I hope you and yours had a good weekend - mine was on the busy side. But that's life :D
I am a bit pressed for time - also I think some of my responses have been a bit on the lengthy side :) So, in this case, I'll address the crux of your post, rather than a point by point response.
First an interesting reference from http://www.sas.org/E-Bulletin/2001-12-0 ... olumn.html :
"Once you think about the idea carefully a contradiction occurs. Galileo recognized this and exposed the fallacy for all to see. If a heavier object falls faster than a lighter object, and a lighter object is tied to a heavy one the heavy object should then slow down due to the action of the lighter object. On the other hand, the lighter object tied to the heavier object that creates a compound object that is heavier still than the heavy object, so it must fall faster. Whenever an idea generates two conclusions that are contradictory, that idea is incorrect."
"The only correct conclusion is that all objects fall equally fast. Based on the last few columns we can put this into more modern language, the acceleration due to gravity is a constant."
Galileo went on to PROVE his theory using inclined surfaces, carefully constructed spheres and intricate water timing devices. These experiments were performed in air, not vacuum. These experiements are fully supported by modern physicists using high speed photography, laser measurement, electronic timing and electromagnetic releases.
Secondly a scenario for you:
Consider two men of identical weight jumping out of an aeroplane, wearing identical parachutes. One deploys his chute immediately. The second experiences parachute failure (the cord snaps). Now the person with a deployed parachute has a massive surface area and the second does not. How will their rate of fall be affected?
If weight is the primary factor they will fall at the same rate. If surface are is the primary factor one of them is going to make a terrbile mess very quickly.
Look forward to reading your response.