Let's say your jet blows apart at 35,000 feet. You exit the aircraft, and you begin to descend independently. Now what?...An updated version here (via Kottke).
...You will want a tall tree with an excurrent growth pattern—a single, undivided trunk with lateral branches, delicate on top and thicker as you cascade downward. A conifer is best. The redwood is attractive for the way it rises to shorten your fall, but a word of caution here: the redwood's lowest branches grow dangerously high from the ground; having gone 35,000 feet, you don't want the last 50 feet to ruin everything. The perfectly tiered Norfolk Island pine is a natural safety net, so if you're near New Zealand, you're in luck, pilgrim. When crunch time comes, elongate your body and hit the tree limbs at a perfectly flat angle as close to the trunk as possible. Think!
Snow is good—soft, deep, drifted snow. Snow is lovely. Remember that you are the pilot and your body is the aircraft. By tilting forward and putting your hands at your side, you can modify your pitch and make progress not just vertically but horizontally as well. As you go down 15,000 feet, you can also go sideways two-thirds of that distance—that's two miles! Choose your landing zone. You be the boss.
If your search discloses no trees or snow, the parachutist's "five-point landing" is useful to remember even in the absence of a parachute. Meet the ground with your feet together, and fall sideways in such a way that five parts of your body successively absorb the shock, equally and in this order: feet, calf, thigh, buttock, and shoulder. 120 divided by 5 = 24. Not bad! 24 mph is only a bit faster than the speed at which experienced parachutists land. There will be some bruising and breakage but no loss of consciousness to delay your press conference. Just be sure to apportion the 120-mph blow in equal fifths. Concentrate!
Much will depend on your attitude. Don't let negative thinking ruin your descent. If you find yourself dwelling morbidly on your discouraging starting point of seven miles up, think of this: Thirty feet is the cutoff for fatality in a fall. That is, most who fall from thirty feet or higher die. Thirty feet! It's nothing! Pity the poor sod who falls from such a "height." What kind of planning time does he have?....
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
How to Fall 35,000 Feet
Entertaining piece on how to go about free-falling (without a parachute) from way up there.