3 Good Reasons to Skydive for Charity
Updated: Aug 27, 2019
Published in Flying in Ireland magazine
Soaring above the clouds, waiting for the door to the heavens to open and unleash the first four charity Skydivers out of the plane, Brid Killian asked the other charity jumpers for three good reasons why she is jumping out of an airplane.
The first answer of course was that she was doing it for charity and more than €13,000 was raised for Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, a charity which helps people in the aftermath of head injuries which can have life changing consequences.
When asked to help, 30 volunteers said, “how high” and got to work raising the money, by organising charity poker nights and fancy dress events, they also packed bags at check-out counters.
Now it was time to put their lives in the hands of those who had packed their bags and skydive two and half miles to the ground below. With the fear of hitting the ground at 200 kilometres an hour a reality, I am sure some of the group were hoping their contribution to those suffering with brain injuries would be a positive financial one and not the addition of more people with the condition. The first group of jumpers arrived at the Clonbullogue Airfield; County Offaly at 9 A.M. on Saturday September 5th 2009 after an earlier jump was aborted on August 23rd due to bad weather.
Filling out forms and waivers, the large font clearly indicated that this is DANGEROUS and parachuting carries a risk of SERIOUS INJURY or DEATH. A little concerned by the large letters in the waiver I had just read and signed and resigned and initialled three times, I asked my friend Eoin Kiveney, what about insurance? Eoin surmised that we don’t need insurance as he reckons that we will either be fine or killed instantly. It is after all a two and half mile fall.
More optimistic for the day but a worrying taught for every other day, an instructor informs us that driving down was one of the most dangerous aspects of our day. Not to pass over the point of the dangers of driving. He then went on to explain that they had received terrible news that week about a former skydiver of the club who was skydiving over in Thailand. After 7,000 jumps and never once injuring himself parachuting, he was unfortunately killed in a car accident in Asia.
The wait for parachuting is very long and there is no guarantee that conditions will be suitable or save for skydiving. Not to be put off by the uncertainty of flying, the Irish Parachuting Club in Edenderry dropped over 21,000 people over the grassy runway last year alone.
And as for safety, a new device called an AAD is being added to all parachutes and will be compulsory from October. This device opens up automatically at a predetermined altitude if all else fails and has already saved 2,500 people worldwide.
My tandem instructor Paul ‘The Breaker’ Moran introduced himself and set me at ease explaining that he had been parachuting since 1980. Born a year later, I was confident that the man in the well worn jumpsuit and the torso that I would be attached to, knew what he was doing and was not going to break me. No stranger to charity skydives, Paul Moran, a former Athlone Regional Technical College student, parachuted into AIT in 1983 as part of a Rag Week fundraiser.
After our briefing, I was less nervous about flying to 10,000 feet and stepping outside an aeroplane and more concerned about the drive home.
Flying above the clouds in the Pilatus Porter PC6, it took nearly twenty minutes to ascend two miles in the near million pound airplane. In the plane, Brid Killian asked for three reasons to do the jump which I explained were very simple, A, It was for charity, B, she was already in the plane and C, if she didn’t want to do it, she should just get out, which she did.
The door opened and my friend Eoin calmly said, “See you later” and disappeared out into the sky. Next up, I shimmied towards the opening and let my legs dangle out of the Pilatus plane. Exiting the plane at 9,200 feet, Paul the Breaker spun us around so we could see the underbelly of the plane as we dropped away. A sight alone that made the couple of hours wait worthwhile.
Falling from the plane and reaching terminal velocity was an exhilarating experience but as the sheer force of the atmosphere ripped against my face and goggles meant that I feared blacking out.
I am no fan of rollercoasters but falling through the sky at 56 metres per second was quite a rush and I started to wonder what kind of a world we would live in if Isaac Newton decided to skydive instead of lazing under a tree.
Free as a bird really was the feeling as you looked forward out over the midlands and watched your feet tangle over the countryside, the surreal experience of being so free and so high is one I would definitely recommend to everyone.
At 4600 feet, the chute gently lifted us backwards and two cords were handed to me to steer us to the ground. Spirally around as we descended, it was time to lift my legs to avoid injury and firmly plant my ass back on the ground.
Grateful to have my feet back on the ground, I think I was happier to have experienced a taste of the heavens and to float freely over the midlands. The opportunity to live for six minutes as free as a bird really should outweigh any fear of dying especially since you are strapped to a tandem instructor who must have a minimum of 500 dives under his harness.
Skydiving for charity is a popular way for many Irish people to start skydiving and my advice for anyone reading this is don’t be intimidated, try it and you will love it and most importantly drive safely.
Parachute photos: https://www.charityskydive.nohemingway.com
In 2012, I entered a competition to become a skydiving ambassador with the Parachute Club
UPDATE: Two people died tragically at Clonbullogue Airfield when one of the planes crashed, killing both the pilot and also the young son of one of the parachutists.