It is not often I have second thoughts about something. I normally make a decision and stick to it.
Jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane was one situation where I had second thoughts, just a few seconds after I left the aircraft. 🙂
I have only done one parachute jump and that was enough for me to understand that jumping out of serviceable aircraft was not really my thing. After we had successfully completed the approved training programme, we were fitted with our parachutes, checked and double-checked, then checked again.
We would be heading up to 3,000ft in an Islander aeroplane and doing a static line jump. Essentially, with a static line the parachute starts to open as soon as you leave the aeroplane as the release mechanism is attached to a wire inside the aircraft.
On the flight up to our jumping altitude all the bravado disappeared and gradually my group, who were all first time jumpers got a sickly shade of grey about them.
We knew nobody would be forced to jump. There would be the long walk of shame in front of our peers if the aircraft brought us down to the ground, but that would be a small price to pay if, when it came to it, we simply could not jump.
Once at the required altitude the side door was opened. There was a horrendous amount of noise and we all had to communicate using hand signals. I think I was fourth in line to jump and my turn came around all too quickly.
I sat in the door, half in the plane, half out. One bottom cheek on floor of the cabin, the other literally blowing in the wind.
The instructor in charge of the jump said something to me but because of the noise I couldn’t hear what he said.
Before I knew it, I was outside the plane falling to the ground that I could clearly see. I was suppose to be shouting:
One thousand. Two thousand. Three Thousand. Check canopy!
Unfortunately, what I was saying in my head and the words coming out of my mouth directed at the instructor who had pushed me out of the plane with his knee were two different things.
After the longest three seconds of my life, I looked up to check the canopy. It was there, full of air, no lines were tangled. I now knew I was no longer going to die on this jump.
I grabbed the steering toggles and starting to aim at the landing area, which I hit bang on the cross.
The instructor had also jumped being the last of the passengers out of the plane. I went over to him and asked him using quite harsh language why he’d pushed me out of the plane.
He explained that he had actually told me to “Go!” That was what I did not quite hear and when I didn’t follow his instruction, I had to be nudged out of the plane for the safety of the entire aircraft.
Once in the door, you go regardless – That’s the rule.
All these years later, I still feel a sense of injustice at that little nudge from his left knee. The instructor acted entirely correctly.
When I tried to protest my case he just smiled and said “C’mon. There’ll be other jumps. Let’s get a brew.”
I was seething whilst drinking my tea and all through the journey home.
Maybe that’s why I don’t trust people who jump out of perfectly good aeroplanes and call it fun?