By Ann Orton Faculty Member
With enormous efforts on the part of seven gutsy businesswomen and all those in support, the tandem skydive for Breakthrough Breast Cancer raised more than £160,000 and counting! Flight 002 of The Booby Birds eventually took to the air on Saturday 3 September – not without drama, as we waited for four hours for the cloud to clear. We were a breath away from a third postponement.
And the flight itself – well, it’s almost impossible to describe the experience of free-fall for about a minute and five or six with the parachute! But here goes. First you dress up in a magenta pink flying suit (not my colour but I grew to like it and went to Heathrow to pick up a friend still dressed that way – I was very tight on time – and got the appropriate reaction!) and a not-wildly-comfortable harness, helmet and goggles. Then you join your flying partner (Si is from the military and has 1,500 flights logged and lots besides) and get into a plane with a very large hole rather than a door (as a friend on the ground commented rather anxiously). Inside you sit in jumping order (we were 4 of 4), on the lap of your flying partner (yes, there are lots of ribald jokes to break the tension) strapped tightly at shoulder and hip. When your turn comes you waddle over to the door where your partner sits on the edge and you hang out in fresh air, and find yourself launched into the air almost instantaneously, alongside the camera guy jumping with you (a digital SLR and a video camera attached to his helmet). There is a first millisecond of being horizontal to the ground looking directly downwards when you realise just how very, very, very high up 10,500ft really is (the only moment I felt any anxiety)! And that you are falling!!! You eventually reach about 120mph so keeping your mouth shut helps avoid looking as though you have eaten all the cakes. But you do have to remember to smile for the cameras! And then, very quickly it seems, there’s the jerk of the parachute releasing, a more upright position, and glorious quiet – this must be the closest one gets to being a bird flying. We zoom around (yes, I try steering), enjoy the view and the other flyers below, spot the crowd on the ground and chat as we fly. Then, all too soon, there is the instruction to raise your knees, then extend your legs (I can be very compliant when I need to be!), and Si takes control of the safe landing. And it’s all over!
I would have flown again immediately given the chance. I loved it! It was challenging, exhilarating, awe-inspiring, and an extraordinary experience. After such a challenge, the seven of us felt we had known one another for ever. There was a huge surge of emotion on our safe return with a sombre reflection of the challenging journey faced by those with breast cancer.
My heartfelt thanks to you all for your wonderful support.
There’ll be more shortly on my fundraising page at www.VirginMoneyGiving.com and enter Ann Orton under ‘find a friend’. And we’re looking for volunteers for Flight 003!
Photos: Credit Stephen Simpson/LNP © licensed to London News Pictures. Wallingford, UK. 03/09/11.