John Picco decided there was only one way to celebrate his 100th birthday: Take a flying leap.
And that’s what the Lakeside resident did Thursday afternoon, the day before he hit the milestone birthday. Picco jumped from 13,000 feet out of a plane — a seasoned skydiving partner braced behind him — soaring through the skies above Jamul.
“My family told me I was crazy, but I already know that,” Picco said.
Picco free-fell for one minute and floated by parachute for about six minutes.
“You can’t beat it; it was terrific,” said Picco, after landing to a cheering throng waiting for him at Skydive San Diego near Otay Lakes.
“The guy I went with really knows his stuff. He told me exactly what to do. A little while after we jumped, I felt like I was just sitting there floating around on air.”
Nearly 30 people came to watch, with several jumping along with Picco: His grandson, Michael Picco; granddaughter Angela Picco and her boyfriend, D.J. Chapman; and great-niece Susie Berglund.
Three years ago Picco watched a television show featuring a 100-year-old woman skydiving. “That day I saw it, I said, ‘I’m going to do it, too, when I’m 100.’ What am I afraid of?”
Not much evidently. This is a man who at age 98 drove his Toyota alone up to Washington state to visit his son Ron. He only stopped driving a year ago, though his license is good for three more years.
“He’s wanted to skydive for a long time, and I think that’s great,” Ron Picco said. “His brothers and sisters all lived into their 80s and 90s. He’s outlived all of his eight siblings.”
Picco almost had to put the jump on hold Thursday. Expecting to skydive at 12:30 p.m., Skydive San Diego owner Jeff Bramstedt told Picco he would have to wait until the wind died down.
The winds were blowing toward the west at nearly 10 knots most of the morning and early afternoon, making a jump impossible. However, the wind changed direction around 3:20 p.m., and Bramstedt gave the thumbs-up and pilot Bieke Lieckens took off with the party in a DeHavilland Twin Otter.
Will he do it again for his 101st birthday?
“I’ll be pushing up daisies then,” Picco said with a laugh.