Chuck Chapeta, 91, peered out of an airplane door before plunging two and a half miles to the ground.
Chapeta and his tandem instructor Kazu Oyama from Skydive Midwest dropped 8,000 feet before deploying their parachute.
“Then we coasted down like we were on a cloud,” Chapeta said.
“I was very calm. My heart wasn’t pounding,” he said. “I never had any fear at all. I had confidence in the guy I was with,” Chapeta said.
“Chuck did great,” Oyama said afterward.
“I’m looking forward to doing it again,” Chapeta said.
Prior to the jump, Chapeta underwent a bone density scan. His doctor said his bones were in great shape, giving the soon to be 91-year-old clearance to undertake the jump.
Skydive Midwest is accustomed to catering to older people looking to celebrate a milestone birthday.
“We get 10 to 15 a year,” said Rachel Mugford, office manager.
“I was more happy with everything than afraid,” Chapeta said after his feet touched the ground.
The West Allis resident is a World War II Navy veteran who lives at the Library Square Senior Community. His neighbors were thrilled that he was planning on skydiving.
“As soon as you leave the plane, time stops, you have no idea how long the jump is,” he said.
Oyama, the tandem instructor that guided Chapeta through the jump, is a veteran skydiver. He is certified as an AFF Instructor, Head of AFF Programs, Coach, Videographer, IAD, S&TA, FAA Senior Rigger, Tandem Examiner, Coach Examiner, and AFF Evaluator.
John Gardner, a friend of Chapeta’s, sees him every Sunday at church.
“He’s the happiest-go-lucky person,” Gardner said. “He has the handshake of a 20-year-old. I wish everybody could be that jolly at 91.”
Chapeta’s positive outlook hasn’t come easy. He has lost two wives and a son.
“Before bed, I give thanks to the Lord for the life he gave me. I had help,” he said. And now he helps others.”
Chapeta doesn’t find time to complain.
“Get up and make it something better,” he said.
The U.S. Navy T-shirt Chapeta wore during the dive sums up his perspective.
“I reach for the heights and that’s where I’m going. I keep on going. I guess that’s why I jumped out of an airplane,” Chapeta said.
Midwest Skydive explains the process of taking a first-time dive.
“After a brief training class, you will be partnered with an experienced instructor who holds a tandem rating with the United States Parachute Association. Your instructor will be with you every step of the way. Get geared up, board the aircraft with your instructor, follow their simple instructions and let them take care of the rest! Experience free fall and take in the city skylines of Chicago and Milwaukee while floating under canopy. This experience is truly once in a lifetime. Unless of course, you want to do it again,” the company says.
“We are one of the busiest skydiving businesses in the United States, one of the three biggest in Chicago and Wisconsin and the biggest in Wisconsin,” said Keith George, the owner of Skydive Midwest.