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Destination Recreation: Skydiving - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Destination Recreation: Skydiving

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WEST ADDISON, Vt. -

The field at Vermont Skydiving Adventures in West Addison is quiet, even if visitors' nerves are not.

"To date, I've done around 1,900 jumps," says skydiving instructor Jack Lane.

Today, my life is in his hands. He says some people are unbelievably excited for their first jump -- and others, unbelievably scared.

"Sometimes people go through what you could call sensory overload," he says. "When the door of an airplane opens at 12,000 feet and the wind starts rushing in and you stare out the door, it pretty much goes against anything in human nature to be in that position."

His shirt reads: "What could possibly go wrong?!" The answer, as I found out during our safety course, is really very little.

"That main canopy we jump day in and day out. Anywhere from 2-10 times a day depending on how busy we are," he explains while showing me the main parachute.

But in case that chute doesn't work, we want a second chance. The reserve chute can only be touched by FAA master riggers and has a rigorous inspection process. The folding alone is done twice a year regardless of whether it is used, and it takes about three hours.

"So needless to say this one works the first time every time and it comes out like a bat out of hell," Lane says.

We also have the automatic activation device, a little computer that detects altitude and speed and sends out the reserve chute if we don't pull our chute in time.

"So being that today is a gravity sport, if there's one thing I can guarantee you it's that we will be getting to the ground with a parachute above our heads," Lane says.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: "And that's what I want to hear!"

Since it'll be hard to hear once we're in the air, we go through the dive procedures on the ground. He shows me how to get into the plane, how to sit, and explains how we'll be getting out once we reach our dive point. Lane also says because the wind is rushing by so fast on our dive, I may find it a bit hard to breathe at first.

"Chin up, breathe through your nose, have a blast," he says. "When in doubt, yell your favorite curse word and it will cause you to take a huge breath in."

You don't have to wear a jumpsuit, but I put one on anyway because it makes you a bit more aerodynamic. Then, once my harness is on, it's time to board.

And then we take off. The challenge for our pilot is staying right above our landing field. We're climbing up to about 12,000 feet. At just over two miles up, we're going to jump out of the plane.

It takes about 20 minutes to reach the top. Katie, our videographer, then calls for the door. Once she has spotted our landing point, she climbs out first, hanging onto the strut in what Lane told me are 100-mph winds, waiting for us.

When we're ready, we fall forward out of the plane.

In freefall, the wind rushes by at 120 mph, so loud you can't hear yourself scream. Katie grabs my hands and launches us into a spin through the air.

I don't want freefall to end, but about 50 seconds later when we reach 6,000 feet, Jack waves in front of my face. It's almost time to save our lives. Moments later he points his finger. Time for me to pull the chute.

When I do, we feel about three pounds of pressure on my shoulder straps and we immediately slow down. Katie falls a bit further to catch our chute opening on video.

Now, we get to enjoy the views in a more leisurely fashion. As we float down, looking out, I can see sweeping views of Addison County's farmland, Dead Creek, Snake Mountain and Lake Champlain.

Reporter: "Gorgeous! Oh my gosh -- I've never seen this view of Vermont before."

Lane: "And how high are we, Cat?"

Reporter: "It looks like we're at about 3-thousand feet."

While we still are high enough in the air, Jack teaches me to drive the canopy, spinning in the air.

And though I don't want the ride to end, as we near the ground, it's time to bring my feet up for the landing. The end of an experience I'll never forget.

Reporter: "I'm feeling awesome right now -- a little bit windswept, but awesome."

Tandem skydiving trips are $250, and more if you want video. For more information, visit Vermont Skydiving Adventures' website: http://www.vtskydiving.com/

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