Taking the jump: K-State Parachute Club provides more than just an adrenaline rush

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(Photo courtesy of Kevin Dice)

Along with the beauty of flying through the clouds, Kevin Dice, junior in computer science and president of the Kansas State Parachute Club, said he finds skydiving is a way to get great profile pictures and a lot of likes.

Dice said his skydiving career began in May 2015 when he signed up for the first available first jump course the club offered. The following November he received his license, which is distributed by the United States Parachute Association.

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Since his start, Dice said he has made 250 jumps.

“(Skydiving) is not like knitting and stuff,” Dice said.

There are many different aspects of jumping that can influence the safety of the jump, according to Dice.

Dice said skydiving is like driving a car, many factors can be directly controlled by the individual.

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“In the last 10 years we’ve only had one fatality,” Dice said. “It wasn’t a student.”

Dice said the fatality was an older man whose parachute was working fine, however, he landed in a tree and when he fell out of the tree, the impact killed him.

“I definitely think it is safer than football and many other sports,” Dice said. “In other sports, you have brain injuries and with skydiving, the only threat is the landing and it’s an individual judgment call.”

Dice said a lot of skydivers in the club are either engineering or geology students because engineers have the ability to rationalize the mechanics behind the parachute system and the sport.

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“Understanding is a big part of overcoming the fear,” Dice said. “Engineering majors are the kind of people who can rationalize that.”

Jamie Stadler, senior in mechanical engineering, said he started skydiving in October 2015. Since then, he has made around 30 jumps.

Stadler said the most interesting part of his experiences with skydiving so far have not been the jumps, but learning about the safety precautions and the standards the club has for jumpers.

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“It’s an inherently risky sport, but we take every step to reduce the risk so it makes it safe,” Stadler said.

For both Dice and Stadler, the jump to pursuing the sport of skydiving was not a surprise to their parents.

“It wasn’t a huge shock, I like to live on the edge a bit,” Stadler said.

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Stadler said both his parents were supportive of it and a few of his friends have jumped on board and made a few jumps themselves since he started.

Dice said both of his parents are in the Air Force, so they were pretty supportive of his decision.

Sarah Hagerty, senior in sociology, is relatively new to the sport. She said she has only made a few jumps, although she has wanted to try it since she first heard about the club her freshman year.

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She said it fed the need to check an item off her bucket list and it fits her personality as an adrenaline junky.

Hagerty said she found letting go of the plane for the first time to be the most difficult part of the experience.

“The most fun so far is floating down to the ground with the chute out,” Hagerty said. “It’s the most relaxing, mind-blowing, breathtaking experience to just be so far above everyone else.”

The only competition the K-State Parachute Club attends is the USPA Collegiate Nationals Competition, which alternates between being hosted in Florida and Arizona during winter break, Dice said. This year the club will be competing in Arizona.

Dice said he and other competitors from K-State wore Spiderman and Hello Kitty onesie pajamas during their last competition against the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Military Academy.

The students participating compete in a variety of events, which include four different types of formations and landing accuracy, he said.

“In formations, you have to know what you’re doing or else you’ll knock each other out, which leads to a safety thing,” Dice said.

The club is not full of daredevils, besides going fast and looking good, Dice said safety is a number one priority.

“You might expect that we’re a bunch of renegades trying to upset our parents, but we are generally laid-back people who simply enjoy flying around and playing in the sky with friends,” Dice said.

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The K-State Parachute Club was founded in 1964 and club members have made over 25,000 cumulative jumps in the past 10 years.

“We are the only college parachute club that owns its own airplane and runs its own drop zone,” Dice said.

The club owns a Cessna 182, which holds four jumpers and a pilot. The plane can climb to 10,000 feet in 15-20 minutes.

“We skydive, that’s basically what we do,” Dice said. “We use parachutes so we can land and do it again.”

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