The Acre Foundation

Terror at 13,500 feet

Posted on 19 July 2012 by Lydia

Terror at 13,500 feet

In the build up to the skydive the forecast was typical of our summer so far – wind and rain – so I didn’t mentally prepare myself for the jump as I assumed it would be called off. It wasn’t until I noticed a lovely sunset the night before that it dawned on me. A sunset meant no clouds. No clouds meant I was able to jump.

I quickly checked the weather – sunshine was now forecast on Saturday! Panic set in. I tried to ring around a few friends to see if anyone fancied a 7am start – for a 1 hour and 30 minute drive each way – to sit around an airfield in order to hold my hand. Strangely everyone was busy. With Friday afternoon’s anecdotes about parachutes not opening and ‘light-hearted’ comments about funeral planning from my colleagues still ringing in my ears, I set off on the journey alone.

Being up and about on a bright and sunny Saturday morning while most of the London slept was rather refreshing. After an easy drive up to the airfield I arrived just in time to watch the first skydivers go up in the plane. Excitement and anxiety filled my senses simultaneously. I was originally due to take off at 11:20am after having a safety brief, but due to high winds I didn’t get in the air until 12:10pm. Knowing my jump partner had done over 8,000 jumps put me at ease, although that did not prepare me for the hollowed out baked bean tin that was our plane – no wonder that couldn’t handle strong wind!

Going up in the plane was probably the most nerve wracking part of the day. The ground looked incredibly far away very quickly, but we were only a few thousand feet high (and due to climb to 13,500ft). When the ‘door’ opened and one side of the plane lifted up, the other jumpers started to disappear and ‘the fear’ kicked in. My instructions were: “Just sit on the edge and dangle your feet out of the plane”. As I moved to the edge of the plane, all I could think about were the children who would be helped by the money I had raised for War Child – and that I couldn’t back out.

Falling out was the most exhilarating moment – you lose your sense of gravity and become disorientated. The free fall was incredible. We fell 9,000ft through cloud in 40 seconds (it felt like 10 seconds) – that’s 225ft per second. The added cloud made it feel like you were falling in to the unknown. At 5000ft we broke through the cloud and the parachute opened. We had an incredible view of the Oxfordshire countryside, and time to gather your thoughts and take in what had just actually happened. My partner controlling the parachute decided to corkscrew us to the ground which gave an even more disorientating feeling than falling out the plane.

Lydia in free fall A safe landing

Thankfully, landing was graceful with no accidents or falls and the adrenaline rush was incredible – especially in the knowledge that not even 5 minutes previously we were 13,500ft higher up. I was incredibly grateful to my jump partner who got me to ground safely, kept me calm prior to jumping and helped me to have an incredible experience.

Next I have a half marathon from Maidenhead to Marlow in July but somehow I don’t think the exhilaration will be quite the same as a skydive – but it’s still a great excuse to keep raising money for such a dedicated charity.

You can help Lydia raise money for War Child through her Just Giving page