Bill Von Novak, BASE jumper.
Bill Von Novak, an experienced skydiver, recently turned to BASE jumping for itís narrower margin of error. Itís a thrill he canít get over. To date, heís had 1800 skydives and 15 bridge jumps.
People have often questioned his sanity, and when asked why he keeps BASE jumping, Von Novak admits not having a good answer.
Heís a respected authority for Bridge Day Ď98, a BASE jumping event at the new River Gorge Bridge in Virginia, US. This bridge stands well over 900 feet with no understructure to hinder flight paths.
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST EXCELLENT JUMP?
Really, there are so many that stand out. Three years ago, I jumped from a 250-foot bridge over a creek in West Virginia. It was just excellent. There were eight of us buddies, off for some fun before the Ďseriousí jumping began. There were some first-timers, and they all did well. Their enthusiasm was really contagious. We ended up getting chased off (it was a semi-legal site), which didnít dampen our spirits one bit.
HOW CLOSE HAVE YOU COME TO KILLING YOURSELF?
Well, once in San Diego I jumped my lowest -- from a 230-foot crane. I freefell it, which was a foolish mistake. I got open by 100 feet, which is barely enough time to prepare for impact. It was probably my stupidest jump.
ANY LIFE-SAVING ADVICE?
One of my most important rules is "one new thing at a time". I donít change everything in one jump. I have yet to do a cliff jump, for example, but when I do, Iíll make sure that I change nothing from my previous jumps, except the location. Surprises are not good when youíre BASE jumping.
WHAT DO YOU TAKE WITH YOU?
On my last bridge jump I used a Manta main parachute (large, 288 square foot canopy) with a talon rig. I exited stowed Ė that means my pilot chute was in a pouch rather than in my hand. I free-fell for about four seconds, then reached back, grabbed my pilot chute and tossed it out. That small chute catches air and pulls the main parachute off my back. It took about one second to open, and I then had 20-30 seconds of parachute flight before I landed next to the river on a little tiny beach.
WHATíS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT SAFETY GEAR?
For protection I use kneepads, gloves and a hard helmet. (And really hard bones?)
IS THAT ALL?
Yeah, landing areas are often small, rocky and full of trees.
WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING IT?
It seemed like such a natural dream to want to fulfill. Ever since I was eight Iíve wanted to step off a building, and just fly away. Now I can.