Saturday, September 24, 2011

What it's like to skydive

Terminal velocity are two words that really shouldn’t be in the same sentence….. not when you’re about to go skydiving. (Apparently a skydiver in a belly to earth free-fall position reaches a speed of about 195 km/h before the chute opens). Last Saturday the Elders weather site was predicting a near perfect forecast for Nagambie and I was booked to jump out of a plane at 14,000 feet.
My ground support crew comprised Max, Sam and Henry, co-driver “GPS” Jane and Squadron Leader Edgar Pickles DFC & Bar, by 8.30am we were on the road to an excellent adventure. The plan was to enjoy a sumptuous lunch at Plunkett Fowles Winery at midday followed by skydiving at 2pm. However we arrived about an hour ahead of schedule, so at the urging of my youngest son we popped out to Skydive Nagambie via the historic Kirwans Bridge to see if it would be possible to jump before lunch (Henry was concerned that lunch might make me too heavy for the parachute ….he knows what my appetite is like).
Stepping out at the drop zone you could almost smell the adrenalin. There were skydivers everywhere and I thought I would have Buckley’s chance of jumping early. I introduced myself to Louise (Accelarated Free Fall Instructor, Drop Zone Safety Officer and Drop Zone Operator), she smiled and said “No problem, you’ll be in the next load; it leaves in 15 minutes”. I was quickly introduced to my new best friend, Tandem Master Ryan who fitted a harness to me and then went over the sequence of moves we would perform once we exited the plane. Then it was big hugs with the boys and the rest of my support crew before climbing aboard the PAC 750XL turboprop and beginning our ascent to 14,000 feet.
Finally we reached the required height, the door opened and the solo jumpers exited. Suddenly it was our turn.

Cameraman Jono stepped outside and gave me the thumbs up, Ryan sat on the door ledge and I hung out into the abyss, feeling reasonably secure in the harness. Ryan tipped forwards and we were out. 

The noise of the wind was incredible as we headed south; Jono seemed to be buzzing around us like a demented blowfly with a camera and I hoped my top was modestly in place. We did a few 360 degree spins and the ground still seemed a long way away. After about a minute of free-falling (the longest 60 seconds in history), Ryan pulled the ripcord; it felt as though we were being sucked back up as the canopy opened and rapidly slowed our descent. The noise ceased and we floated down at a leisurely pace, enjoying the incredible view of the countryside and the glorious spring sunshine.
Ryan steered us safely in for landing, which was less scary than I had been anticipating. Earlier that morning I had read a quote by Captain Charles W. Purcell “Out of 10,000 feet of fall, always remember that the last half inch hurts the most”. At that point I decided to stop all research into skydiving until after I had completed my jump. My friend Rossco, an aeronautical engineer and ex-paratrooper had told me their motto was “Knowledge Dispels Fear” I had replied that I preferred my own motto of “Ignorance is Bliss” when it came to jumping out of a plane.
Back on the ground and very happily reunited with Max, Sam, Henry, Jane and Edgar, we headed off for our very delicious lunch. All in all an amazing life experience that I wouldn’t mind repeating.