After our recent charity work for Make-A-Wish foundation, Gemma and I wanted to do something together to support this fantastic cause. Gemma and a family friend had already decided on jumping out of a plane, so I went along with it to help raise even more cash.
They had booked with UK Parachuting, who were helpful on the phone when I asked to join the party. A deposit was taken quickly and that was that.
It had been booked for a while, which gives a good timeframe for the cash to be raised. We jangled buckets at football matches, left buckets in pubs and cafes, asked friends and family for donations and put most in ourselves. So after a long wait, we headed off towards Beccles, in the East of England, where the airfield is located.
We rang the company the night before we arrived, and were told to arrive at the airfield at 8.30am, all 3 of us. I asked one final question, and this will become very relevant later, ‘What time will we be jumping?’. This is a very direct question, and I would have understood a window of up to an hour. The response was, however, very pleasing. ‘You will jump as soon as you get there.’ Remember that.
Naturally, we arrived at 8.30am and joined the queue that was protruding from the UK Parachuting hut.
We had our safety brief next, and the friendly, light hearted approach helped some of the more twitchy jumpers. I did notice at this point around 30 people were in that brief, more than I had expected.
Just after 9am they announced that due to unfortunate weather, no plane will leave the ground anytime soon. Of course this cannot be helped, so we grabbed a bite to eat and a coffee at the nearby café, Skybar or something, which I assume is part of the same company.
The first plane set off at 10.30am, with the clouds disappearing and a gorgeous sunny day beginning. The atmosphere was tense amongst the first 6 to go up in the plane, and they looked terrified as they walked towards the plane. For the next 15 minutes everybody was looking vertically, waiting for the plane to emerge from the clouds. Finally, before we could see the plane, a parachute appeared, closely followed by 5 more.
I had hoped this would aid in calming Gemma’s fragile nerves, but it only seemed to make it worse. I kept trying to pep her up, but it was tough!
The noise level showed that the folk on the ground were excitable and as the tandem divers landed they were met with loud cheers, and it was great to see. The next 6 went up shortly afterwards, and 25 minutes later, they had landed too. This went on, and on, and on.
We had Gemma’s family and her friends family with us too, including several young children. Around midday, when we had been there for nearly 4 hours, I approached the hut, to ask the lady inside what time we could be expecting to jump. Despite a polite approach, I was very rudely and abruptly told it was our own fault for booking as a 3 and that we should wait ‘as long as it takes’. Brilliant customer service.
To aid in setting the scene, outside the hut there are a few wooden tables, but not enough for everybody so most people are forced to stand. There is little shade too, as you are instructed not to stray too far. This began to wind Gemma and I up, but just imagine those with young children. This certainly wasn’t in the advert. The cheers that erupted when the first few planes landed had melted into groans of ‘can we go home yet?’.
An unbelievable 7 hours after we had arrived, our names were called to the hangar to get changed. By this point, after several hours in the beating hot sun, with nothing to do but try and entertain several children, we just wanted to get it over with.
The skydiving staff were excellent, having a quick chat with their ‘jumper’ and scoping out how they were feeling before the jump. We were ushered onto the plane as soon as it landed and Gemma requested to jump before me, so I said I had no issue going last!
The plane trundled down the runway, gathering speed, and we were all squashed onto the plane like sardines. Gemma looked around for a comforting nod, and I obliged. I wasn’t sure if I would be nervous at this point, but I think the wait had eradicated any chance of that. I was just happy to be doing something.
We reached the right height, and Gemma shuffled to the edge of the plane…WOOSH! She disappeared so quickly I almost thought it had gone wrong! Of course the planes’ speed just made it look that way. One by one the other jumpers fell out, and eventually I shuffled out too.
The initial freefall was my favourite part. The instructor lifted my chin at one point and showed me the lovely coastline I was missing by looking down. It didn’t feel like falling, it was just exhilarating fun with great views.
After 35 seconds, the chute was pulled and we were hoisted sharply. Not too comfortable for any male, I can assure you. Despite this, the views were still nice, and it was a lovely descend. I was even given a bash at left and right turns, which are great fun when you start spiralling.
I landed, shook the fella’s hand, and ran towards the hangar to see how Gemma was. She loved it!
All 3 of us had a great time between 3.30 and 4.30, it was the other 7 hours that killed the day. This was amplified by the fact that one of the ladies on our plane had arrived after 1pm. If we had been told to come at 1pm, we could have spent the morning elsewhere, or even if we were told in the morning the minimum amount of time it would take, we could have had a productive day. Instead, we are left with boredom scars and sunburn.
I would recommend a skydive, but use a better organised company, that is more transparent and honest with their customers.