Freefalling at 120mph from 10,000 feet is an experience unlike any other says reporter Ben Jolley after tandem skydive at North London Skydiving Centre
PUBLISHED: 21:11 29 May 2017 | UPDATED: 21:11 29 May 2017
In North London Skydiving Centre’s 20 years, more than 75,000 brave thrill-seekers have taken the jump - and on Friday Ben Jolley experienced what it’s like to freefall from 10,000 feet for himself.
With a mixture of emotions, ranging from utter fear to excitement swirling around in my head during the days leading up to the dive, I wasn’t at all sure what to expect.
But, as we arrive at the North London Skydiving Centre, known locally as Skydive Chatteris, for an 8.30am start, I try to push the nerves aside. After signing in quickly and hassle-free, jumpers watch videos of what’s about to happen, before a professional instructor guides us through the safety procedures and correct positions.
After testing out the safety positions on soft mats, it’s time to go up in the air for the real thing. Alongside six or seven others, I make my way over to the surprisingly quiet Twin Otter aircraft with the club’s chief instructor Mike Rust, who has been diving at the airfield for 15 years now.
As I had a photographer and videographer jump with me, I was the first to make the jump… from 10,000 feet. As the plane door is lifted up, and the cold air rushes inside, the endless views of Fenland are incredible. There’s no chance of turning back now, though; my legs are already hanging over the edge of the plane. And just like that, we’re freefalling through the sky at an unbelievable speed: 120mph to be precise. It’s a complete adrenaline rush.
The freefall itself lasts for around 30 seconds, before Mike sets off the parachute, hoisting my body upwards and steadily gliding us back to the airfield – taking in views of the Ouse Washes, Doddington, Chatteris, March and Huntingdon among others before landing.
After a safe and painless landing, I chat to Mike about his role at the centre. “Today I’ll do about four or five dives, but on weekends it can be up to 10 per instructor,” he says, adding that his job varies day to day. “Today, the main activity run by the club is to introduce first timers by doing a tandem skydive,” he adds. Though he thinks it should be more than “just jumping out of a plane; rather a magical experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life – even if you only want to do it once!”
The centre’s staff is made up of 10 full-time instructors and cameramen, two full-time pilots, as well as a team of packers led by Kim Newton, a rigger examiner who has been at the centre since 1997. “It’s unlike anything,” she says, summing up the experience perfectly. “When you jump nothing else matters. It’s the ultimate escapism.” Whilst many who use the club are first-timers, experienced jumpers form a large part of the centre’s activities; there is even a dedicated group, Skydive Chatteris Club Ltd, which helps local jumpers by buying equipment and occasionally providing bursaries.
In terms of the centre’s unique selling point, she says the fact that it’s located in unrestricted airspace puts them ahead of their competitors, as it allows the pilot to fly much higher. The stunning views, too, are equally important. “It’s a wonderful place because there’s very little else that interferes with us, and the only way you would get a view like that is in a glider.” Kim, who was the first female parachute rigger in Britain and has done countless dives, believes “there is always a challenge; whether it’s personal or physical.” Her advice to nervous first-timers? “Nobody gets bored of it… but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.”
To experience this amazing feeling for yourself, call 01354 699088 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Chatteris Skydive Centre can be found at Chatteris Airfield, Block Fen Drove, March, PE15 0FB.
All prices include instruction, equipment, flights, £16.81 provisional membership of the British Parachute Association, and third party insurance for £5,000,000.