Just a few years ago, I felt that my dreams of returning to flying were over. I had gotten my private-pilot license in the ’90s, but life got in the way, so I had not been flying for more than 20 years. My wife had arranged for an AFF first-jump course at Skydive Spaceland-Dallas in Whitewright, Texas, on my 50th birthday, but I never followed up after that first exciting jump. I often looked skyward, watching small aircraft flying over my home, wishing I could fly again but feeling that I would never.
In 2017, I was in my late 50s, weighed 250-plus pounds and had developed diabetes and high blood pressure in the process. I had just bought an old 1957 Cessna 172 from a good friend to see if I could recapture my flying enthusiasm and skills. Flying aerobatic aircraft was also on my bucket list, and for that you are required to wear a parachute (in case the wings fall off), so I figured that I’d better learn how to fly one. I remembered there was a weight restriction for skydiving, so I decided to get in shape. I also needed to pass my Federal Aviation Administration Third-Class Medical to bring my private-pilot license current, so I closed my pie hole and moved my butt with the goal of getting down to 200 pounds.
By cutting out alcohol, I dropped 10 pounds in the first month. (I didn’t think I drank that much!) The diabetes and hypertension faded away after another 10 pounds came off thanks to daily elliptical sessions in my garage. By the fourth month, I had lost 30 pounds and passed my FAA flight physical, except for a CPAP issue. (A long story, but you can fight the system and win.) I now have an unrestricted class-three FAA medical certificate. My primary goal was still to get to 200 pounds so I could qualify to jump in Spaceland’s Skydiver Training Program (two tandems and then AFF jumps). My memory was a little wrong on the 200-pound restriction (I could have weighed more), but that was fine; it made me determined to get in shape.
My aircraft flight training went slowly but well. I was more nervous than my instructor. The change in aviation technology since the ’90s was like waking up in the future. So much technology! But an airplane still flies the same.
By my 60th birthday in August 2019, I had reached my goal weight, so my wife Joann and I decided to try the skydiving thing. I just wanted to get familiar enough to save my life if the aerobatic aircraft I was flying decided to lose a wing or something, but Jo was curious and does not like being outdone in any way. We did the obligatory tandems on a Saturday early in September 2019. I had to make only one tandem, because they gave me credit for my AFF 1 jump almost 11 years earlier. Jo hated the first tandem because the instructor spiraled down too quickly, making her dizzy and nauseous, but after a short rest and a new instructor, the second jump was gentle and magical. She was hooked. The AFF class started the next morning, on Sunday, and we haven’t looked back since. We spent the next five weekends at the DZ in training. I received my A license in November. It took Joann (the precise accountant) a little longer, but she did it! I never thought she would take it that far. We both now have our own brand-new matching jumpsuits and rigs.
We regularly park our RV at the DZ and jump for the entire weekend. Little Jack Pyland, a USPA Board member and a friend of a friend, has adopted us, and he is now our trusted mentor and good friend. We have made many new friends, and our skydiving family keeps growing. Skydiving saved my life and got me healthy again. We are hooked for life.
Michael Williams | A-93468