Blogging has given me some pretty awesome experiences. For instance, last year I got the chance to attend the FA Cup semi-final to watch my boyhood club – Aston Villa – beat Liverpool at Wembley. Not only this, but I was given the VIP treatment with backstage access and a walk around the pitch before kick-off. I didn’t think anything would ever top this, but you know what? Something did. I recently jumped out of a plane for a tandem skydive!
This all came about after I did a bit of work for Red Letter Days earlier in the year for their #dadventures Father’s Day campaign where I shared a childhood adventure memory. I wonder if you can figure out why they asked me to get involved…? Clue: it wasn’t (just) because of my dashing good looks.
So, the other month, Red Letter Days asked whether I’d be interested in going on one of their Adventure experience days in exchange for sharing what it was like on the blog. As someone who spends most of his life with a two-year old, the only real thrill I get relates to what CBeebies show is on next. As such, it didn’t take long to say ‘yes’ having decided that it was about time to add a bit more excitement, exhilaration and exultation to my daily routine.
I had a look through the wide range of ‘adventure’ stuff that Red Letter Days offer. Although I’d done a fair few of these things over the years – karting, 4 x 4 off-roading, segwaying, quad biking, shooting, indoor skydiving, paintballing and even learning how to become a spy – there was still plenty of stuff to choose from.
Having shortlisted my options to Piaggio Ape Racing, a bungee jump or tandem sky diving, I decided to ‘go big or go home’ by selecting the latter. I just hoped that my decision to jump out of a plane actually resulted in me going home…!
I thought that I’d have a few weeks to prepare for my free fall. You know, enough time to research things like my chance of death from a skydive or what I’d need to do if a pigeon accidentally knocked out the fella I was strapped to mid-jump. However, in reality, a free spot on an upcoming jump day meant that my wait time was just five days. FIVE DAYS! That was barely enough time to get my affairs in order.
Anyway, that’s enough of the pre-amble. Let’s jump to it – ha, see what I did there?! Before I write about what it was like to jump out of a plane at 7,000 feet, why not check out the vlog I did on the day, which features the actual jump.
The skydive was with UK Skydiving from Sibson Airport just outside of Peterborough. Although this was the closest one available to us, it was still a two hour drive – not the greatest thing when I needed to be there at 8.30am. As to be expected, I turned up late to the small airfield and missed the main briefing with the rest of the jumpers. So, instead, I got a condensed version which felt a little quick considering that I was risking my life – all I remembered was “lift your legs on landing or you’ll break them”!
Each drop was organised by the time you registered, so I knew I was going to have a reasonable wait – nothing like being sat on your tod for a number of hours as you contemplate your likely demise! The weather was decent though and there were plenty of benches outside, so I watched with curiosity – and dread – as the first set of jumpers were called to put their jumpsuits on.
Each drop consisted of six or eight people who were each paired with an instructor. After putting their harnesses on, the aircraft – a Cessna 208 – landed and everyone got on board. The plane took off then disappeared for 15 or so minutes as it climbed to the right altitude. The next thing I saw was a couple of tiny specs falling from the sky, which then became clearer as the parachutes deployed and they slowly descended.
It was at this point that it struck me that I was shortly going to fall from a plane!
I watched on as the second set of jumpers were called to put on their jumpsuits, then subsequently went up in the plane. It was about 20 minutes between the drops, so by my reckoning, I was likely to be number five, six or seven, which meant my skydive would probably just be before lunch. There was no chance I was eating beforehand though!
Drop three came and went. As did four and five. Finally, my name was called as part of the final drop of the morning. With a bit of trepidation, I went to a cabin at the back and pulled the jumpsuit over my regular clothes. I was then introduced to the instructor I was putting my faith into, plus had a few photos and a bit of video footage with a fella who would be filming the skydive. In advance, I’d agreed to buy the photo and video package for £130 so that I had actual footage from the day.
I was fitted with my parachute harness by the instructor and had a few minutes wait as the plane was refuelled. We were then given the nod and approached the plane. As I was last up the steps, I was treated to the ‘good’ news that I’d be the first one to jump out. *Gulps*
People give the likes of EasyJet a hard time for being ‘budget’, however the plane I was in took this to a new level. Instead of seats, I was sat in between the legs of my instructor, there was no in-flight entertainment and it suffered from one or two very serious rattles! I watched on through the shutter door as we continued to climb to 7,000 feet.
After about 15 minutes of being in the plane, my instructor had double checked that our harnesses were connected and I was given the signal to put on my headgear and goggles. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t actually that nervous. Why would I be? I’d agreed to do the skydive, I was looking forward to it and I was strapped to a bloke who’d done thousands of jumps before. I did have a few butterflies, but I’d say being 3 out of 10 on the nervousness scale was pretty good considering I was about to free fall from a plane.
When we reached the required height, the door was pushed up and we shuffled over to the door. For a few seconds, I sat perched on the edge of a plane with my legs dangling out. My head was tilted back into the instructors shoulder…
…then we leaned forwards out of the plane.
We descended for a few seconds in total free fall without any form of parachute. Then the instructor deployed the drogue parachute, which I’m led to believe decreases terminal velocity in preparation for the main parachute being deployed and so that the videographer can fall at the same speed.
The feeling was obviously something I’ve never experienced before. The cold wind in my face, the force pushing up on my body, the incredible views – wow!
A photo posted by The DADventurer (Dave) (@the_dadventurer) on
We fell at speeds of up to 120mph for around 20 seconds until the main parachute was deployed. With a huge jolt and an uncomfortable feeling on the crotch – not too dissimilar to a toddler punch to the goolies – I went from free falling in a horizontal position to slowly gliding back down to the ground vertically.
The free fall was great, but I actually think I preferred the parachute flight back down. It was very bird-like – or at least what I imagine a bird to be like. Soaring beneath the clouds with stunning countryside views all around and an eerie silence. I even ate a worm afterwards to properly get into my new feathery persona.
The instructor did a few spinny manoeuvres – I reckon that’s the technical term – to get us into position for landing. On approach, I was reminded to lift my legs – the only thing I’d remembered from the briefing – then we swooped in and slid across the grass. And that was that. A standard weekday.
After getting out of the harness – and nearly getting hit by an incoming skydiver – we got into a van and was taken back to HQ. Here, I was given a certificate, briefly got to see some of the video of the jump and obviously posed under the ‘I made it’ sign.
It had been a great experience, although I was struggling to put into words what I’d just done – not great when you were trying to vlog it! I’ve not got the ‘skydiving bug’ which a few other first timers were talking about, but I’d definitely be keen to do something like this again – be it a tandem from a greater height, a solo jump or some kind of naked group descent for charity.
For now though, I’ll be keeping my feet firmly on the ground. There’s only so much excitement a stay-at-home dad can have each week and I tend to find that 95% of mine comes from what’s happening on Topsy and Tim!
Have you ever done a skydive? How did you find it? If you haven’t, would you ever do one? Let me know below!
N.B. I was provided with a complimentary tandem skydive by Red Letter Days in exchange for an honest review of the experience day.