Wharton: Skydivers enjoy the rush (video)
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Ogden • "I don't get scared very easily."

Those were the words of 36-year-old Dusty Hanks, a professional skydiver from North Salt Lake who works at Ogden's iFLY attraction inside the Solomon Center that simulates flying and skydiving.

The lack of fear is probably a given since Hanks has made 6,000 sky dives and 400 base jumps. He regularly floats into stadiums across the Wasatch Front. And he has had to use his reserve chute 12 times when he cut away the main one due to a malfunction.

"I grew up skiing and racing dirt bikes," said Hanks. "As soon as I turned 18, I knew I was going to jump out of planes. I didn't know it was possible to make a career out of it."

Hanks and partner Devin Roane have competed as a team in several national competitions in vertical formation skydiving. Parachutists do eight competition jumps. Judges pre-determine the formations competitors must build over a 35-second time frame. A videographer records the jumps, which are then submitted to judges.

The pair have also been part of two world record "heads-down formations" where competitors hold themselves in a formation flying down on their heads.

Asked to describe what it is like to skydive, Hanks and Roane thought for a moment.

"It's pretty hard to describe," said Roane, who has jumped out of planes about 1,000 times. "The closest thing I can compare it is floating under water, except it's a lot louder with a lot better view."

"It's like sticking your head out of a window going 100 miles per hour," added Hanks.

Hanks has jumped from elevations as high as 24,000 feet while Roane has started as high as 18,000 feet.

"We use oxygen on the way up, but don't have to jump with the oxygen container because we come down so fast," said Hanks.

He said that base jumping, which he recently spent some time doing in Norway, offers more of a feel of dropping than leaping out of a helicopter or a plane that might be going 100 miles per hour at the time.

The two normally dive at Skydive Ogden or Skydive Utah at the Tooele County airport in Erda, but they have enjoyed their sport at other out-of-state dive centers, including one in Mesquite, Nev.

In fact, Hanks met his wife Holly, who was one of his sky diving students. She tipped him with a $20 bill with her phone number written on it.

Roane, who lives in Ogden, was attending college as a pre-med student when a friend asked him to go skydiving.

"It sounded like fun, so I went and tried it," he said. "Dusty took me on my first tandem. After that first jump, I was hooked."

Hanks said that iFLY, which is basically a wind tunnel that gives the sensation of flying, is a good starting point for beginners looking to get into sky diving. Ages 3 and up can "fly."

"Some people might not have any intention of ever sky diving, but this gives the sensation of what skydiving feels like," he said. "To compete and participate in the records we have been on, you have to have tunnel time. Back in the day, skydiving was getting in as many jumps as possible. Now, more than half is tunnel time and half skydiving. Devin and I are fortunate to have this in Ogden."

The pair make skydiving sound fun. Still, as I said during my National Guard days when we watched Special Forces airborne troops parachute, I'm not sure I'm ready to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribtomwharton