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COLUMN: Kings County News reporter recounts skydiving adventure


GREENWOOD, N.S. - Note to self: don’t die.

This is probably the most reader-friendly way to recap what was on my mind when I crawled out of bed this morning - Aug. 25 - knowing I’d soon be jumping out of a plane with the SkyHawks, an elite Canadian Armed Forces parachute team performing at Air Show Atlantic 2017 Aug. 26-27.

I imagined the words that would come out of my mouth as I stepped out of the airplane. I imagined my mother reading those words in print. I decided to paraphrase.

I remember being somewhat frightened on assignment once before, but it seemed more amusing than anything else in that scenario.

I was gliding through Windsor on a two-wheeled Segway scooter as part of a media tour involving the town’s mayor. The electric scooter started to wobble as we steadily picked up speed zooming down a hill in front of King’s-Edgehill School. I feigned confidence in my ability to operate the thing at the beginning of the tour, and paid for it when I bit the dust in front of the private school I frequently visited on assignments.

Lesson learned? Apparently not.

That was a few years ago now. My assignments have been a tad tamer since then, with the risks taken from the comforts of my cubicle primarily involving semicolon usage.

But not today; today was different. (See what I did there? What a rush!)

Today I had to follow through on a commitment to jump out of an airplane with a professional parachuting team visiting 14 Wing Greenwood for the Atlantic Air Show.

I awoke feeling bold (that’s a lie). I started experiencing some mixed emotions that didn’t exactly align with a TGIF vibe on this particular Friday. There was more of a “please don’t be my last day on Earth” theme emerging.

Pushing past this, subsequent thoughts were more superficial. I wondered what my face would look like when my body free fell from the sky travelling at a rate of speed easily exceeding 100 km/h before the parachute was released. Windblown has never been my look. I watched videos of television reporters attempting the same feat, and they were easily camera ready when they landed. I opted to strive for a more achievable goal: remaining conscious.

I acquired a Go Pro video camera to film the big jump from my vantage point, and the owner assured me that although there would be a lot of wind noise, my screams should still be audible. Thank goodness.

Two other media representatives, one from 89.3 K-Rock and one from CTV, joined me on this tandem skydiving adventure with the SkyHawks. We were all assigned to a professional paratrooper, and advised that jumping out of a plane is “inherently dangerous” before proceeding with the training.

I was Warrant Officer Steve Ouimet’s tandem passenger. Exercising the patience of a saint, he carefully walked me through the steps of how to properly WALK OFF OF THE BACK OF AN AIRCRAFT IN MIDFLIGHT. No big deal.

We boarded the Skyvan with SkyHawks performers and a few photographers capturing the mood inside the aircraft as we flew to roughly 12,000 feet for the jump.

The SkyHawks resembled athletes at a pep rally. They hooted, they hollered, they fist bumped. The back of the airplane opened and, on their team’s signal, they enthusiastically sprung into the open sky, eager to catch video footage of the first-time jumpers.

With the exception of reciprocating the occasional fist bump, the first-time jumpers more resembled someone about to walk the plank. We took deep breaths. We marched in sync with our SkyHawk. We held on for dear life.

Ouimet had warned me that we would do a back flip when we stepped off of the plane. I was too busy focusing on turning my head to the right, as instructed, to know if this actually happened.

We were free falling at a speed that definitely confirmed windblown is still not my look. As if the distorted cheeks weren’t eye-catching enough, I think I even upped the ante with a little drool just in time for a beaming SkyHawk to drift by with a camera.

Members of the SkyHawks, an elite Canadian Armed Forces parachute team, practice for their upcoming Air Show Atlantic 2017 performances at 14 Wing Greenwood slated for Aug. 26-27.

Luckily for my face (and the SkyHawks’ camera), it wasn’t long before Ouimet signaled that it was time for me to deploy the parachute. A true master of the craft, he effortlessly brought us to a gentle glide that revealed the most stunning aerial view of the Annapolis Valley on a sunny day.

We were dangling roughly 5,000 feet above 14 Wing Greenwood, but it was completely calm, quiet and peaceful. Ouimet told me how to direct the parachute, and do some basic maneuvers as we leisurely made our way to the target area marked for our landing.

It was truly remarkable to see the SkyHawks in action and watch them fearlessly gliding through the air, be it in tandem or alone practicing a stunt for the air show. Thanks to all of the tandem instructors for keeping us calm - and conscious - during this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Catch the SkyHawks parachute team in action during the Atlantic Air Show at 14 Wing Greenwood Aug. 26-27. Visit www.airshowatlantic.com or follow The SkyHawks on Facebook for more information.

Kings County News reporter Ashley Thompson, centre, prepares to jump out of a Skyvan aircraft with the help of her tandem jump instructor, SkyHawks parachute team member Warrant Officer Steve Ouimet.

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