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Falling forwards, one step at a time

Empathising with Icarus

UNITED KINGDOM | Saturday, 3 May 2014 | Views [282]

Thursday 17th April 2014

I didn't feel nervous until I was kneeling in the plane, leaning my bodyweight forwards to help the duct tape covered plane take off. A breeze passing through its chasis as the greyed pilot told us we could lean back again as we were ascending. The inside of the aircraft was well worn, with scrawls and maps all over its walls.


I was the second to jump, the noise and wind coming from the open door only just eclipsing my thoughts as to how uncomfortable and numb my feet were. Unfortunately it was doing nothing to silence my emotions. I was excited, nervous, and predominantly doubting what had posessed me to think I could do such a stupid thing. As I shuffled forward into the space created by a guy called Craig, who had just thrown himself out of a moving plane, I laughed at how utterly rediculous this situation was. Here I was about to fight every self-preservation instinct that has kept me alive for the last 21 years. The craziest thing was that it excited me. Facing your instincts and overcoming them. It has a certain strength of mind to it. A fortitude in your own ability to make a decision and stick to it. As well as a very good example of mind over matter. But all this only comes with hindsight. As Nigel (my instructor) called me to go onto the step on the wing, all thought dropped, except for this could kill me, I'm scared shitless and pure excitement.


The first thing that hit me was the wind (literally). It is so bloody windy. I struggled to move along the step to assume my position. It's like when you put your hand out the window, while driving and it blows all over the place. Delibrate movements are like moving in treacle.


Then I was in position, hands on the wing struts, left foot on the step, and my right foot handing over the town that was so small and passing so quickly below.


One last moment of doubt and then I let go. I arched (or tried to) and did my safety count. 1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, 3 one thousand, 4 one thousand and check canopy. Low and behold it was there! with lots of line twists, but present none the less. I kicked the twists out, pulled my controls and released the brakes.


Only then did I notice the spotter on the ground barking instructions to me through the radio. The wind was too strong, I had to turn and face into it. I turned into the wind. Then hung there, adjusting to keep face on. Finally I could take a look around me. I'd descended a few hundred feet from the 3500ft drop height, and the view was incredible. So peaceful and quiet. My hands struggled to grasp the toggles. My feet had pins and needles from kneeling on the airplane floor.


I was guided down. Experienceing a full 360 degree dive as I approached the corner of the airfield. It was exhilerating moving so fast, controlling its graceful banks. Then I began my landing pattern. I landed just south of the runway at Peterlee airfield. Flaring (pulling the brakes) at just the correct time. It wasn't the softest of landings, but neither did I turn to strawberry jam (as a book I read as a kid put it). The wind wasn't finished with me yet though. Despite letting one of the toggles go, the chute still tried to reinflate and dragged me accross the tarmac runway before I could stow it.


I looked up and saw Felix, my friend I was jumping with coming down sowly, clearly overshooting the drop zone. He hadn't even landed by the time I had got back to the hangar and checked in. He blew 3 fields down and had to be picked up by car.


Tags: sky diving


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