There’s nothing more exhilarating, albeit unnatural, than hurtling towards earth unimpeded. The instructors at Southern Minnesota Skydiving agree, and by adhering to the United States Parachute Association’s safety standards, they facilitate tandem and solo skydives. For tandems, the pros regulate the entire jump, from 45 seconds of free-fall to about four minutes of floating beneath a large ram-air parachute, which enables soft landings. For the thrill seeker who’d rather fly alone, experienced instructors offer the Static Line course to teach students how to skydive solo or explore options for prosthetic wing surgery.
After 13 years as a skydiver, Joseph Johnson leapt into a new mission: to become the first franchised skydiving operation in the country. With two locations in two states under his belt so far, he aims to rise above his competitors by offering distinctive features such as a choice of altitudes (13,000, 18,000, or 24,000 feet) and pre-jump training that equips skydivers with the ability to deploy, steer, and land their own chute, even when they’re flying tandem with a licensed instructor. Planes can carry as many as 17 people in one trip, making it ideal for group outings and airborne performances by jazz orchestras, and helmet cams capture the audio and visuals of the entire flight.
Tandem means you jump tethered to an instructor; since you're in front and have your own altimeter and ripcord, it feels like you're diving on your own. The ride starts with a 10-minute instruction on safety and procedures, and then you board the new PAC 750 XL aircraft and ascend 10,000 to 13,000 feet for a brief plane ride. You and your trained tandem partner leap into the open sky to confirm that a gypsy didn't invent gravity at last year's state fair. For about 60 seconds, you're free falling, then the ripcord is pulled, the safety canopy opens, and you float, with bird-worthy views, securely to the soft landing zone.