One of our fundraisers, Michael Blackstaff took on a very impressive challenge, the Tandem Skydive for the Rowans Hospice Charity and also the Joseph Weld Hospice in Dorchester. Michael very sadly lost his wife and his daughter to cancer, the two Hospices cared for them during their last days. Michael paid all of the expenses himself so that every penny was split between the two Charities and has raised a very impressive £5,889.44 to date with half kindly being donated to the Rowans Hospice Charity.
Michael kindly shared a report of his Skydive experience with us which we found very insightful and hope you do too.
I arrived at the Netheravon Airfield early in the morning and completed my training, the early mist cleared and the skydives started at about 10.00. My flight got into the air at midday.
The aeroplane ride:
The plane was a Cessna 208 which had had the seats removed and so it can carry up to eighteen people sitting on the floor. As a tandem ‘student’ I sat in front of and close to my instructor Simon, a former Marine. The flight took about 15 minutes to reach 13,500 feet where Simon attached his harness to mine.
Exiting the aeroplane:
I had opted to be videoed, so, in order to be in position to catch the moment of truth, the photographer, with a helmet camera, jumped a few seconds before us.
Simon and I eased ourselves towards the open hatch on the side of the aeroplane. As I had learnt in the training session earlier in the morning and as instructed, I sat on the edge of the hatch, legs bent under the aeroplane’s belly with a two-mile drop beneath my feet. Simon made final adjustments to the harness and then gently but firmly we made the jump off the edge
After a couple of somersaults we continued in free fall for about 40 seconds, accelerating up to about 120mph. Once we came down to 5,000 feet, the canopy opened.
The canopy (parachute) opening:
The canopy was rectangular and much more steerable than the circular kind and provided a very rapid deceleration. Simon passed me the ‘handles’ of the canopy cords and invited me for a brief period to experiment with steering – right-hand down to turn right and vice-versa.
For the last few hundred feet Simon resumed control and by a series of quite sharp, stomach-churning turns, we faced into the wind for landing.
For the last few feet, we were moving quite fast at only a slight angle to the ground. For the landing Simon was closest to the ground with his legs extended and using his heels to ‘brake’. I had to keep my feet up and felt almost nothing of the impact. Simon, with thousands of jumps to his credit, landed us within a few feet of the intended spot on the airfield.
It was hair-raising –literally! The experience was very well organised and at no point did I feel in any danger. I would do it again for a similar purpose, but I might resist any temptation to become an addict.
I had set a target of £5,000, which I thought to be wildly optimistic, however through the generosity of many friends, anonymous donors and a few people through the local community magazine whom I have never met, I have exceeded this.
If you have been inspired by Michael’s story, why not take the leap of a lifetime for the Rowans Hospice Charity. To read all of the Tandem Skydive details please click the link below.