FRESNO — Oliver Mefford didn't end his love for the sky when he sold his airplane and gave up his pilot's license last year at the age of 92. He just switched to sky-diving.
Mefford took his first leap from an airplane recently in tandem with an experienced sky-diver from an airport near Fresno.
"Going from zero to 180 miles an hour right off the bat--that was quite a thrill," Mefford said. "We did several things coming down--spins and wingovers where you turn to one side and then the other."
Four seconds into the dive, his sky-diving partner, Pat Wilson, opened a small chute to slow them down. Mefford said he had to keep his arms folded across his chest at the start of the 10,500-foot jump "so we wouldn't flop around." But he stretched his arms wide in classic sky-diving fashion after the small chute opened.
They opened a larger chute about 5,000 feet to cushion their landing.
"I didn't seem to be scared," Mefford said. "I guess I've done enough stunts in a plane that it didn't seem to bother me."
Mefford and his brother, Dwight, now 81, became pilots in 1937 when Oliver Mefford was 36. They played such major roles in developing a municipal airport in their hometown of Tulare that it bears the name Mefford Field.
Oliver Mefford often has done things at an older age than most folks. He was an Army flight instructor during World War II while in his 40s and served a couple of terms on the Tulare City Council in his 70s and 80s.
He belonged to a group called United Flying Octogenarians for 80-something pilots but had to quit when he turned 90.
It's unlikely that Mefford's sky-dive will make the Guinness Book of World Records. J. R. Taylor, co-owner of Skydiving West, said Mefford is older than the listed record holder, but a 95-year-old sky-dived over Arizona in 1992.
Mefford said he agreed to sky-dive only to raise some money for his hometown Rotary Club's charities, not to set a record. And he feels once was enough.
"It's quite a thrill when you first step out, but there's no use for me doing it anymore," Mefford said.