend’s family conducts an aviation business, including skydiving, at the Toledo, Washington airport. The deed began to look possible when Laura, my assisted living nurse, was also enchanted with the possibility. We firmed up a date of Saturday, July 19, for Laura and me to actually sky dive. When the July 19 date turned out to have low cloud cover, a new date of July 26 was set.

Toledo is a small airport that conducts sky diving as one facet of its business. Laura and I watched a movie that provided instructions and told of the risks we were about to entertain. Then we signed several sheets to waiver responsibility. Since we were jumping tandem, our master jumpers explained the actions we were expected to take, got us in our jump suits and in about 45 minutes after arrival, we (3 jumpers, 3 tandem master jumpers, and 2 photographers) walked out to our plane.

I can’t speak for Laura, who seemed happily excited to be making this jump, but I had the eerie feeling that, after all these years, this couldn’t really be happening to me. With eight passengers, the plane was quite crowded. The three tandems straddled a lengthwise bench, were hooked up and ready to jump. The photographers squeezed in alongside. Im guessing that it took 10/15 minutes to reach the 10,000 feet jumping height. Meanwhile there was a terrific view of the valley below, ringed by mountains. St. Helens was closest, but there were good views of Rainier, Adams and Hood. We were to jump in order a photographer first, then my tandem, Laura’s tandem, and the third tandem. I dont know when the second photographer jumped, but it must have been fairly close to when I did. The plane’s door was fairly small, so the photographers bent down and lunged out. The three tandems, as soon as the photographers jumped, quickly took their turn to slide down from the bench onto the floor with legs outside the plane, ready for their master jumpers push from behind.

With a quick slide to the door, getting my legs hanging over the door jamb, my master jumper gave a jerk, and I finally got a taste of free falling. How to explain? We seemed to be doing all sorts of acrobatics on falling out, but my master jumper soon straightened us out so we could fall flat with arms outstretched for the first 5,000 feet (perhaps 45/50 seconds at about 125 mph). At 5,000 feet he pulled the parachute rip cord and I felt a whole new sensation in contrast to the freefall.

With the parachute open, it was a leisurely drift down, ending exactly on the landing circle. I was offered the opportunity to maneuver the chute part way down but I was satisfied just floating down and exulting in what I had just accomplished.

Would I do it again? Its probably the biggest thrill ever, for me, and I probably would try again. Lastly, I do owe so many Chateau folks, so much, for fulfilling my dream and reducing my bucket list. You gave me above and beyond what I hardly dared hope for!