Out of the blue: Jeff Ackerman | TheUnion.com
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Out of the blue: Jeff Ackerman

When Lake Wildwood resident John Combest told his 85-year-old mother Eve he was going to jump out of an airplane last Sunday, her response was unexpected.

“Can I jump, too?” she asked.

John should have known better.



Eve is not your typical 85-year-old (“85 and a half,” she is quick to remind). Not by a long shot. Her now-deceased husband was a career cop and Pearl Harbor survivor. When John was serving in Vietnam, Eve and her husband paid their son a surprise visit in Saigon.

She epitomizes a life of “been there… done that.” And now she can add a 9,000-foot skydive to the so-called “Bucket List.”




Sky Dance Sky Diving is located at the Yolo County Airport in Davis. On a weekend morning, you can get there from Grass Valley in 90 minutes or so.

The company offers two basic packages: A tandem assisted freefall (from 9,000 feet to 14,000 feet above Earth) and an accelerated freefall, where you attend a day-long class and then jump accompanied by two instructors from roughly 13,000 feet.

Eve chose the 9,000-foot tandem jump that included an hour or so of pre-jump safety instructions. Sky Dance also has photographers and videographers who jump with you and, for an additional price, provide a video (with music) and stills of your jump.

Just in case your friends don’t believe you.

Falling from 9,000 feet attached to tandem instructor Brad Jones, Eve calmly gave a two-thumbs-up signal. From the photos, she appeared unfazed by the 180-mile-per-hour plummet to Earth. Perhaps there is very little that can faze a woman who has seen the best Earth can throw at her.

Her apparent lack of fear might also have been a result of flying, not falling. That’s what it feels like, as your arms are outstretched and you are focused not on the ground, but the Earth’s horizon. Man has always had a fascination with flight, and skydiving offers the ultimate flight experience.

That’s probably why many return for more. Sky Dance ground school instructor Perry Colburn learned to fly airplanes and, despite that common notion that it “makes absolutely no sense to exit a perfectly good airplane,” he wanted a more intimate flight experience.

His first four jumps were tandem, and he has since made almost 2,000 solo jumps.

“I was hooked from the start,” he said. His wife and daughters are also avid jumpers.

From the time you arrive at Sky Dance to the time your feet hit the ground following a jump, safety is stressed. The instructors take their responsibility very seriously, and if their customers, or students, do not, they don’t jump. It’s that simple.

Two brains

Skydiving is a test of two parts of the brain; the one side pleading for sanity and the other looking for a little fun or adventure.

“Man is not meant to fly!” the one half screams. “I know. But we only live once!” answers the other.

Eve Combest simply called her jump “a slice,” recommending it to anyone. “It was a hoot,” she said. “I’ve always been adventuresome. I was married to a cop for 46 years, and if you can survive that you can survive anything.”

Sky Dance revolutionized tandem jumping 20 years ago, using a specialized PAC 750XL single-turbine jump plane capable of accommodating several jumpers and getting them to the right elevations quickly and efficiently. It’s the only aircraft made especially for skydiving.

A minute of flying

What to wear? Sky Dance wants you to be comfortable, so shorts and t-shirts are fine, depending on the weather. You really need to make sure to wear athletic shoes. They will provide the jump suit and goggles.

How long will it last? If you want to do the accelerated freefall, be prepared to spend the day because they require eight hours of preparation, mostly in the classroom. There are picnic facilities and there’s a snack bar on location.

It’s a great place to spend the day. With the paperwork, safety class, etc., the tandem packages generally take a couple of hours from the time you arrive to the time to leave.

The freefalls obviously depend on the altitude. From 9,000 feet, the freefall lasts maybe 30 seconds before the chute opens. From 13,000 feet, the freefall can last maybe a minute, before deploying the chute at 5,000 feet or so.

The memories, of course, last a lifetime.

To contact Publisher Jeff Ackerman, e-mail jackerman@theunion.com or call 477-4299.


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