This Sunday, the weekend warrior – and the birthday boy – was Leo. And here is his account of his first-hand experience jumping of a plane.
The minutes before sunrise are always my favourite time of the day – the few times I’m awake to witness them, that is. Today, the sun rays reflecting on the morning dew glow a golden colour which set a lovely tone for the day. We have an early start to get to the Salisbury Old Sarum Airfield by 7am.
Why? thisweekendwarrior arranged for me to jump out of a plane!
As an enthusiastic rock climber, I’ve always been trained to hang on to the rock, to avoid falling where possible, and to never look down to fend off vertigo. So the thought of voluntarily leaping into the void at 15,000 feet above the ground with no rope feels likely to be counterintuitive.
goskydiving has an amazing team on the ground to help prepare physically and psychologically for the jump. Fully kitted up, trained and prepped for the event, we meet our tandem instructor and board the plane. Through the windows of the rickety little aircraft, we can see the Isle of Wight, the Channel, and land that stretches all the way from Bristol to Brighton. The green quilt of fields and trees below us gets further and further, losing some of its detail as we gain altitude.
My instructor is an ex military who taught the British army how to parachute. On a day like this, he’s expected to jump 15 times with different customers! Chatting with him helps me relax and build up the energy to truly appreciate the moment, when the time comes to jump.
Quite suddenly, the door opens and it gets windy and loud in the plane. The first customers closest to the door seem to dissappear out of sight one after the other. Before I know it, it’s our turn: “lift your left leg over the bench to face the door”. I’m now dangling my legs below the plane, my entire body outside the frame of the door, my hands firmly gripping onto my harness, and my back curved in the shape of a banana. Talk about butterflies in my stomach. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. Jay checks that I’m ready to go. I feel surprisingly confident, raring told go. And all of a sudden we drop. We spin upside down for a few seconds. I lose my bearings briefly. And then it’s free fall. Full speed, wind in my face, straight down.
The free fall lasts 60 seconds from that altitude. I definitely have time to appreciate what was going on. I play around with gravity : superman pose, dab, air piano to feel the wind between my fingers, and screams of excitement. The rapid drop makes my ears pop. My eyes are watering, but I can still clearly see the ground getting closer. Now completely relaxed and taking in the thrill. Jay taps me on the shoulder to indicate that it’s time to release the parachute, and I get back into the vertical position. I feel the sudden upwards tug of the harness, and everything slows down again.
We’re floating in the air, having a chat. I take control of the parachute to guide it left and right before it’s time to land, and Jay takes us for a couple of “spins” to an extra little bit of spice to the ride. It feels like we approche the ground at high speed, but in fact the landing is smooth as I slide on my bum to a halt.
Hours later, my heart is still beating a little faster than it normally would. It’s 11am, and I can’t believe the morning dew and the golden colours were only this morning!