As the small plane climbed quickly and approached a dizzying 10,000 ft (or just under 2 miles in real money), I could feel my anxiety levels building and the sweat gathering on my forehead. I tried to stay calm and not let the fact that the oxygen onboard was becoming increasingly thin play on my mind. I had to forget about that and concentrate.
It was a beautifully clear Saturday morning in July 2018 and this day had been coming. The view from 10,000ft feet was incredible, you could see for miles, but my nerves didn't care. The thing is, I was safely on the ground looking up into the cloudless blue sky and it was Stephen Gill and his daughter Heather who were in a perfectly good aeroplane waiting to jump out. I hope they'd packed a parachute.
Here at Men Tell, we make a point of going to support the people who are supporting us, wherever we can. We don't just want to sit back and wait anonymously for the money to arrive afterwards, that not how we do things (we know we're alone in that!). We whole-heartedly appreciate the time and effort that people put into these kind of events and we want to show our respect, admiration and gratitude.
We arrived at the Skydive Academy at Shotton Airfield around 8:30am and met up with Stephen, his wife Catherine and his daughter Heather. The weather conditions were perfect for a skydive (apparently) and as we waited for their turn, there was definately a sense of trepidation in the air.... not that you can blame them!
The skydive was actually Heather's 20th birthday present; she wanted to to jump out of a plane with her Dad, as you do! The fact that they used this special family occasion to raise money for us made it even more special.
After a little waiting around, it was time for them to put their fancy skydive suits on and for some training with their instructors. It was the first time either of them had done anything like this, so it's not something you can just 'do' without a little practice and preparation. You should see the paperwork! As that famous saying goes, "if it at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you."
We saw them off and watched their silhouettes through the heat haze as they boarded the plane. We watched as the plane took off and we scoured the sky for them as they climbed and disappeared into the big blue yonder. We could hear the plane circling upto skydiving altitude. Now 10,000 feet, to me at least, doesn't sound that far. However, when your looking up and see a large plane become a 'dot' in the sky, you very quickly realise that it it is, in fact, very far indeed.
Before we knew, we saw the parachutes coming out of the plane. The cameras on our phones were taking pictures, but we couldn't really make out who was who, or what was happening other than the chutes were opening (always a bonus to be fair).
It was soon after that we realised something. Neither Heather nor Stephen were on that particular plane and those landing weren't them. Erm. Well. This is awkward. Let's not talk about this again. Let's call it a dummy run.
Pretty soon though, the plane had landed, readied itself for another group. Stephen and Heather emerged in some very fancy jump suits and a particularly fetching bump cap that could easily double as cosplay for ConeHead fans.
After a little pre-jump interview (part of the video below) they were ready to go (again) and we were doubly-ready to capture their first tandem skydive.
Obviously we weren't privy to the events on the plane as it took off (again) and as they left the plane, but thanks to the video (above) and photos taken (below) by Skydive Academy (courtesy of Stephen), we get to see the look of sheer excitement (and definitely NOT complete fear) on Stephen's face as the ground started to come into focus at a rate never before witnessed.
In what seemed like seconds, or possibly hours to them, we saw each of the parachutes unfold and slowly the interpid skydivers, and their instructors, get larger and all touch down back on planet Earth. I can't even begin to imagine how exilarating it must have felt or their sense of relief when they landed safely, but land they did and their skydiving cherry was well and truly popped. It was absolutely incredible to be a small part of.
The staff at Skydive Academy were all great and thanks to them for looking after us, particularly Stephen and Heather, and making us feel welcome and safe!
Naturally, all of the team at Men Tell want to say a HUGE thank you to Stephen and Heather for sharing this important moment with us and using it to raise some much needed funds for us. They didn't have to, but we feel immensly honoured that they did.
Last, but certainly not least, we wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who donated some money to enable us to keep doing what we do. No matter the amount, it is all priceless to a small organisation like us. We literally couldn't do it without you all. Thank you.
Depending when you're reading this, there might just be time to donate some of your hard-earned cash (although we accept your easy-earned cash also) over on their Go Fund Me page.