Initially, I was very excited about the sky dive. I wasn’t sure that the weather was good enough on the day, but the jump organisers (a nation-wide company called Skyline‘s website states that you must turn up on the morning or risk losing your money). A friend of mine drove for hours to stay with me and come to watch. I showed up at Headcorn aerodrome in Kent on the planned Day in May along with about 30 or so other people who had all raised their sponsorship money for The Pilgrim’s Hospice to do the jump. We all donned our Pilgrim’s Hospice tee-shirts, had our picture taken and then the jumps were called off due to poor weather, because although the visibility was fine, the winds were too high and there was too muh cloud. I had not realised that they need approximately 1/7th cloud or less (so that they can see the landing zone). It was a pretty major anti climax to have to return home (especially as I live over an hour away from the Airfield).
The same thing happened for the day of my re-booked visit… It was becoming very frustrating to have to keep cancelling, when I was so excited about the jump and the money I had raised.
Thankfully, Headcorn Parachute club were very good, and advised me that I could call them direct, for a weather update if the weather looked boarder line in the future, and advised that I could check in advance of travelling if I wanted to avoid the drive, but did say that I would get a priority jump if I arrived early in the day subsequently. If you want to try this experience I would recommend shopping around for it too as there are better deals to be had than we got, I have seen cheaper experiences through experience sites or direct with parachute clubs.
On my 4th booking, the weather was finally good enough to jump, so I turned up with my family and was given a jump suit, fetching cap and I wore my charity tee-shirt over the top. We were taken up in a Cessna Caravan and I opted to get my jump filmed at an additional cost of about £130. It was quite a lot of money, but well worth it-since it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for most, and they also gave me a CD with still pictures that they took throughout my jump which I wasn’t expecting.
I did a tandem jump (where you are harnessed to a qualified sky-dive instructor) from 12,000 feet… Since I literally felt no fear at all on the day (perhaps because the anti-climax of showing up several times before had cured any nerves I had) and I was very calm: I asked my tandem instructor ‘Polly’ to throw me around a bit during free fall, and asked if I could have a more ‘extreme’ fall out rather than just a straight fall from the plane. He kindly obliged.
One thing that did take me by surprise was the fact that my mouth was stripped of any moisture as soon as we jumped from the plane. This is to do with the altitude and is quite normal. I have to say, that having hoped for clear blue skies, it was rather exciting falling through a cloud and seeing clouds in the sky around me racing up towards me as I fell. I think it’s probably a lot more interesting having a few clouds around than none at all.
I was also lucky, because at Headcorn Parachute club, they encourage all tandem jumpers to take control of the canopy once it’s open and actually have the chance to ‘steer’ and control your own descent. Unfortunately the video doesn’t show me spiralling down, but it was a really lovely experience to twist and turn my way down in total silence under the canopy whilst I took in the amazing views.
Here is my sky dive video:
- DO – Try to book direct with an experience site or a local parachute club, as you can find some great deals out there.
- DO – If there is a lot of cloud, it is worth either re-booking or calling the parachute club for a weather update at the local airfield (it might be different where they are).
- DO – If you have your training, and cant jump on the day of booking, it’s worth calling the airfield regardless of a booking agent’s blurb as a wasted trip is frustrating and costly if you live quite a distance away, especially if you’ve been building up to the experience for some time as I was.
- DO – Take plenty of food and drinks. Airfield cafes are not cheap, and you will probably be waiting for HOURS unless you are the first on the list
- DO – Buy the video/photography. Yes it’s expensive, but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it’s over so quickly, that you’ll be glad you did. Especially as your friends watching may not be able to get very close to the landing zone with their cameras
- DO – If you’re jumping for charity, remember to put your sponsorship tee-shirt (if you have one) on over the top of your jump suit
- DO – If you want to be thrown around a bit, ask them, the people in front of me didn’t, and they didn’t get to do the forward roll. This is especially important if you are being filmed because, they are naturally less inclined to throw you around or give you an extreme ride as this makes it harder for the camera-wearing diver to film. I asked, and they were very obliging, but did need to discuss the type of plane exit he was planning in advance to help the camera man prepare.
- DO – Wear layers, even though it might be warm on the ground, you can expect the air temperature to drop significantly with altitude (at 12,000 feet I jumped out into freezer temperature, and it was a nice day). That said, adrenaline is a great ‘thermal jacket’
- DO– If you loved the experience and fancy trying it again. Re-book ASAP, as the insurance you paid for will still be valid (and therefore the cost of a second jump reduced for a year from the initial jump date).
- DO – Ask if you are able to take the controls of your parachute, it’s fun, but not every airfield offer you the chance.
- DO – ask what colour your canopy will be so that your friends/family watching know which jumper you are
- DO – Be aware that if you are 40 years old or above, you will need medical sign off.
- DO – have a drink of water just before you go get into the plane-to help that dry mouth.
- DON’T – rely on dutch courage-the airfield I was at will cancel your jump even if you have one alcoholic drink.