Leaping from an airplane and hurtling toward Earth at over 100 miles per hour
is one man’s terror and another man’s challenge.
Skydiving is the ultimate fear-inducing challenge.
Just thinking about it makes the heart race
and the mouth go drier than Vegas in summer.
Boulder City has been home to Skydive Las
Vegas since 1993 and offers thrill-seekers the
experience of facing a primal fear just half an
hour from the Strip. Leonard Sacco is one of 10
instructors entrusted with the task of pacifying
jitters with 15 minutes of pre-flight safety training
and the sort of bonding that only a leap from an
airplane can bring. His tips? “If you feel like you
can’t breathe, just scream” and “Keep your body
in banana position.” Before boarding the PAC
750XL airplane, Sacco teaches this position, with
legs and head curled upward, so when the
moment comes, jumpers don’t panic and try to
contort into, say, a pineapple.
On the day I went, there were 12 people on the
jump, including three Vegas locals. The United
States Parachute Association-licensed instructors
help fasten the jumpsuits onto their charges before
everybody boards the puddle-jumper. They jump
in tandem on the backs of their novice daredevils
to increase both safety and the pleasure of the dive
by navigating the parachute. When the moment
of truth arrives, you don’t even have to find the
nerve to leap from the open cockpit door. The
instructors take the lead and push off.
The first few seconds are discombobulating as
the free fall begins, and then a sense of elation
takes over as you get your bearings and feel like
you’re floating, despite the fact that you’re plummeting
at more than 120 miles per hour with the
wind roaring in your ears. At 15,000 feet, it’s an
eagle-eye view of Lake Mead, Red Rock Canyon,
and the Strip. A giddy sense of weightlessness
settles in for the next minute, before the instructor
pulls the ripcord and the chute opens. Finally,
gentle silence and a sense of calm take over for
the relaxing five-minute glide to terra firma.
The whole experience lasts about three hours
and leaves you light-headed but elated and
proud. On the ride home, my girlfriend, Hannah,
says, “The scariest part was the ride up.” Skydive
Las Vegas, 702-759-3483