My wife Shelly and I run a small Drop Zone
just outside of Key West, Florida.
My name is Christian, I do the tandems and she does the video jumps.
Our daughter Skylar was born 12-22-98 and ever since, she has been
the center of our lives.
Both of us being passionate skydivers with over 10,000 jumps between
us, it was a natural desire to take Skylar up with us on a jump
as soon as we felt she was ready for it.
We agreed on that fact, that we wanted her to ask for it, rather
then being pushed into it at all. We also felt that we could prepare
her for her jump by slowly introducing several somewhat related
things to her. Since my wife is a pilot, we had taken Skylar up
in a Cessna 172 to fly around Key West when she was as little as
four days old. In fact, I kept a little log book on her flights,
and she now has about 50 hours in single engine aircraft and helicopters.
So we were very confident, that the flying part of our adventure
would come very natural to Skylar. But we also tried to do other
things like driving convertibles to get her used to the wind; we
took her to vertical windtunnels, where she didnt fly herself
but where she got to experience the wind and a similar noise level
then in an aircraft.
Weve have always included her in everything we did, so she
was used to the tandem type attachment; I have rollerbladed
and skied with her in a harness in front of me ever since she was
a few months old. The most important part in the preparation though,
was to take her parasailing tandem repeatedly, which is very similar
to at least the canopy ride. The months before her jump we went
parasailing numerous times and she was always very comfortable with
it and asked to go again.
Skylar was raised at the Drop Zone; we had a friend watch her when
we jumped, so she has been around jumping literally all of her young
life and has shown great interest in watching the freefall videos,
especially in the past year. She must have seen a couple thousand
jumps on TV by now.
On 7-11-01 after 18 years, the FAA finally recognized tandem jumping
by including it in the federal aviation regulations. There is no
reference to a minimum age of the tandem passenger anymore, so the
eleventh of July would be the first day where we could legally take
Skylar up on her first jump.
We felt that Skylar was well prepared, she expressed that she wanted
to go with us and we were confident that she was ready.
When we got up in the morning of the 11th, it wasnt a perfect
day; it was overcast and we decided to wait for a better day - everything
had to be just perfect. Just because the 11th of July was the first
day that we could legally jump with our daughter, it was certainly
not the last and so we put it off to an unspecified time in the
A few days later, I learned that a Dutch tandem instructor by the
name of Herman Landsman had made a jump with his 2 ½ year-old daughter
Demie. Let me briefly explain our motivation to jump with Skylar.
My first thought was, that if I was going to get run over by a car
tomorrow and would never be able to skydive again, I would always
regret not having jumped with my daughter. My wife and I also felt
strongly, that an experience like this would greatly benefit our
daughters self esteem; when she is an adult, shell always
feel how important she was to her parents and having been the worlds
youngest skydiver, certainly wouldnt hurt her self-confidence.
So while the most important reason for the jump was Skylar, it was
also a nice vanity that she would be a world record holder. So I
was a little upset to learn about Demies jump, but then decided
to make the best of it. I called Herman in the Netherlands, because
who in the world would be able to provide me with better information
about a jump with such a young child then him?
Herman was very helpful and informative on the telephone. We spoke
for about 40 minutes and I gained even more confidence about jumping
with Skylar. I also learned that Demie would turn three in September,
which makes her three months older then Skylar and would buy us
some time, where Skylar could still be the youngest jumper in the
In hindsight, I was happy for Demie, her mother Karina and Herman
that I hadnt jumped on 7-11. This way Demie at least held
the world record at some point, our daughter could then take it
over and who knows who is going to jump next, thats even younger
Anyway, after this unexpected event and the added information that
I had gotten from it, we were finally ready to do it on 7-21-01.
I had made six tandem jumps that day, the winds hadnt changed
all day, they were light and out of the south. My wife also felt
good about the conditions and we made a decision to go.
Skylar had tried on the harness that we had prepared for her at
home a number of times, so gearing up was pretty uneventful but
of course Shelly and I were slowly getting nervous, even though
we had planned this day for such a long time.
We had agreed on jumping from 8000 feet and I was going to deploy
the drogue after only a five second freefall and the canopy immediately
thereafter. We werent sure of Skylars reaction to the
wind of 120 miles per hour, so we would take it easy on her first
jump and then on future jumps increase the freefall time. Shelly
was to climb out before us in order to take pictures and video the
So we geared up and I hooked Skylar up before we even boarded the
aircraft. The way up to altitude was a walk in the park. We are
so used to flying together, we were talking, laughing, looking out
the window. All of a sudden it hit me at about 5000 feet - I got
nervous! Having made 5500 tandem jumps to date, this was unquestionably
the most important one of my life. What if she wouldnt like
it? But Skylar sat in my lap so relaxed, I tried to hide my feelings,
so that she wouldnt sense them.
When we opened the door, it was windy and noisy suddenly; Skylar
didnt like that at all and I had a doubt as of whether I wanted
to go through with the jump.
At this point, Shelly had already climbed
out and could see our daughters face much better then I could.
She was waving at me to go, so I just moved into the open door.
We rolled out of the plane and what came next was just the most
amazing experience for me. Skylar relaxed instantly. My wife said
later that she could see it, too. I felt so good about everything,
I decided to change the plan: instead of opening the parachute right
away, I kept on freefalling for about 20 seconds. We later regretted
only having gone to 8000 feet. Next time we would certainly go higher
for Skylar to have a longer freefall. Skylar sensed that something
was different when I opened the parachute and tensed up for just
a couple of seconds. It was absolutely beautiful and amazing to
me, that she then relaxed immediately when the canopy was open.
When we had gone parasailing together, she had always been a bit
tense when we launched, but mellowed out about a minute into the
ride. Here she was comfortable instantly.
I pointed out her Moms parachute which she had seen so many
times from the ground. I showed her Key West from the air, our house
and other landmarks that she was familiar with. Then I did a 360
degree turn and asked her where she thought our house was. She had
no trouble finding it. She gave me a kiss and together we watched
her Moms landing.
I was a little apprehensive about our landing, but with her only
weighing 32 pounds and a 5kts breeze, it turned out to be beautiful.
Shelly ran up to us and Skylar gave her a high five and a kiss.
Apart from opening the door, she was never upset. And think about
it: most any normal person is nervous when that door opens! She
now talks about her experience much like she talks about parasailing
or driving in a Jeep - its something enjoyable to her that
she would like to do again. She wanted to jump again today, but
it is raining, much to her dismay.
Shelly and I decided that we would like to take her up every year
on her birthday, but Im not sure whether we can wait that
Key West-Click Here for More Information - Key West, FL
See the Keys from two miles up, at 120 MPH or more! USPA
Certified Instruction, 100 % Safety Record, 10,000 Jump, 40 Second
Free-Fall, 5.5 Minute Canopy Ride, Video & Still Photos of your
jump are available!
Get More Information
on This Adventure!!!
Experience adventures like the one found in this article
and others by using TropicalAdventure.com Vacation Planner. Simply fill out our Vacation Planner form and you will
receive FREE information about this activity
and others that you may be interested in. Click below
to sign up.