…and then I fell out of the plane.

The log book I found in the drawer under my bed says ‘fell off airplane.’ And that’s what happened. It was the worst three seconds of my life. Even now, 21 years later, my heart races when I think about it.

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We were flying at 2,000ft when I shuffled into the open doorway. It was noisy and the wind rushing through the plane was cold. I was getting into position in the doorway to have my parachute checked before being counted down to jump. Except I lost my balance and toppled out.

There I was, stomach in my mouth, arms and legs all over the place, falling out of a plane…

It was my third jump so I still had an automatic parachute opener attached to me. And by the time it started to unfurl, I had recovered sufficiently to check it was functioning. That’s what you learn on the ground before you go: as soon as you leave the plane, you scream aloud, ‘one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand, five one thousand, CHECK CANOPY.’ They make you practice shouting it over and over before you go up. It was interesting that on my training course there were about 50:50 men and women; all the men managed to shout aloud while many of the women struggled to raise their voices (I guess they must not have been mothers). The coach had been clear: if you can’t shout, you aren’t going up – because if you count in your head, you are much more likely to get distracted or get the timing wrong. The five seconds is enough to ensure you are clear of the aircraft, but still give you enough time to notice your parachute hasn’t opened and panic like hell. Sorry, I mean so you can calmly pull the cord on your emergency chute before you go hurtling into the ground.

Even though parachuting had been an amazing high that had lasted for days, I got such a shock that I never went back. Sometimes I wish I had, if only so my last memory of leaping from a plane was more pleasant.

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Tandem skydive in New Zealand in 1993 – it was at sunset, we did somersaults and I was on cloud 9 for days afterwards. What an experience. It inspired me to do a course…
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My first solo jump in 1995. I loved it…until I fell out…

One day I’m going to do another one.

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