Leaping down from tall bamboo towers with only vines tied to their ankles was the final test of courage and an ancient manhood ritual of the Pentecost Islands’ natives in New Zealand. But when four Americans happened to see a BBC footage of this, they tied elasticized rubber ropes to their feet, and jumped down Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge on April Fool’s Day, 1979.
They didn’t die. Instead, a new sport called ‘bungee (pronounced bunjie) jumping’ was born. The group expanded their jumping sites to mobile cranes and hot air balloons by 1982, and popularized this adrenaline rush around the world. The idea hit India in the early 1990s. Today, jumpers would not like to be reminded that this began as an All Fools Day joke. They derive their thrill from free falling and from rebounding on the elastic strings. In fact, the root word ‘bungy’ is the Kiwi slang for ‘elastic strap’. When the person jumps, he free falls for around five seconds (which seem like eternity) till the cord stretches to absorb the energy of the fall. That makes the jumper fly upwards again as the cord snaps back. The jumper oscillates up and down until all the energy is used up.
Jumping Cords: The common natural rubber bungee cords like Euro and Mil Spec cords stretch 2 to 4 times the original length and the jumper feels 2.5 to 3.5G's.
Harness: A leg harness attached with the cord, and a body harness for backup.
Big Equipment: The platform from where the jumper bungees. This could be a mobile crane, a bungee platform of a building,etc.
A Step by Step Guide to Jumping Out of an Airplane
- Assemble at an isolated airport called a Drop Zone Landing Area; board the plane (or a helicopter or a hot air balloon) after yet another briefing and motivation session (you would have finished with some theory sessions already).
- Strap up your chute (before you jump, of course). You might need an oxygen mask as the plane without a pressurized cabin ascends.
- Say your prayers (well, you never know…).
- Feel the adrenaline rush as the side shutter of the plane is opened, and the strong gust of cold wind blows away all the courage you had.
- Have a free replay of your whole life right in front of your eyes as you free fall, wondering if your chute would open at all. You remember all those things you wanted to tell your loved ones, but never did. Good time to think of your life insurance policy.
- By changing the shape of your body, you can do turns, somersaults and many other maneuvers. Experienced skydivers vouch that in free fall, you can do pretty much anything that a bird can do, except to go back up. If you can cross a busy street or drive in Delhi, being able to maneuver through all the chaos, you can just as easily skydive.
- Pull the cord that opens your chute. Don’t worry, it will open – mostly! But even if your main chute doesn’t open, your reserve chute will open with an Automatic Activation Device.
- Once the parachute is opened (by 3,000 ft), you can control your direction and speed with cords (steering lines) and hand grips (toggles) that are attached to the parachute.
- Land, as you’ve seen them do in the movies, running a bit.
- Whew! You’ve done it! You’ve actually done it!
Three types of jumps
- Static Line: A cord connects the deployment bag of the parachute to the aircraft from which you jump. Shortly after jumping, this cord will pull your parachute from its container and open it. Static lines ensure that your chute is deployed immediately after you jump – so if you’re in that group that worries if your chute will actually open up, this might be a reassuring move. Just take care that you maintain a suitable body position and don’t twist your body much. The static line will detach from your parachute and remain in tow behind the aircraft, till pulled in later.
- Tandem: Don’t worry about not being able to find the right cord to pull – your instructor will be harnessed to you, and both of you will share one parachute. This works out best for first timers.
- Accelerated Freefall (AFF): This method of skydiving training is called “accelerated” because the progression is the fastest way to experience solo free fall, normally from 10,000 to 14,500 feet above ground level. Two or more instructors will assist you during free fall and deployment of the parachute, so this jump could be a bit more expensive than the static line.