Today was the day i finally jumped out of a plane, free fell over 5000 feet at over 200mk/hr and glided down to earth with the help of a parachute. It sounds crazy and that’s exactly what it was…
To start the day, i had to be up at 6am and gone from the house by 7am, to arrive for around 9am at the Irish Parachute Club in offaly. I’m tempted to say that was the hardest thing i had to do all day but i suppose jumping out of a plane has to take that title.
Once we got there, i had to sign multiple forms and ‘if you die it’s your own fault’ contracts. Certainly not for the faint hearted! There were about 10 of us in a room all signing the same forms and being showed what we have to read, sign, date etc…
After i’d everything signed i overheard one guy saying that he wasn’t going… grand – i’m not surprised as if you’re not in the right frame of mind doing something like this, it’s better to pull out on the ground rather than in the air 😉
A simple ‘i’m too scared’ or ‘don’t want to risk it’ would have done it, but he said he had a feeling something bad was going to happen and he had felt it for the past few days… obviously he’s watched too many final destination movies 😉
In those movies, people predict bad things will happen and they do… everyone who ignores their predictions all end up dieing because they never listened. Well, i was undeterred by this guy as i felt confident and safe from start to finish. At no stage did i think i was going to die 🙂
I seen a few plane loads of people go off and touch down before it was my turn to board the plane so i already knew what it looked like when on the ground. I boarded the plane at about 12.20pm and would have jumped out around 12.35pm (took about 10-15 mins to rise to 10,000 feet).
At this stage my instructor was running over what i had to do… arms crossed, head back, knees bent etc… i knew all this from watching some youtube videos anyway! The plane held 8 adults + the pilot and it was cramped. You can tell by looking at it, it wasn’t going to be a comfortable ride… the flight up to 10,000 feet felt flawless though – remarkably smooth although maybe i didn’t notice the bumps because i had other things on my mind…
In total there were 4 guys including myself doing tadem jumps. Each of us 4 newbies were attached to 4 tandem masters. I was last to jump – not because i was nervous or anything but just because that was the easiest way for us all to maneuver out of the plane. Jumping first is probably easiest as you don’t have to watch others fall out, so if you’re nervous, i’d recommend jumping first if you can.
As the student, you’re dangled over the edge of the plane whilst the instructor slowly gets ready to let go. I said before, i’d never know how i felt until i was actually in that situation but honestly i wasn’t nervous at all – i was looking forward to it although i didn’t know what to expect with the free falling. It’s one of those things not many people can accurately put in to words.
What happens next is the bit that is really difficult to describe… You’re up at 10,000 feet and plummet to 5,000 feet in about 30 seconds, tumbling a few times as you leave the plane before you get in to stable position facing downwards. You’re traveling at over 200km/hr (terminal velocity) at this point. Some people describe the experience as ‘floating’ but i can tell you now it didn’t feel like floating to me – i was well aware of the speed i was traveling at. Breathing is pretty tricky – you can breathe but it takes a while to adjust. Not surprising really – try sticking your head out a car window on a motorway and breathing – it’s the same sort of sensation – you’re gasping for air and getting it, but it’s like someone is pumping compressed air in to your face
As for describing the speed – it’s a bit like a roller coaster only faster, at a constant speed and with no protection or security that you can feel and sense (seats / belts / bars etc…) so mentally, it’s a bigger challenge as you know that you’re relying on that parachute to open and if it doesn’t….
Right up until the parachute opens at 5000 feet, it’s all adrenaline and then everything goes quiet and still and you’re just floating around like a bird. The weather was pretty cloudy today, all day, so it meant i was jumping out of the plane with the clouds beneath me – not a pocket of land in sight from the plane.
Above the overcast clouds, it was blue skies and sunshine – perfect weather… so it was an experience in itself to quite literally glide from that sunshine to cloudy darkness in the space of a few seconds… it was as if someone dimmed the lights!
The best way to describe viewing land from a parachute is like roaming around in google earth, zooming in and out, rotating etc… That’s exactly what it looked and felt like to me. I felt completely safe, completely in control (parachutes are pretty easy to steer!) and i was also attached to a man (JJ) who’d done this 1,124 times before, so i was in very safe hands.
The airplane i jumped out of had landed before i did and was already picking up the next lot of jumpers by the time i’d touched down. I’d read plenty of stories about broken limbs upon landing, so i was well aware that should my feet be in the wrong position on landing, i could easily be going home with a sprained or broken ankle. We did come in to land at a pretty decent pace and had i put a foot down or tried to land on my feet, i can see how easy it would have been to do some damage.
But i was told to keep my feet up and i’d seen it in videos anyway so that’s exactly what i did and the landing was smooth. No problems, no injuries, no deaths… Definitely an experience to remember and well worth doing.
Would i do it again? Yes. Will i do it again? Maybe, but not for a long time (it’s an expensive hobby – did you know a single parachute costs over €12k?!). Would i recommend it? Yes. The minute i was asked about doing it i knew that if i said no, some part of me would always regret it. At 22, i’m fit, healthy, physically and mentally capable of doing it, so i never believed i was in any danger. Later on in life, the decision wouldn’t have been so clear cut.
Anyway, this is one for the CV 😉 and a blog post i’ll no doubt link to time and time again from now on… ‘the day i skydived’….. and here’s the all important proof….