Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My First Sky Diving

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Skydiving has caused deaths and serious injuries.
Approximately one jump out of every 20,000 results in death.Parachutes do not always open properly. Parachutes have a malfunction rate of approximately 0.3%. On the average, they are expected to malfunction once in 333 activations

How about jumping from an altitude of 12000 feet (4 km) from a small open aircraft (no door), with a parachute, and falling down (Accelerated Free Fall – A.F.F) at a speed of about 180km/hour? Some claims that the experience is more than that of having sex.

I had to put my sign in about 30 or 40 places accepting the risk of death, due to malfunction of aircraft/instruments/parachute/physical conditions/ and a lot of other things. Yes, I agree, after all adventure is nothing but taking risk.

The must attend training reduces the risk of death factor a lot. A frantic inexperienced guy who screams and struggles while freely falling can cause trouble to the instructor too, not allowing him to take control and open the parachute. Eventually the instructor and the guy will end up spinning randomly in the air on very high speed, not able to do anything.

The crew consisted of four. The pilot, the instructor, who makes me jump, the photographer who jumps along with us to capture everything in the camera, and at last me. The instructor and the photographer were doing the same thing for the past 7 years it seems, jumping over 1000 times from the sky down to earth.

The aircraft was a very small one with a single engine situated at the front. In fact the space inside the air craft available for us was as small as a car, we four including the pilot, just fit into the available space. There was one entry to the aircraft, and that too was an open door. The door remained opened through out the flying time. Wav!!! It was such a great experience, flying in a craft, with an open door. The photographer seated next to the open door, and took a lot of photos while the aircraft attained the altitude.

The engine started with a roaring sound, and it took off from the run way. The roaring sound of the plane left us in a situation where we can communicate with each other only through signs. The pilot turned on the radio; he increased the volume to the max, so that we could hear some thing. As the aircraft slowly increased the altitude, the ground and objects down the earth became small, and not distinguishable, except for roads and big buildings. The Emirate – Umm Al Quwain slowly came into visibility, almost one third of the Island could be seen.

After reaching the height of 12000 feet, the instructor made me ready for the jump, he tightened the straps around my body, and attached the four clips on the straps to the one attached to his straps. We had a glance of the height. Then the photographer, almost hanged outwards and was hanging himself with one hand, on the supporting bar of the wing of the air plane, and taking photographs with the other hand of me and the instructor leaning outwards, with our legs placed on the small feet rest fitted on the road that supports the aircraft on the landing gears. Oh, I can’t hear anything!!! But I was in a position such a way that a slight push from the instructor will make me jump.

The photographer jumped first looking upwards to capture our jump on video and stills. The next second we jumped. We turned upside down for a while, and then regained the position. The instructor opened the small chute that guides the direction and aids to stop the random spinning of the jumper in the air. I felt the pressure difference in the air, and the speed increasing very fast. The acceleration was too much. Now I am experiencing 9.8 m/second raised to the power of two.

Now we are freely falling, the speed is increasing every second, the heavy air blow upwards due to the relative speed made it difficult for me to close my mouth. The drastic pressure difference in the air made my ear pain and I could not hear anything. No words could describe me what stunning feeling I had there up in the air. It was life time experience. Now I feel to do it again.

Within the span of a minute, we almost covered 3 by 4th of the total distance, now it is the time to open parachute, it is not safe to open the parachute at the last minute, with an inexperienced guy like me. When all of a sudden the parachute opened, the speed of free falling reduced from 200 km/hour to around 50 per hour. The sudden jerk created by the upward pull was too much. I felt pain on my legs and chest where the straps were wound. After the parachute was opened, it took another 4 minute to reach down earth. I enjoyed the landscape, the lagoons, the Umm Al Quwain landscape the sea and everything. I was asked to close my nose and blow the air out so that my ear opens after the drastic pressure difference over the altitude. The photographer opened the parachute very late, so that he can be ready there down the ground, to capture me landing. When opened the parachute, I really understood the speed we were falling down, since the photographer was still falling freely, and he was moving away from us as being shot from a Canon. Was I falling down in that speed!!! Oh my god!!!

Landing safely was another tough thing. The experienced instructor made us land exactly over the green patch near the run way meant for landing. Since we were almost falling down at the speed of around 40~50 km per hour, if something happens wrong like the position of legs, then there can be serious injuries but not probably death this time.

Thanks god, we are back safe. Thanks a lot to the wonderful job done by the instructor, the photographer, and the pilot. Now I can go home with a life time experience, and remember it for ever.
What I have done at the UAQ Aero club is Tandem Sky Diving. Tandem Skydiving is the safest way to experience skydiving for the first time. Two people, using one large parachute, is an ideal way where you can enjoy the thrill of skydiving with just a few minutes of instruction. Thanks to Shiji Badarudeen Lalla, my tech lead in Mercator who accompanied me as a friend and gave all the support and courage to face it without fear.