Wednesday 14th of September saw a group of brave fundraisers journeying from the Hunslet Club in South Leeds down to Milton Keynes to make a sponsored parachute jump from 13,000 feet up in the air. The event was organised by Margaret Bingham in memory of her son Ciaran. The clubs’ very own painting & plastering tutor and all round good egg, Steven “Eddie The Eagle” Edwards takes up the story from early that morning…
7:00 am, Receive a text off Kirsty asking if we were still jumping! Replied “yyyess!” Thought to myself, “I’ve slept really well, feel really calm and relaxed. Bring it on!!” Then I thought “Doh!, that didn’t last long, feel like throwing up now!!”
7:45 am: Refused breakfast
8:00 am: Dropped off the wife Andrea and son James. Andrea double checked to see if I had signed my life insurance!!
8:30 am: Everyone met at The Hunslet Club, Margaret had a huge grin and a look that all the jumpers could relate to, ‘Terror’ Everyone had a quick coffee and then off we went. 2 1/2 hr drive to Hinton Airfield.
Kirsty and Alex, our Accreditation and Admin Officers here at the club came down in my car, Alex felt fine but Kirsty was, how can I put it, very nervous! I had to keep opening the window! Now, Kirsty’s mum was absolutely terrified (she wasn’t there, but she must have spent a fortune on texts) bless her. Nothing to worry about. She’s only jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet with a complete stranger.
10:11am: Received first text from Craig, Sports Development Officer at the club wishing us all well, and if anything was ‘nipping!’ didn’t know what he meant.
11:15 am: Got text from Luke. He had arrived at the airfield. We are 15 miles away. Only have a short while to put up with Alex and Kirsty’s singing.
11:30 am: Arrived and met up with Luke.
11:45 am: Margaret and the girls arrive.
11:55 am: Margaret’s son Adam and the other guys arrive.
12:00 pm: We have our first briefing and sign all the forms that basically say we are mad. Forgot my surname for a split second and my writing is starting to get a bit shaky.
12:15 pm: All forms filled in. We hear the plane take off and go outside to watch some plonkers jump out. They must be idiots!
12:30 pm: The plane suddenly goes quiet! We get told that’s when they jump out! Can’t wait!
12:37 pm: A woman in her 70’s lands and her teeth look back to front! She is buzzing and starts break dancing.
12:38 pm: Looked over at Kirsty. She doesn’t look well. Checked her pulse just in case!
1:00 pm: Getting busy as more people start to arrive. Capitol Fm turn up. One of their DJ’s are doing a jump and are going to try to talk to the listeners on the way down. Hope the bleep man turns up.
1:05 – 1:45 pm: Richie, Craig and Dave back at the club are on form with their kind texts! Kirsty still hasn’t moved. Alex is doing cartwheels ! Luke is just Mr Cool, Margaret still hasn’t stopped grinning, the girls are ready to roll and Adam and the lads look how I feel !
1:50 pm: At last we are called to the hanger to have our training. Basically all we have to do is head back, arms in, legs back, arms out, then scream.
2:00 pm: We have just found out when we go up. Margaret and the girls are first on lift 4, Adam and the lads are on lift 6, which leaves me, Luke, Alex and Kirsty on lift 8.
2:10 pm: Off they go to the plane.
2:15 pm: They have just taken off. Hope Margaret is ok and jumps.
2:35 pm: We can see 5 parachutes coming into view.
2:41 pm: All we can see is a big smile coming in to land.. yes Margaret has actually done it. Amazing.
2:42-43 pm: Here come the girls. Very proud of them all. They all say that they would do it again. Nutters!!!
2:45 pm: Looking forward to it now. Kirsty still hasn’t moved and her mum may now need counseling!
3:15 pm: Adam and the lads have just gone up.
3:30 pm: The planes gone quiet!
3:41-43 pm: All the lads are safely down. Can’t be that bad. They are all grinning and all say they would do it again. Nutters!!!
3:55 pm: Now it’s our turn to get our suits on (at last). Thankfully Kirsty has moved. Hope her mums ok (She’s on her third bottle of wine). Me, Luke and Kirsty go off to our hanger to get our boiler suits on and Alex goes to the 5 star, en-suite, deluxe, chauffer driven, penthouse. Out she comes with her Gok Wan outfit, perfect makeup and hair done!!
4:15 pm: We wave to everyone and make our way to the plane. A few last minute phone calls to our loved one’s and reality is starting to sink in. I think back to Dennis’s memo and think to myself ‘Club and Country !!!! Yes Dennis this is that extra step that you mentioned!
4:20 pm: Just seconds from climbing on board the plane. Kirsty and Alex are already on. On I get and luckily the camera man misses me stumble. Luke gets on with the camera men and we’re ready to go.
It’s strange but we all seem remarkably calm.
The plane goes down the runway and turns around. Then full throttle and we’re off down the runway and we take off at a very steep angle. We all make a little small talk and then our instructors give us a last minute briefing of what we need to do. This is the point I realize that when this plane lands we aren’t going to be on it.
Just after we get past 10,000 feet my instructor tell me to put my hat and goggles on. Stomach is churning now. I glance out of the window and the clouds are well below us and the sky is a brilliant blue.
We get to 13,000 feet and the plane goes quiet.
The side door is opened and Luke is hauled to the edge. Now I am taking really deep breaths. Luke disappears and I am pushed to the door. I sit on the edge and look out. How did Margaret talk me into doing this? Then my instructor gives me a shove and I am now dangling on the outside of this perfectly good plane. Why do I need to jump out? I have a silly grin on my face and my mind has gone blank then I hear my instructor tell me to put my head and legs back and smile at the camera. That is not my priority at this precise moment! Then we are gone! The force of the air rushing into my face takes my breath away and I struggle to breathe, but after a few seconds it gets easier.
Now I am starting to enjoy myself and we do a few acrobatics. Free falling is an amazing feeling and seems to last a lot longer than 45 seconds (you fall about 8,000 feet in that time) and we are now going through the clouds. Then just as we break through and I see the ground for the first time the parachute opens (thankfully). Chris, my instructor now tells me he is going to make me more comfortable and starts undoing some straps and I lurch down slightly. Now this is quite un-nerving in case he releases the wrong one! He takes my goggles off and gives me control of the parachute and we do a few gentle turns and quick spins. At this point he asked me if I could smell burning (and I can) and I look up to the parachute to check its ok. He starts laughing and points a field that the farmers are burning. Not impressed with his humour, but I would do the same. Then with about a minute to go I gave Chris back control so he could take us in for a safe landing. I could see below that Luke had made it and Margaret and the guys below waving. The landing went well as I didn’t fancy landing on my bum.
You can see the video of this for me here and the ground camera highlights here.
Now I know why Margaret had a big grin on her face and all the other guys too.
I congratulated Luke and we both watched Alex come in to make a perfect landing and then it was Kirsty’s turn. Let’s just say she didn’t land on her feet!!
What a great day and all for a great cause. Thanks to everyone for sponsoring us all and most of all a big thank you to Margaret who has worked tirelessly at raising funds for The Hunslet Club in Ciaran’s memory.
If you would like to sponsor Margaret, Eddie and the freefalling team, or fancy doing something as crazy as this to help raise funds for the Hunslet Club e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org