Monday, 11 July 2011

Teaching an elephant to fly

Okay so not many elephants around here, only white elelphants but this was large painting which I did for a junior school where my daughter in law teaches.

I have mentioned before that I am not great with heights. Anyway many years ago in fact 35+ yrs I was given an opportunity to take this head on. Two of my friends decided to have a go at skydiving. I said I would go with them. It was a weekend course and not like now when you can go tandem you left the airplane by yourself.

It didn’t get off to a great start as we went in a moskovich van. That even in those days was the lowest of the low. What was worse I was in the back of the van. The load space was about 3ft high and it was like lying in a tin coffin. We got to the airfield and trained for the morning and afternoon. This basically was teaching you how to land softly and roll along with practicing exiting the aircraft.
Day two I again rolled around in the back of this van for 30 miles and then had the opportunity to try out this wonderful experience.
We were taken up in a Dragon Rapide bi-plane of 1930 vintage, which had no seats except for the pilot. At 2,000 ft over the airfield the pilot cut the engine and I had to climb out of the opening (there was no door as such) and climb on to the wing. To leave a perfectly good aircraft doesn’t seem that sensible at the time but the practice had drummed this manoeuvre into me. At some point I let go of the wing strut and threw myself back. I forgot all about checking my chute, as I was too busy praying until I was yanked up by it opening. The descent was pleasant but didn’t last that long. I realised afterwards I had been lied to. It was safe, really sadly there had been a fatality the week before we went and no one told me about that. The landing will be fine bend your knees and roll, I hit the ground like a sack of spuds cut my lip banged my head, admittedly it was the concrete runway I landed on not the grass as I had been advised. But would I have another go? Not on your life.

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