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Getting High for the Cause: 100% Legal17th July 2017 Personal Injury
To me, skydiving is the ultimate escape and adrenalin rush that can't be understood until you've been there and done it. Fascinated by all it had to offer, I did my first static line jump in 2001, gained my solo licence and, after several hundred jumps, my formation skydiving coach rating before doing professional tandem camera work as a second job. Before I knew it, I had over 1,100 jumps logged. My desire to share the sport has always been huge but I've found that it's one thing saying you want to jump, and another actually going through with it. Whether solo or tandem, skydiving is not for the faint hearted. So despite an initially enthusiastic squad of JMW-ers agreeing to get involved in a charity skydive on a departmental night out, I was less surprised that we had a few drop outs once the alcohol had worn off.
There were five who put themselves forward to take the plunge - Mike Bloor, Natalie Clarke, Adam Leyland, Richard Powell and Loretta Woollams.
The jump was originally booked for Saturday 27th May but the bank holiday curse lived up to its name when flash floods and storms grounded us just as we were about to kit up and go. This was disappointing for everyone but, in Mike's words, we 'lived to skydive another day'. Everyone arrived early morning on Sunday 2nd July for our second attempt. It was a dismal start weather-wise but we stayed positive due to a good forecast, and true to form the clouds gradually broke up and the aircraft was pulled from the hangar; a promising sign. We were pretty much first on the list to go and, re-briefs complete by legendary skydiver George McGuinness, our group's names were called for meeting instructors, camera flyers and kitting up before heading out to meet the plane.
Getting in the aircraft is an experience in itself, as you fight against the prop blast and are hit by the smell of jet fuel. Adam with instructor in tow embarked first, followed by Natalie, Mike, Loretta, Richard and their respective camera guys, a couple of which would operate the door. Catching my breath after running to the plane, I had a word in the pilot's ear to request an altitude 'upgrade' from 12,000 to 14,000 feet, to give our group maximum freefall time and the best experience. Apparently this is always at the pilot's discretion, but he gave the nod and we were good to go.
All safely aboard, our jump ship taxied away, powered down the runway, took off and started its climb. In between filming bits, checking out the scenery with Adam and trying to do a temporary fix of my jump suit zip which decided to break at a critical time, I had my usual thoughts and mixed emotions. Why the **** am I here .. again? Why have they decided they want to do this? Each of us is mental and was born with a screw loose somewhere in our heads. But, thinking of people 'down there' maybe deciding to use their Sunday morning to wash the car, isn't this just living life to the full?
Time to think things through is short-lived when skydiving and, before we knew it, the plane was at exit altitude and cut to a lower speed to allow the lunatics in the back to get out. The door was opened and that's when the situation became real; there's only one way out now. From what I could see from up near the pilot, everyone seemed pretty calm. Nearest to me was Natalie who I was filming and didn't seem fazed in the slightest (in fact smiled the entire way) and Adam who I don't think smiled once but was taking it all in. The fact is though, you are not human if you don't feel the nerves in this situation and credit to everyone for their composure, and dignity!
Out Richard went, victim number one. Exiting a plane in this situation is not calm, it's hellishly noisy, you are instantly sucked away into oblivion and it can be terrifying for the other jumpers to see. This is what everyone else reported. In hindsight Richard said he was glad to be first. And when he did just 'disappear', that's when the others suddenly thought 'Oh ********'! I was second to last and looked in at Adam as I climbed out onto the camera step in 'the zone', the butterflies and jitters being taken over by pumping adrenalin. Natalie, attached to instructor Eddie, was still grinning in the door and, after a rock backwards to signal 'we're going', we were gone, into the endless sky and relishing every moment of the minute's freefall. After a nice parachute opening at 5000 feet, they managed a textbook soft landing against a steady breeze as the others touched down around us.
As everyone got back to the hangar, skydive accomplished, the atmosphere was chaotic and emotions were high. We de-kitted, chatted with instructors, camera guys and each other, re-living the last half hour and coming to terms with the fact we'd actually done it after so much build-up. Everything I've heard since has been positive: 'It really was the most exhilarating experience, I loved every second!' (Loretta), 'I'm so glad I did this .. Great & unforgettable experience - still smile now whenever I think about it!' (Mike), 'Amazing the whole experience such an adrenaline rush, I can see how you've got hooked Liz!' (Natalie) .. we were all in agreement this was an absolute success in terms of personal achievement and raising nearly £2,000 for CBIT. There's talk about organising another event, and maybe even progression in the sport. Case closed for now, but watch this space .. The sky's the limit!!
You can see how the team got on by going to our Flickr account and taking a look at the album we've created for some of the fantastic photos from this exciting day. Visit: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm4vXQFf