LONGMONT, Colo. – Toby Lewis’ smile has yet to leave his face after he took on an adventure of a lifetime on June 5 when he jumped out of a “perfectly good airplane,” a twin-engine Beechcraft E-90 King Air at 12,500 feet.
“It was on my bucket list for quite a while,” Lewis said. “It exceeded everything that I was anticipating.”
Lewis at 83-years-old is the oldest first-time skydiver to have jumped with Mile-Hi Skydiving, and Lewis looks forward to doing it again, possibly in the company of his wife, Carolyn, and their instructors.
He and six other jumpers came together at Mile-Hi Skydiving’s headquarters in Longmont, Colorado. Each person was assigned an instructor who would jump with them in tandem, meaning the instructor and student would be attached to one another during the entirety of the descent.
Lewis and his instructor, Tom Jones, were the last ones on the plane. Lewis rode right next to the door he would jump out of minutes later. He recalled the open door and the wind rushing past the door.
“It was a plexiglass door,” he said. “It was open until we were about to 6,500 feet. I’d stick my hand out and look down there. They closed the door until we got to 12,500 feet, and that was when we jumped.”
The King Air was tearing through the sky at around 120 miles per hour before the jumpers leapt from the plane.
“That wind is hitting you, and just momentarily when you jumped out, boy you got that air,” Lewis remarked. “It was just absolutely cool.”
Lewis recalled an intriguing aspect of the jump was seeing Long’s Peak before, during and after the jump. Long’s Peak rises to 14,259 feet above measured sea level (MSL). The altitude of the Longmont airport is 5,052 feet above sea level.
“When we jumped, we were 1,500 feet above Long’s Peak,” Lewis said. “That seems odd because, naturally, when you’re driving, you look up, ‘gee, look at that Long’s Peak.’ It was absolutely amazing.”
After jumping from the plane, Lewis and Jones did some flips and swung around. At one point, the two reached a safe altitude to deploy the parachute and Jones released the parachute.
“At that point, there was no sound,” Lewis recalled. “It was just total quiet with the chute.”
Lewis was then offered the opportunity to steer the chute and experience the thrill of piloting a parachute.
“It exceeded everything that I was anticipating,” he said.
Lewis was thrilled by his experience and said he would have taken up skydiving full-time if he were younger and lived closer to a skydiving facility.
“It was absolutely a blast,” he said.
The gift of life
“Every day for me is a gift, at 83-years-old,” Lewis said. “I see so many people in my age category that do absolutely nothing and complain about everything, ‘oh my back, oh my leg,’ but they don’t do anything.”
Lewis hopes his story will inspire others, regardless of age, to get out and enjoy the gift of life.
In addition to marking off the items on his bucket list, Lewis has sustained an active lifestyle throughout his life, competing in the National Senior Games, bicycling, calisthenics, hunting and much more.
“I hope to continue racing bikes until I’m 90,” he said. “I work out at North Platte Physical Therapy…from the last week of February to the first of June, I’ve done about 17,000 sit-ups, walked 300 miles and bicycled 280 miles.”
Despite having both knees replaced, back operations for crushed discs, hernia surgery and surviving shingles, Lewis keeps charging forward and refuses to stop. Adding to that, Lewis expressed the importance of follow-up care after surgery.
“You have to have that physical therapy any time you have an operation,” Lewis said.
He explained how he got where he is through perseverance, and he hopes others will use his story as inspiration to keep moving. He hopes others will do as he did and work through the blood, sweat and tears to make the most out of their life.
“We’ve had a great life and we have experienced a lot,” Lewis said of he and his wife. “Age is not a factor; you are not too old. Every day is a gift, so take advantage of it. You just have to push yourself.”