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Overcoming fear, first-time skydivers take the plunge in Lompoc

Posted at 9:01 PM, Sep 28, 2019
and last updated 2020-03-12 15:41:19-04

Last year more than 350,000 people jumped out of an airplane. For some it's sport with hundreds of jumps each year, but many others are first time "tandem jumpers."

But why pay to jump out of an airplane?

KSBY News Anchor Richard Gearhart followed a first-time skydiver and even took the plunge himself to find out.

For first time skydivers - the journey typically starts with finding a skydive "school" and jumping strapped to an instructor.

Most are looking for something: marking an important milestone in their lives, ticking off an item on their bucket lists or simply finding the courage to overcome a fear.

David Hughes owns Skydive Santa Barbara based in Lompoc. That's where we met first time skydiver Mohammed; he and is fiancé are celebrating their engagement and first vacation to California with a jump.

"We are in one of the best places in the world…let's make it…and to be honest, right now I don't really even realize that I'm jumping," Mohammed said.

It's like having a big zap to their lives. The go up in the plane and jump out and it changes their perspective on what they're doing," said Hughes.

But before anyone gets to hop on a plane, the first step is the classroom where they watch a couple of videos go over the process and the potential risks.

After the classroom and paperwork, it's into the hanger for more information and to meet the instructors.

"I've also jumped before and shared it with viewers; for me it was about overcoming fear. My instructor is the owner of Skydive Pismo Beach, Tom Pecharich," Gearhart said.

"Some people are just trying to conquer fears. I've had multiple people that are afraid of heights, never been in an airplane, hey might have had some kind of traumatic experience they are trying to get over," said Pecharich.

"There's nothing like the feeling of inching your way to the edge of the airplane, knowing you're going to jump and not knowing what to expect. Pecharich told me later the first time is scary because you don't know what to expect; the second time is scary because you do. It's a feeling that's very difficult to explain. When your feet are dangling out of the plane, knowing it's about to happen and having absolutely no idea what to expect or what you'll feel," said Gearhart.

"Especially people that are very nervous, I say look - you can come back and do this a thousand times - but once that door is open and you are sitting there waiting to jump, you get to feel that exact feeling once. There's no feeling like that in the world, I don't think you are ever going to do anything that's going to make you feel that way," Pecharich explained.

For Mohammed it was the same - you could see the tension building as he was waiting for his turn.

Finally it was into the plane and the ride up to the jump altitude. A last chance to think about what was about to happen.

Like so many others, Mohammed landed with a huge sense of accomplishment and some advice to others.

After landing, he said, "Everybody has to try it at least once in your life - just do it."

A sentiment shared by most who've done it before.

"There's no sensation of falling at all and you have the whole planet below you. So I would say just give it a try and see you what you think," Hughes said.

While there obviously is risk involved in skydiving, it's not as dangerous as you might think. The risk of being killed injured in a tandem skydive is about 1 in every half million jumps - much less than driving a car.