CHATHAM, MA – There is something about leaping from a perfectly good airplane and falling through the air at 120 miles per hour that really gets people’s attention.
If you’re a bold traveler searching for a once-in-a-lifetime thrill and are someone who enjoys testing themselves to the limit, add a visit to Skydive Cape Cod to your Bucket List.
The Lower Cape is quickly becoming a hot spot for adrenaline junkies and extreme sports enthusiasts who call Skydive Cape Cod their second home.
On a clear day clients experience views from Falmouth to Provincetown, and Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket to the Boston skyline.
Business owner, Jimmy Mendonca said, “Skydive Cape Cod has been voted one of the top 3 skydiving locations in the United States and is the only drop zone in New England that jumps over the beach.”
He and senior instructor, Gustavo Petterson were introduced to the sport of skydiving in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where a passion for the sport gripped both friends at an early age.
Mr. Petterson recalls watching hang gliders and para gliders from his grandmothers porch and telling himself that one day he would “learn to fly.”
“My first jump was an intense experience and like many people, I was hooked right away,” he said. “Skydiving is a very personal, introspective experience that is very liberating and broadens the realm of what’s possible.”
“It’s a very liberating experience to live in the present moment,” Mr. Petterson said. “The psychological impact of what you’ve accomplished in the air stays with you long after you land safely on the ground.”
The experiences he gained from skydiving have propelled Mr. Petterson to enroll as a psychology major at Cape Cod Community College, where he is able to study the psychological impact of his lessons from the sky.
Cape Cod Community College Skydive Club
Earlier this spring Mr. Petterson led an effort to recognize skydiving as an elective club sport at the school.
“So far more than thirty students have signed up for membership in the club and nine students have completed their first jump,” he said.
Mr. Petterson’s goal is to educate people about the advances in technology and to teach students to focus on safety.
“I’m hoping to inspire students to learn more about the sport that I love,” he said.
Skydiving: By the numbers
Skydiving is a remarkably popular sport. The United States Parachuting Association has 34,000 members. It estimates that about 350,000 people complete more than 3 million jumps in a typical year.
Avid skydivers typically own their own parachutes, pack their own parachutes and skydive every weekend.
Skydive Cape Cod owner Jimmy Mendonca, a 28-year veteran of the sport, has more than 13,000 jumps to his credit.
He described the skydiving community as a close family of who are passionate about their sport.
“I’ve taken trips all across the world and everywhere I go I know that all I need to do is find the closest drop zone and I’ll find friends,” he said.
“Travel is my passion and I always plan a trip abroad around the drop zone,” he said.
Nearly everyone likes a bit of excitement while on holiday in order to return home with a good story and a few photographs to document the tale.
Mr. Mendonca has jumped over Brazil, Argentina, Uraguay, Paraguay, Florida, Arizona, California, New York, New Jersey, Maine, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
“If I’m planning a trip to Rome, for example, I simply find our where the closest drop zone is and then start planning where to go for tourist sites,” he said.
“I’ve jumped all over the world and every time I fly over Chatham I still find myself in awe of the beautiful view,” he said.
The big question is always, “How dangerous is skydiving?” Each year, about 30 people die in parachuting accidents in the United States, or roughly one person per 100,000 jumps.
In comparison, roughly 40,000 people die each year in traffic accidents in the United States. That’s 1.7 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles. Hence, if you drive 10,000 miles per year you would have to jump 17 times per year for your risk of dying in a skydiving accident to equal your risk of dying in a car accident.
Mr. Mendonca said that his team at Skydive Cape Cod is 100% Drug Free and maintains a zero tolerance policy for all instructors and clients to ensure the highest safety rate possible.
“At the end of the day we’re responsible for people’s lives and we do everything possible to decease their risk,” he said.
He said that a common misconception with skydiving is that people experience a sudden drop in the pit of their stomach, much like a roller coaster.
“It’s nothing like that,” he said. Mr. Mendonca explained that the feeling is a gentle transition from a horizontal state of flying to a vertical state of free-fall and that clients rarely become nautious or ill.
“It’s a once in a lifetime feeling,” he said. “It’s something that everyone has to experience at least once in their life.”
Mr. Mendonca is a member of World Team, which is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the largest multi-national sports team ever united to pursue a common goal.”
According to their website, World Team is a highly accomplished international skydiving team comprised of world class athletes, professional camera flyers, skilled pilots, and support personnel – all with a passion for excellence.
In 1994, World Team united the skydiving community, and has since organized and set multiple world records. This includes the 400-way built in Udon Thani, Thailand, which is the current FAI World Record for the Largest Freefall Formation.
Since relocating from Marstons Mills to Chatham three years ago, Sky Dive Cape Cod Mr. Mendonca said his business has continued to grow.
Leah Sheridan of Ipswitch experienced her first skydive on a Friday afternoon in late May and loved it so much she returned two days later to go jump again.
Leah credits her Skydive Cape Cod instructors for helping her feel comfortable before her jump and said the passion the team had for skydiving was contagious.
“The view was spectacular, absolutely breathtaking and the adrenaline rush was like no other!” she said. “I am 100% addicted and cannot wait for my next jump!
If you have never been skydiving before, one popular way to make the first jump is called tandem jumping. In a tandem jump, you get strapped to your instructor and the two of you fall together.
The instructor carries one large parachute on his back — big enough to support your weight and his together. The instructor controls all aspects of the jump to make sure nothing goes wrong.
A typical tandem jump looks a lot like a normal jump, but there are several differences.
An experienced skydiver can simply leap from the plane. In a tandem jump, the student and the tandem instructor are strapped together, so there is a little more maneuvering to get ready for the jump.
Just after jumping out, the instructor throws out a large (approx. 4-foot/1.2-m diameter) drogue chute, and this drogue is out during the entire free fall. Without this drogue, the combined weight of the instructor and student would cause the pair to fall at 180 to 200 mph (290 to 320 kph) — much faster than the normal 120 mph. The drogue slows the pair down to the normal falling speed.
When it is time to deploy the parachute, the instructor or student pulls a cord that lets the drogue do its normal job — the drogue pulls the parachute out of the container. The instructor and student land together.
A Skydive Cape Cod adventure begins with a 30-minute ground school where students meet staff members, view instructional videotapes, and get a general overview of the jump.
Students learn how to exit the aircraft, free-fall techniques, and body position during landing.
Tandem jumping uses the dual instruction approach similar to learning how to fly an airplane, and tandem instructors are there to assist students through all phases of the day.