Vol. 17, No. 38Aug. 6, 1998

For this senior secretary, the sky is not the limit

Doug and Wanda in a free fall over New Jersey

Flying too high with some guy in the sky" was her idea of something to do...and Wanda Taylor did just that on a recent skydiving jaunt.

Why would a busy, energetic woman, who admits to getting queasy on rides in amusement parks, want to go skydiving?

It's not like she has nothing else to do. She works as a senior secretary of the Delaware Transportation Institute, has two other part-time jobs, earned her master's degree from UD in 1997 in public administration researching disaster relief organizations, and is a proud grandmother who has experienced the big 50th birthday.

"It's something I always have wanted to do-I thought it would be neat to fly through the sky," Taylor said. "About 15 years ago, I put aside some money for a skydive, and the fridge went on the blink so I postponed it. But then, my son and his girlfriend went skydiving last year and loved it, so I was inspired again to give it a try."

She went to Freefall Adventure Skydiving School in New Jersey where she met Doug, the young man who would make the tandem jump with her and who had safely completed thousands of jumps, she added.

"You sign your life away, they give you a jumpsuit and harness, show you a short training video and then up you go in a small plane," she recalled.

The plane, with its 22 passengers, went up approximately 2-1/2 miles. Taylor and Doug, and other tandem jumpers, were in the rear, behind the solo skydivers. As each person jumped, they scooted up toward the door.

"Doug attached my harness to his and told me we would sit in the door, and when he tapped me on the shoulder, we would jump. It was terrifying," Taylor said. "When the moment came, I screamed and kept on screaming, as we were free-falling at 108 miles an hour for 60 seconds.

"I did not get myself in the right position-you are supposed to keep your feet back and spread your arms and look up at the plane. But Doug got me straightened out, and then activated the drogue, the small parachute that slowed our descent. Just as I was getting used to that, there was all this commotion as he pulled the ripcord for the large parachute, and I screamed again," she said.

"We floated down to the airfield. I kept my knees up, and he landed first to absorb the shock. Landing was a breeze; getting out the door was the hard part," she recalled.

"My first reaction was 'Never again!' I actually was somewhat air sick, but once I recovered a little and was rewarded by hugs from my son and everyone else, my feeling was 'What an experience!' The skydive was beautiful looking down (way down) on the Earth's horizon. And going through with it, in spite of my fear, has given me self-confidence. Next time should be easier and more fun, and everyone should do it at least once," she said.

The whole adventure was videotaped by Mike McGowan, a skydiving photographer. He has still and video cameras on his helmet and when Taylor left the plane he was outside the plane on a step below to photograph her before jumping himself and catching the action on the way down. 

-Sue Swyers Moncure
Photo by Mike McGowan