The plane's metal door slides open to the sound of pounding wind. A skydiving instructor and his student step to the edge. At the signal, they plunge into nothingness, more than 12,500 feet above mountains and rolling country landscape. For one exhilarating minute, the earth approaches at 200 kilometres per hour. Then, the instructor pulls the cord and the two begin floating together toward the ground, enjoying a fantastic view that satellites often take for granted.
It's all part of a day's work for the instructors at Edmonton Skydive Centre. Building on a 25-year legacy, they prep students for first-jump courses or help them through the eight levels of Accelerated Free Fall programs, which cover a blend of CSPA requirements, technical basics, and hand signals for making small talk with eagles. They and their students then gather up the proper TSO-approved gear, board a DHC-6 Super Twin Otter, and hit the skies for hands-on solo training.