i went to the Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Hinckley, IL... home of the highest tandem jump in the U.S.
at 14,500', leaping out of the side of a plane (or, in my case, getting shoved out by my tandem instructor), results in a brief period of falling at 170-180 mph. the instructor then throws a small parachute to create drag and slow you to 120mph--terminal velocity--and you will remain at this speed for 60 seconds (known in some areas as one full minute).
sean jumped, too (it was his idea) and brought his buddy bruce. bruce and i were both green.
surprisingly, i wasn't nervous at all (at first). i did, however, bring a full extra set of clothes just in case i did shit my pants or vomit down my shirt... i was not sure that my vomit-direction controlling skills would apply in this particular situation.
but it was okay; i was chill suiting up, taking direction, even on the plane. it was not until we were at the door of the plane, with me hanging over the edge, that i began to freak. while my instructor, Rob, hurled me over the edge and for the first six or so seconds of freefall, i really felt as though i had made an error.
there is no sensation of falling when you are dropping at terminal velocity. i'm not sure if it's the lack of objects flying past or the inability to gauge speed. but there is intense pressure. at one point, i was pretty sure that i was going to puke out my heart and lungs, and that the veins in my forehead would explode, drenching Rob and myself in blood. gross.
but then i came around, and really enjoyed it. every now and then, my heart would drop suddenly and panic would strike, but it would pass quickly and i'd be right back to enjoying the ride.
at 6,000', Rob gave me the "signal" to pull the ripcord. i looked down and couldn't see it. i tried to tell him that he needed to pull it, but he just pointed in my face (the "signal") again. i reached back and, surprisingly, found it right away! i pulled it and we bounced forward as the parachute released. we took our time floating down, and were able to land on our feet.
of course i have pictures.