Date: 22 august 2009
Where: Langar Airfield, Langar, Nottingham, UK.
My body is still in denial that I leapt out of a plane at 13,000 ft without a parachute. Although by ‘leapt’ I of course mean I edged towards the exit shitting my pants and by ‘without a parachute’ I mean I was attached to the front of an instructor edging towards the exit against my will who was hoping that I didn’t really shit my pants.
I am scared of heights and but I have no problem flying in planes and as such there were only three ‘bad’ moments that I would advise any would be first timers, the wait/ buildup, hanging outside the plane exit and some slight nausea after the parachute opened. Other than that it is a surreal experience and one that I would happily repeat, it’s odd how safe you feel attached to another human who is only held up by some strings, a sheet and the laws of physics. I feel far more fear from climbing a ladder or giving blood (needles).
Anyone can do a tandem parachute jump as long as you’re medically sound and no more than 15 stone in weight – I think over a certain age and you need sign off from a doctor. You turn up on the day have a 30 minute briefing and then you sit and wait to be called once called then you buddy up with your instructor who runs through the gear, free fall and landing positions and another quick briefing. After that then you’re taken to the plane and you get a ride up to 13,000 feet.
Its very reassuring and supportive having a friend with you doing their first jump as well during the periods of waiting, more so on the plane and I have to say that the instructors that I jumped with were excellent at making me feel at ease throughout.
So you’re in the plane, always climbing and you get to see the landscape below and any landmarks to try and look out for on the way down. With any luck you get nice clear blue skies with a few clouds and good wind speeds.
13,000 feet and the time has come, I have to sit up on my instructors lap as he tightens the straps and clips me on to his harness, I have my hat placed on, the door slides opens, I pull my goggles down and my instructor, in this case Dave, starts to edge us towards the exit…
I’m sitting on the edge for no more than 5 seconds with my feet outside behind me nearly touching the bottom of the plane, I am scared, my hands griping each opposite shoulder and as I tilt my head as far back as possible before I can even think about ‘hold on how is the instructor hanging on’ we fall out of the plane.
Now apparently you kind of black out as the brain can’t process what’s happening to you so what seems like only a few seconds is around 20-30 seconds of free fall as you reach terminal velocity and speeds of up to 160mph. There is no fear, it is impossible to be scared at this moment, it seems like a dream. I can not explain this to anyone who has not jumped, it is incomparable, you are weightless, my thoughts are lucid.
We do a few spins, I stick my arms out and I hear a russle and the parachute deploys… I really can’t remember any more than that but is one of the most awesome experiences of my life so far. The harness straps now really dig into my groin cutting out the blood supply a bit, I start to feel some nausea and admit to the instructor I may disgrace his canopy, there is nothing but to wait the nausea out by moving my legs to keep blood supply moving. I have a mild headache and confusion as my brain catches up with what just happened in the free fall. I remove my goggles and start to try and look around at places and landmarks to take my mind off of the nausea, I try to focus on the horizon but instead feel more comfort oddly looking directly at the ground below which is the exact opposite of what you do when scared of heights. I hang in the harness making the instructor look like he’s jumping with a shop dummy attached to him. But still I am really enjoying myself…
I can see where to land, I bring my feet up in front of me and prepare to be dragged along the floor or to mess up the landing in some other way, instead my feet touch the ground and we stop perfectly, people come to help un-clip the parachute and it’s all over.
I wait for my friend Allan to land just behind me and we are both more than happy to be alive right now both having just jumped from a plane for the first time. That’s it, it’s over and to be honest my nausea had worn off and I wish I could have had more time up there – apparently Allan even got to steer his parachute and had I not been like a shop dummy I would have liked to have a go at this as well.
Whilst we decided against paying the extra and getting the video and stills of the jumps Jude managed to take photos of each of us as we floated down. The whole experience took about 3 hours in terms of briefing, waiting and recovering and was well worth the £260 – when you land you are full of adrenaline and are quite euphoric, it is an amazing high to be on.
I think what made the day a bit easier as well was driving up to a near by hotel/ travelodge and staying the night ensuring we had a decent nights sleep. Also not having a raging hangover was definitely a sound idea.
And as I write this, I know that I will shortly go to sleep and relive the free fall moments from earlier on today. Do not ever say you can’t see the appeal of skydiving until you have tried it, everyone should try it at least once, it is one of the most amazing things that you can do.