Sun, Nov. 17

Eleven seconds to terminal velocity
Skydiving takes excitement to great heights

From zero to 120 miles per hour in 11 seconds - straight down. That's called "terminal velocity." Not the most enticing word choice for many people, but for those who love the rush (no pun intended) of covering one mile in half a minute, those words are luring.

The phrase simply means that "terminal velocity" is the greatest speed that a body can reach when falling through the air, no matter how far it falls. Two miles a minute is max. There are some people who are willing to jump out of an airplane before the pilot does. For them, free-fall skydiving is the way to exhilaration - a sense of absolute freedom.

Red Rock Skydiving at 1003 W. Mingus Ave. next to the Cottonwood Airport, is the way to free-fall parachute jumping - for beginners as well as experts.

Karl and Sharon Priggee opened the business July 1. Red Rock Skydiving offers full service for experienced jumpers. But Karl's specialty is taking beginning jumpers on tandem free-fall jumps. From there, Karl and Sharon offer full instruction from the first tandem jump up to solo free-fall jumps.

The tandem jump is made with the student securely tied in with the instructor. Jumps are made from 10,500 feet above the ground (14,000 feet above sea level). Free fall lasts for about 34 seconds before the instructor opens the chute, about a mile above the airport.

Before the jump, sightseeing from the plane offers some of the most beautiful sights in Arizona. After takeoff, the plane heads toward the red rocks of Sedona while gaining altitude. Near Sedona, the plane banks left so the jumpers can view the red rocks full on.

"By the time we get back here, we're at altitude," Karl said. The jump is made over the airport and the landing zone is only a short walk from the business.

Karl has made nearly 3,500 jumps in 30 years, with 1,900 of those jumps being tandem. "I started as a civilian on my off time," Karl said. "Then I did make military jumps."

Back then tandem jumps didn't exist. Jumps were made using a static line that automatically opened the chute as the jumper exited the plane. Jumpers had to put in a full day of training before going up.

"I liked my first jump so much, I went right back and did my second jump the same day," Karl said.

Since that first day, Karl has earned the highest levels available with his licenses and certificates, both as a jumper and instructor. He even holds a professional exhibition rating, and he has jumped into stadiums during football games.

Red Rock Skydiving offers a nine-jump progression for beginners who decide to qualify for solo free-fall jumps. The progression begins with tandem jumps, moves to static line and finally to a series of jumps where free-fall times are increased in five-second increments.

Students don't need equipment; Karl and Sharon provide everything. "We tell them to put on something comfortable, jeans and sneakers," Sharon said. "We put them in a jump suit so they don't get dusty."

Red Rock Skydiving is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. until sunset. Call, 649-8899.

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