So why would a sane person do something like that, I hear you ask. Believe me, that's a question, 12 years after the event, that I'm still asking myself.
A mid-life crisis? My kids drove me to it? Peri-menopause ? Temporary insanity? Forgot that if I was meant to fly then God would have given me wings?
Don't get the wrong idea about me. I'm not some sort of adrenaline junkie. Honest!!
' You are Elinor Dashwood of Sense & Sensibility! You are practical, circumspect, and discreet. Though you are tremendously sensible and allow your head to rule, you have a deep, emotional side that few people often see.'
That is a pretty good description of me. However, occasionally, Laura Croft swims up from my 'deep, emotional side' and I find myself doing something .... ummmmmm .... different.
So, in late June, 1994, I found myself out at Stead airfield, about to start a short training session on how to
fall to an early death
Have I mentioned that I have a very pronounced fear of heights? I mean, I get sweaty palms and feel dizzy, just standing on a kitchen chair!
Have I also mentioned that this was not doing to be a tandem jump? Or an AFF (accelerated free fall)? Noooooooo ... me being temporarily Laura Croft, this was going to be a static line jump. That's where you exit the plane, on your own, and an instructor holds a cord that is attached to the ripcord on your parachute. After a couple of seconds, he pulls the cord and, hopefully, your chute opens. Other than that, you're on your own.
We spent the morning practicing jumping off a low platform and practicing our landings. Not a good thing to be doing, when your bladder is weakened by having kids! Fortunately, I came prepared. That is something for you all to keep in mind, if you ever have the urge to jump out of a plane or go bungee jumping or something equally as stupid...
We hung from the rafters of the hanger, in a harness and practiced how to cutaway our main chute, in the event of a major malfunction, and deploy our reserve. I got that move down pat!
We lay on the floor and practiced the position we needed to be in when we stepped off the plane's wheel. Ummmm, run that one past me again. You did say 'step off the plane's wheel????
Our instructor explained that when we left the plane, we would be balancing on the strut and the wheel. Did I mention that we would be at about 3500 ft while all this was going on? The instructor would then shout 'Go' and we would fall forward in an arched position. He would only shout 'Go' twice and if we didn't jump, then the pilot would drop the wheel and we would fall off. Now I did mention that this would be all taking place at 3500 ft, didn't I ???
Lastly he explained all about a chute, how it worked, how to identify that we had a good canopy above us, how to untangle the lines, how to steer it and how to flare as we landed.
At the end of all this, he counted heads and then said that one of us would be getting a cargo chute and that there were a few things about this chute that we would need to know, including that the flare point would be down around our knees and not at hip point, like with the other chutes. He said that it might also be a little harder to steer, so we'd have to make allowances for that. Shortening the steering lines by wrapping it around our hands, was his suggestion. He said that he would let the person, who was wearing the cargo chute, know as they boarded the plane.
Finally, lessons were over and the big moment arrived. We were about to climb in the van to go out to the
airfield, when we were told that it was now to windy to jump today, so we were to come back tomorrow morning.
Next morning, bright and early, chutes in hand, we boarded the van that was going too
take us out to the plane. A this point it was like I was on autopilot. I'd stopped questioning my sanity. I'd stopped asking myself what I was doing here. I'd simply stopped thinking ...
We put on our chutes. The instructors came around and made sure our harnesses were tight and fastened securely. Their cheery 'Well, we haven't had anybody fall out of one of these yet' didn't even phase me. I really was in robot mode...
That was, until as I was climbing on the plane and the instructor whispered in my ear, 'By the way, you have the cargo chute.' ......Part 2