The Springfield area is a great place for father-daughter activities, especially if your daughter enjoys the outdoors. My daughter Emily is particularly adventurous, and one day she mentioned that she wanted to skydive someday. I replied that it was on my bucket list too. Within a week she had us both signed up for tandem jumps at Ozarks Skydive Center near Miller, Missouri, about 30 miles west of Springfield. Not wanting to diminish my daughter's opinion of me, I agreed to go and watched the calendar as the date approached.
The Ozarks Skydive Center
June 28 was a beautiful, sunny day. If you have to go skydiving, you couldn’t have picked a better day. We followed the signs to the Hangar Kafe and arrived at the airstrip a little early which gave us time to watch a few other people drop from the sky. We were given some instructions on the proper way to exit the 1958 Cessna 182A, which is a very small plane for someone like myself who is 6’ 3” tall. We watched our instructors, Robert Lucas and Brad Barnett pack the chutes and were fitted with our harnesses. Soon, we were all four crammed in the plane along with our pilot, Bryan Wolford, and taken into the air from the grass runway.
It takes about 20 minutes to climb to 11,000 feet, and you get some great views of the Ozark countryside as the plane circles its way up. I was pretty calm up to this point, but when the plane leveled out almost two miles above the ground, the butterflies in my stomach were in full flutter. I turned around in the tiny cabin so Robert (who has about 3,500 jumps) could hitch my harness to his. Behind us, Brad (with over 4,500 jumps) was getting my daughter ready. When the “jump” command was given, the door next to me was opened and I swung my foot out on a small step next to Robert’s, grabbed my harness with both hands and felt myself being launched into oblivion as my daughter shouted, “Bye, Dad. I love you!”
The view from up here.
The free-fall lasted about 30 seconds as we descended at 125 miles an hour. Then I heard a flutter and felt a reassuring yank on my harness as the chute opened. The rest of the ride was a little less exhilarating as we drifted down below the neon yellow canopy, taking in the scenery and watching the ground get closer. The wind had picked up but Robert did a great job of guiding us to a grassy field next to the hangar and setting us down smoothly. Once unclipped, I looked up and watched as Emily and Brad glided in to land just a few yards away.
We both hugged and walked over to my wife, who was especially happy to see us on the ground, then went for a milkshake at the Hangar Kafe. All the while my daughter kept repeating, “Dad, we just jumped out of an airplane!”