What’s the most difficult thing to do, when you sleep late at night with the rush of adrenaline? Waking up early next morning! After making sure that we both were ready and on schedule, we left for Langar, (Near Nottingham). Driving through country roads while singing along to our favourite songs and talking about how the experience would be along with the view from sky while seldomly joking about breaking a limb or two (which even after 3 jumps we didn’t break any), was something we were doing to distract ourselves from the nervousness. After a drive of almost two hours, we reached Langar. Being members of the Leeds Sky Diving (LSD) Society, they paid £10 for each person as a travelling expense, which was really helpful. But that was not the only benefit of being a member of LSD, we even got reduced prices on our training and jumps.
Upon reaching Langar, we were tested for our temperature and were told to wear masks on the premises. Once we were given the all clear, we were introduced to our instructor, Ryan. He is an amazing instructor who specialises in wingsuit jumps with more than 2200 jumps and he is also a University of Leeds alumnus. The duration of training was eight hours with six hours of practical and two hours of theory. The training consisted of instructions and drills on entering, sitting and exiting the plane as well as doing the airspace routine such as checking the (parachute), the airspace (checking if there’s no one in your immediate distance), the handles (to make sure the rig is attached to you), etc., along with how to manoeuvre the canopy and most importantly how to land. The training was concluded with a written exam about the basics of skydiving with the necessary error and safety measures involved while one jumps from the plane.
The morning of the jump was filled with lack of sleep, motivational songs and nervous laughter. With a bright sunny morning, we thought we should be able to complete our first jump before the first half of the day, (spoiler alert!) only if we knew that our day would be filled with clouds. As we were doing our first static line jump, we had to wait till the professionals checked the wind speed and wind direction along with the height of the gathering clouds hovering above our bright day as we were supposed to jump from 3500ft. While the first flight was about to take flight around 10:30, we were asked to revise all the drills and were given instructions on where our hovering zone and landing area on a map will be by our instructor, Emily. After the refresher, we were asked to get dressed up and choose our rigs (bags with our parachutes or as I like to say, “The only thing that’ll keep us alive up there.”). Putting on rigs is one of the most tedious tasks for Yash, as tightening the handles can get a bit annoying. Succeeding the refresh course and getting dressed up, is the time of actual stress where one waits for their turn to get on the plane and jump from it.
Post the wait for 45 minutes, we were told that, our jump might be a bit dicey as it was getting cloudy and the height of the clouds was 2500ft leading to a disappointing atmosphere. But the hope that the day is long kept us going, while continuously looking at the sky and hoping to find big spaces amongst the clouds. Around 15:00 it was announced that there are chances of us jumping in next 15 minutes and were told to dress up again. Our instructor informed us about the new hovering area and landing area. But again after 30 minutes of gruesome wait, our jump was postponed. We were all annoyed and exhausted by the weather and decided to jump another day. Upon seeing the time, we decided to wait till 18:00 just to avoid the rush hour on the motorway back to Leeds. We passed the time by playing amateur golf and watching professionals jump. As 18:00 was approaching we were subsequently losing our hope and were getting ready to leave, but we decided to take an initiative and ask the instructor one last time whether it was possible. To our excitement as the clouds had settled at 3200ft they had told us that there was a possibility of us jumping. With all our hearts filled with fire again, we ran and got dressed up and we could see our flight getting ready. Eventually, we started our walk towards the plane, while giving hugs and fist bumps to each other. It was decided by the instructor that Ahmed would jump first followed by Yash. The adrenaline rush tripled in our veins and within 20 minutes we were above 3000ft and we lost sight of the ground and were amongst the clouds. With a smile on Ahmed’s face, he jumped off the plane with no fear at all. Just a couple of seconds after his jump, it was my turn.
Around 3800ft, I took my position on the door of the plane and on the command, I took my leap. While counting till 5, until my canopy opened, I could only see the plane go by. I pulled the canopy as I looked around to just see clouds and no ground in sight. I checked my altitude on the altimeter and it was still 3200ft. Upon finishing my canopy check and other necessary checks, I reached 3000ft and could see the beautiful ground. I gazed to my right and saw the soothing sun rays tearing through the clouds and clear sky on my left. I manoeuvred to the right following the sun light and I looked down to see lakes, green farms and small houses. I wish I could describe the rush of emotions when I was up there, but to summarize in a few words, it was so blissful and relaxing. When you’re flying amongst the cloud’s away from the world you know, away from the unnecessary worries and just breathing in the moment, it’s freakishly addictive. After 2000ft, I could see Ahmed manoeuvring towards the landing area and I was told to follow him. Around 1000ft I started to prepare for my landing. I was descending at around 20-25 miles/hour. At 15ft I flared and landed safely on my feet. I gathered my thoughts of what just happened and that I was still alive! I assembled my canopy and walked towards the command centre, with just one thought in my head, let’s do another one! When we were told that we jumped against the maximum wind speed for student skydivers of 18 miles/hour it truly made our first jump special and memorable!
On our way back to Leeds, we only had a few simple thoughts dominating our brains; how cool was it to do that!? We are actually still alive and in one piece. When are we going do it again? And does this finally mean we can have some good sleep? To answer some of these thoughts, it was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done. We bought tickets from the society on the same day for our 3rd jump (yes 3rd jump, because the 2nd jump had to be bought from the Langar), and YES, we finally had some good sleep.
Fast forward for a month and a half, we’re jumping again. We went back to the skydive Langar airfield for our next jumps, where we had to redo our written test since it’s been more than a month since our last jump. We (somehow) passed the test with flying colours (bit of an overstatement but please let me own it) and got ready for our next jumps. We got allocated one of the senior instructors for our second jump, where he gave us instructions for the landing sequence and zone, and had us run drills for 20-30 minutes to check we were all ready to go back up in the air until he was confident, we were good to go. The moment of truth came, and we boarded the plane for our 2nd jump, this time karma played its role and Yash had to jump first, since he was very excited that I (Ahmed) got to do it last time. Needless to say, Yash jumped without even flinching like he’s been doing that his whole life. Let me tell you all one thing; if you think jumping out of the plane is the scary part of skydiving, then you’re wrong, that’s the most exhilarating one. The scariest part of skydiving is waiting for your turn to jump as you see others go out and float in the air. However, after that minute of waiting ended and I got to jump, I had a very smooth time since we had no wind. I enjoyed the scenery so much, but alas I had a James Bond roll landing instead of a standing one, which we were still trained to do.
Remember everything we mentioned about our first two jumps? Forget all of that. For our third jump, our brain got used to the feeling of the rush that you get when you’re jumping out of the plane, and you actually get to see everything that happens in the five second time frame between jumping out of the plane and your parachute actually opening. You may not realise it, but those five seconds are filled with joy, excitement and wonder as you get to go on freefall in them and feel barely any gravity. On the third jump, I (Ahmed) got placed again to be the first one out, but this time we weren’t scared, we were all really excited to jump and couldn’t wait. For this jump, we were lucky enough to have the head instructor be the one supervising our jumps, where he told us we did everything perfectly and that we get to move on to the next stage of being a student skydiver. Needless to say we’ve kept telling everybody we know about this story for days.
In essence, if you’re questioning whether or not you should try skydiving while you’re studying here, we’d tell you that it’s a must try at least once in your life as you may never get another chance. After all, we were told by someone from the society “It takes a special kind of people to jump out of a plane”. Do you think you’re one of them?