Suffered under Pontius Pilatus

We have a new jump plane at the dropzone.

It’s a bright yellow Pilatus Porter, which makes it look like a school bus that has been rolled into a doobie. With wings. But hey, at least it’s easy to spot from the ground.

It’s supposed to easily take nine jumpers (plus a pilot – very important) to altitude. The problem with that equation is that all of us skydivers have gained beer weight over the winter, and we don’t fit into small planes so well anymore.

There’s a bench built into the back wall. That’s supposed to fit three people. Two people were able to sit comfortably. The third teetered on across their thighs.

Six more of us sat on the floor. I had my back to the bench, my head in some stranger’s crotch. Four older guys with bad joints and a wide girth took up every available space around me. This guy, Joe, was pretty much balancing one buttock on my lap, the other pressing my leg against the inside wall of the plane.

The plane has a powerful engine that brought us to 12,500 feet in about 16 or 17 minutes. By that time, my legs were fully asleep.

I was planning on doing a complicated freefly exit with my friend, Misty. Instead, I rolled toward the door and hoped for the best, since I couldn’t feel my feet. Our count of “ready-set-go” happened just as my tingling foot slipped off the step.

Well. I was going to jump anyway.

Later I pointed to the Pilatus Porter when I was talking to my long-haired, scruffy boyfriend.

ME: That’s the plane that killed Jesus.
HIM: Huh?
ME: Pontius Pilatus.
HIM: (growling) Hrrrm.
ME: What’s that for?
HIM: Somebody today told me I look like Jesus.

I only made a couple more jumps Saturday. Both loads had significantly fewer jumpers on the plane, making for a more comfortable ride.

The best was sunset, my favorite time of day to jump anyway. Dad Steve – the pilot who is like a dad to all of us – was having fun in the cockpit and tore off through the landing area, instead of using the runway for takeoff.

He zipped us up to 13,700 feet in no time at all.

The skydive was gorgeous – everything was all lit up from one of those really brilliant warm spring sunsets. I deployed a little high on purpose, so I could spend some time spiraling my canopy for a couple thousand feet. And then I stopped, just to soak in the stillness of it all. I was suspended there for what seemed like days, just me and this glowing basketball of sun on the very edge of the horizon.

I landed. Pulled together the lines from my canopy and tossed the deflated nylon over my shoulder. Began walking back into the hangar.

Then Dad Steve buzzed over our heads, coming so close to the landing area, one woman ducked for cover. He screeched to a halt on the runway, practically sending cartoonish dust clouds into the air from the skidmarks. He stepped out of the new plane, chuckling.
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