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METROPOLIS / Passing Through

Skydiving Without the Terror

June 13, 2004|MICHAEL T. JARVIS

For those who can't muster the nerve to jump out of a plane but still yearn to float like a butterfly, there's always the vertical wind tunnel. Inside a 96-foot tower at Perris Valley Airport in Riverside County, Perris SkyVenture offers untethered rides in a 40-foot-tall chamber powered by five giant electric fans. The company has given lifts to tourists, U.S. Navy Seal team members and skydiving fanatics since January, though its official opening is this weekend. We asked a few riders to tell us what's up.

Ed Dickinson

Skydiving instructor, 36

South Pasadena

Why are you here?

I'm teaching a student to skydive.

What's your verdict on the tunnel?

There's a pro and a con. The pro is the feedback of hitting the walls. That's a great tool. The con is, it's a very limited space. The sky is very big but the tunnel is very small.

The wind tunnel is better than . . .?

Failing Accelerated Freefall, the instructional program where you teach students to skydive. Sometimes they have to repeat levels.

Scariest thing you've ever done?

I got married once.

What superhero are you when you're flying?

I'm Instructor Man.

What bird would you be?

Strangely enough, I would probably be a goose. They're communal creatures, and they mate for life.


Constance Jacobs

Cosmeceutical sales rep, 44

Mokuleia, Hawaii

Why are you here today?

I love jumping. I'm here to gain better skills. My goal is big ways. I've done a couple and I plan to do a lot more.

What is big ways?

That means people in the air at one time doing a skydiving formation. So 100 ways, 200 ways is what we call the number of people in the air skydiving.

What is the hardest thing to get used to?

Because I'm smaller I have to adjust my fall rate relative with everyone else. I have to wear more weights.

Scariest thing you've done?

Scuba diving. It's the unknown.

Have you ever seen a UFO?

I thought I did six years ago. I was taking a jeep ride up on Saddleback

Mountain in Orange County. We found out it was a missile test.

If you were a bird, what kind would you be?

An eagle. They represent things that are important to all of us.


Curtis Colton

Building contractor, 38


Why are you here?

To bring our mom for Mother's Day. She's skydiving. My brother decided to push her out of a plane.

Did you get winded doing this?

Not at all. I can see the addiction to it. I want to do more of it.

Scariest thing you've done?

I ran off a cliff when I was a little kid so I've always had a fear of heights.

Have you ever seen a UFO?

I thought I saw one when I was growing up in Laguna Niguel. We heard something and ran outside. It was scary.

If you were a bird, what kind would you be?

A woodpecker because I was knocking into the wall.


Ben Colton


San Juan Capistrano

Why are you here today?

We came here to see my grandmother skydive for Mother's Day.

Was it scary in there?

My biggest fear was getting sucked up out the top and thrown out.

I don't think that can happen.

It couldn't, but that was what I was afraid of.

Can you compare this to skydiving?

No, but I've jumped off a loading dock on my bike.

What superhero were you when you were flying?

Spider-Man. He swings but he gets stuck to the wall.

Did you get stuck to the wall?

Yes, but the instructor comes and throws you back in the middle.

Have you ever seen a UFO?

I thought I saw one, but it was just an airplane.

If you were a bird, what kind would you be?

A blue jay. They live in the mountains and fly around fast.

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