A year ago today I jumped out of a plane! And this is what I wrote a few hours after landing safely back on the ground…..
“If you could have a super power what would it be?” This is a question we’ve all been asked a few hundred times before. And as always I answer, “To be able to fly – I’ve always wished I would be able to fly”!
Today, when I jumped out of a plane at 13,000 feet into a sea of thick white clouds and a heaven of blue skies, I felt that my wish had come true!
“Are you nervous? I’m beginning to feel nervous. How are you feeling? Are you scared? Why don’t you seem nervous? Am I the only one feeling nervous right now??”
The day had finally arrived, my friend and I had driven the hour and 30 minute journey to Hinton Air Field in Northamptonshire where we were now just hanging around waiting for our names to be called out, and I had gotten myself uncharacteristically spooked. We had been given our induction that had, in a nutshell, explained the things that we were meant to do on our descent.
‘That I’m meant to do?? – hang on a sec, I hadn’t planned on this, I’m simply here as a passenger – what the hell does he mean I have to position my neck back in order to breath? Oh god what if I won’t be able to breath! What did he say about tap one, tap two?? I’ve forgotten already – what if that was the important bit??!!’
Yes, it really did continue like this in my head. I did my best to style it out though and I’m pretty sure I got away with seeming fairly confident about the whole thing….right??
First group gone, landed. Second group gone, landed. Third group, they read the names out…”Power”.
“Oo that’s me” I yelped! This was it, the time had come – it was now or never. It was never going to be never for me, so I guess that only left now. And so I bounded over to meet my jumping buddy who took me to get suited and booted. It was during his tightening of my harness that I laid on him, thick and fast, the Jenni questions extravaganza! “How many jumps have you done? How long have you done this for? What do you do? Do you enjoy it?” etc etc. He had actually done close to 8500 jumps and he was in the military, had been since before I was born. These facts made me happy. People in the Army are resourceful, they know how to keep a cool head, if anything were to go wrong in the air he would of course be completely capable of creating some kind of life saving implement that would protect us both from smashing into the ground at 125mph! He, MY instructor, would be able to prevent anything bad from happening – of course!
I enjoyed chatting to my diving buddy, he was fun and he was interesting and up to this point he hadn’t seemed to mind my constant flow of geeky questions. He had transformed my feelings of uncertainty to feelings of excited anticipation.
A short walk across the airfield and we were now stood outside our light aircraft, which as I peered into I noticed was not even tall enough inside for me to stand up straight. I was instructed to follow him on board, to sit between his legs so that he could strap me into his harness, and to smile. And so I did.
The rest of the jumpers followed our lead.
At this point I wasn’t thinking anymore about what I was meant to do or whether I would enjoy it, I was simply going through the motions, and actually I did have a big grin on my face even without being prompted.
The engines started and we began to taxi. For me this is always the most exhilarating part of a flight: feeling the aircraft moving and getting into position for take-off; the slight impact of g-force as it begins its run, getting faster and faster before finally you feel the weightlessness of the aircraft as it defies all laws of gravity and lifts its wheels from the ground beginning its ascent.
This is normally all well and good, normally after this happens I don’t intend to jump out of the plane to bring me back down to earth! Yet here I was all strapped up to a skydiving expert whose job was to hurtle himself from this plane at 13,000 feet, with me attached! I had to laugh as I thought ‘how do we get ourselves into these situations??’
Ah yes, I remember, because I had signed up for it! I chose to do this because it was fun and exciting and full of adrenaline. I had just turned 30 this year and I had wanted to mark the occasion. So this was completely all my doing, no one else’s, so you know what – I was going to enjoy it!
I stared peacefully out the window as we passed through the clouds and into the world on top of the sky. It is nature at its simplest yet it is so completely spectacular!
“8,000 feet, hoist yourself onto my lap so I can make your straps as tight as possible, put your hat back on and get your goggles into position” were my next instructions.
In the time it took us to do this we had reached our jumping height. The door opened and a fresh blast of cool air blew in. My heart fluttered, not out of fear but out of the complete unknown. I was about to have an experience like no other and I had no idea how to process this. So I didn’t try to.
We slid down the plane, I dangled my legs over the edge, I held my head back as instructed and I closed my eyes – and then we jumped.
A piece of advice I had been given suddenly came shooting into my head “Don’t forget to open your eyes – it doesn’t last long and you don’t want to miss anything!”
‘Quick open your eyes, open your eyes!!’
And how glad I was that I did, as what I opened them up to was a vision beyond all comprehension. Like a dream.
Everywhere was white, I could see no ground, as though the world below didn’t exist. The air was cold but it felt pure and clean, it was just me and the elements. I couldn’t quite take in my surroundings, and even now I struggle to find the words. I just stared all around me, smiling as the wind whipped past our hovering bodies – it was incredible!
Quite without warning I felt a huge jolt and I was ripped away from my daydream, the cord had been pulled and the chute had opened. I had been so swept away with the feeling of free fall that I had forgotten about this part. Once I gathered my thoughts I did feel a slight relief that the parachute had opened, as one would, but then I went back to simply admiring the views and feeling completely oblivious anymore to any potential risks. I was too much in awe to be thinking about anything other than how great this was.
“Hey, check this out” my diving buddy indicated to look below where we could see a rainbow shining through the clouds, framing our silhouette…
And so we continued to glide down, breaking through the clouds until we could finally see the ground.
A few mesmerising minutes later and we were positioning ourselves to land.
“Lift your legs up…now walk walk walk!!” My feet scurried along the ground until finally – we reached to a halt.
Okay – now I don’t know about any of you guys, but skydiving…. pretty freakin awesome in my book!! Seriously I can’t think of anything else that even comes close to the feelings you get when you’re hurtling at 125mph towards the ground. Am I flying, am I falling, am I actually in the sky right now?? I mean you can’t get more of a bizarre experience. It’s hard to take in your surroundings as you have absolutely zero else to compare it to – this is of course on your first jump, once you jump a second and a third and a forth and a…well you can see where I’m going with this, you can then obviously compare it to your previous jumps and to those previous feelings, emotions, whatever you want to call them, that you had before – and so you just stare, trying to cram as much memory of this moment into your head as you possibly can before it’s all over.
Would I do it again? Absolutely!