As I posted last week, today was the big day. Skydiving.
Five friends and I, along with a couple of spectators, turned up at the Hinton Skydiving Centre near Banbury for a tandem skydive. I thought the weather seemed fine, but we had to wait around a while for the lower clouds to clear. Having signed all the forms, we had instruction on the exit procedure and what to do with our legs while landing, and were warned in no uncertain terms that if we got it wrong we’d be leaving in an ambulance. We were all a bit concerned about remembering everything but we were all fine, and as it’s a tandem jump, you’re strapped to the instructor who reminds you if you forget anything.
There were two many of us to all fit in one plane, so when we were kitted up the first four of us (including me) headed to the plane. It was old and small but we all squeezed in. There were two rows of benches facing towards the rear of the plane and we had to sit with one foot on either side. Our instructors attached us to them and straps were tightened. As we flew up my leg was shaking a bit which was weird, because I didn’t actually feel all that nervous. I was more nervous yesterday than today.
When the plane reached 13,000 feet (two and a half miles) it was time to go. I was the last in our plane to go so I watched as the others jumped. When it was my turn, my instructor Mike (who has made a staggering 8,500 jumps, so I felt safe with him) and myself headed to the hatch where I had to get into the exit position. This is head back, pelvis forward, arms crossed, and legs raised behind between the instructor’s legs.
‘Jump’ isn’t really the right word to describe it. From my position it felt like Mike just tipped forwards until we were falling. I think we flipped over, though I don’t really remember doing it. I do remember being astonished how far below us the others were already, as there can’t have been more than about 6 seconds between my jump and the preceding one. The view was beautiful, just clear, sunny blue all around and an almost solid layer of white/grey cloud below.
The freefall portion of the jump lasted about 45 seconds. I thought that would be my favourite part but I actually enjoyed the parachute section more. I think it was because I could really feel the pressure in my ears during the freefall section, which was quite uncomfortable. Oddly, you don’t really feel like you’re falling. My stomach didn’t drop or anything.
Once the parachute went up, I was surprised that there hadn’t been a jerking sensation. I could tell it had been deployed, but barely felt it. The parachute section took about 3 or 4 minutes and was very pleasant indeed! I must have sounded like an idiot saying to Mike “You have the best job in the world!” but at that moment I thought it was true.
It was so quiet as we floated down towards the clouds. There was a phenomenom I’ve never seen before, a disc-shaped rainbow flat on the top surface of the clouds. As we neared it, our shadow was in the centre of it, which was something to see. I’ve looked this up since and it’s called a ‘glory’. I’ve described this to people but they can’t really get their heads around it as it’s so different to a normal rainbow. The Wikipedia entry I’ve linked to has pictures which should help if you’re confused.
Then we went through the cloud – odd, but cool – and emerged above the airfield. I saw one of my friends being steered over the various buildings on the airfield (very close to them, it seemed to me, from my higher position, before landing) then we came into land ourselves. Mike told me that as it wasn’t windy we could just sort of run ourselves to a stop, so we did.
Once untangled from the parachute, I thanked Mike and headed over to my friends, from where we watched the last two of our group make their jump.
It was a lot of money (£180) but an excellent experience. I’m just off to update the bucket list!