“At first I thought it would be a one-time thing,” she said with a shrug. “Then I got hooked on it.”
And 950 jumps, a master’s, and a doctorate later, Harper is an accomplished skydiver, leaping from planes, helicopters, and even hot air balloons to cheering crowds at air shows nationwide as a member of the Misty Blues, an all-woman skydiving team.
Harper usually jumps from 4,000 to 5,000 feet above the ground at shows. She spots where she will land and opens her parachute within 10 seconds of jumping to coordinate her movements with her fellow divers. For three to five minutes, she flies.
“It’s a very free and floating feeling,” said Harper. “It’s calm and peaceful.”
A West Warwick resident who has taught at URI for four years, Harper jumped at air shows in South Carolina, Ohio, Washington State, and Maine this summer. She’s jumped at night, her suit lit up with glow sticks, and when asked if she ever has second thoughts before hurling herself out of a moving plane, she shakes her head.
“When you decide to jump, you jump.”
As a kinesiology lecturer, Harper, who earned her master’s degree at Kansas State University and her doctorate at the University of Toledo, teaches foundations of health and exercise testing and prescription. She is an exercise physiologist but when it comes to skydiving, she says the way you maneuver your body is all biomechanics and physics. Even after skydivers master the basic skills, Harper said there is always something new to learn.
Although she also enjoys freefalling and is a certified skydiving instructor, Harper, a petite brunette who recently married, denies any daredevil tendencies, stressing that she likes to surf the web, shop for her new house, and read.
Even though skydiving is considered an extreme sport, Harper has never incurred anything worse than a bruise and said a wonderful part of the sport is meeting so many different people. She’s jumped with doctors and nurses, pilots and social workers, welders and electricians, and many more.
With 950 jumps to her credit, Harper knows it was a random invitation from a friend that made all the difference.
“Skydiving just sounded like something fun to try,” she said, remembering her inaugural jump. “And it ended up opening doors to a whole new world.”
University of Rhode Island Kinesiology Lecturer Allison Harper, second from left, with fellow members of the all-women skydiving team, the Misty Blues, before a night jump at an air show in Brunswick, Me., this August.
It’s a bird . . . it’s a plane . . . it’s University of Rhode Island Kinesiology Lecturer Allison Harper, an accomplished skydiver, jumping at an air show in Florence, S.C. in May. Allison is nearing 1,000 jumps.
University of Rhode Island Kinesiology Lecturer Allison Harper jumps
at an air show in Ohio.