Reviewed by Kerri Chard
The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the Old Sarum Airfield near Salisbury was the sheer number of spectators. There were crowds of supporters for those brave enough to be jumping that day, all of which were enjoying the sunshine and the site facilities (restaurant etc…). That’s right, sunshine, despite it being early March.
My intention for visiting Go Skydive that day was to take in the general atmosphere, watch the safety brief and interview a few of the jumpers for a short feature in the Hampshire edition of the What’s Good To Do magazine. So my first point of call was the safety brief classroom where I was greeted by Sky Dive expert Paul Blair. Paul ran myself and a few others through a very thorough safety talk and training session which was both informative and (if I had been jumping I would have thought) mind easing.
If you are ever thinking of ticking jumping out of an aeroplane off of your bucket list, here are a few details that I think you will find interesting. Firstly, be assured that every safety measure is taken to ensure you a pleasant, safe and secure jump – I was pleased to hear that Go Skydive provides the very best parachute equipment to its jumpers worth £13,000. This includes industry leading parachute materials and a very clever Automatic Activation Device which is an on-board computer that guarantees your parachute will deploy automatically at 2,000 feet if manual deployment has failed at 5,000 feet. You can choose to jump from either 10,000 or 15,000 feet which in freefall time is 30 seconds or 1 minute respectively. You can also choose how you reach the ground once your parachute is in action i.e. you can enjoy a slow peaceful canopy ride taking in the stunning sights of the Hampshire and Wiltshire landscapes for 5 minutes, or if you prefer a more adrenalin fuelled experience allow your skydive expert to perform a few spins and tricks that will see you on the ground in around 1 minute.
One you have demonstrated to the instructor that you can hold a couple of critical body positions in the training room you are ready to go and get yourself kitted up in a jump suit. This was the moment that my day suddenly dramatically changed. I was persuaded that in order to provide our readers with the most accurate portrayal of the Skydive experience, I had to make a jump myself. Well, I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity of a lifetime, despite the sudden rush of fear that I had just agreed to jump out of an aircraft. I do not enjoy flying but I found that I was relatively relaxed about the actual jump.
Seeing so many people geared up ready to make their jump contributed to putting my mind at rest about the task ahead. I was also told that a man of 94 years had jumped last year and would be again this year which was inspiring and motivating. There was a real air of excitement on the ground and I was really pleased to see that a group of jumpers had just landed and returned with the biggest smiles on their faces. It was time to head towards the aeroplane.
I was very lucky to have Paul the safety brief instructor as my tandem jump expert. He was calming, friendly and most importantly confident which made the nerve racking 15 minute flight up to 15,000 feet a lot more comfortable for me. During the flight you are already secured to your jump expert but they will spend this time making some last minute checks to ensure everything is 100% secure and that you are ready to enjoy the experience rather than dreading the fast approaching slide to the aircraft door.
As we were approaching 15,000 feet the aircraft cabin seemed ominously quiet, but when it was clear that it was now time to jump everyone came to life. There was no time to consider whether this decision to jump that day was a mistake or not, despite being one of the last to jump, the next thing I knew I was sitting on the edge of the door frame and then leaping our into mid-air. This is the most memorable part of the jump for me, I don’t think I will ever forget the feel of the wind on my face as we fell towards earth at around 120mph nor the complete weightlessness achieved that made me truly feel as though as I was flying – ignoring that everything on land was very quickly becoming larger and worryingly close. However, the one minute of freefall time is over in a flash so if you do decide to have a go at sky diving at Old Sarum, please choose to upgrade from 10,000 to 15,000 feet or I fear you will regret it.
At 5,000 feet the parachute is pulled and the rush of hurtling towards the ground is instantly replaced with a majestic floating. In the briefing we were told that on a clear day you can see as far as the Isle of Wight. I was in complete awe of the stunning vista from such a height, it was silencing. I think it is something you have to see with your own eyes to truly appreciate. I decided that I should experience as much as I could on this jump so I agreed to let Paul take us for a spin before we reached the ground. Suddenly I realised just how much more there was to see. I was enjoying the new sensation of controlled parachuting but it was the panoramic views that were stealing the show.
All too soon it was time to land and suddenly I was brought back to reality. During training you are taught to lift your legs as high as possible ready for a soft landing on your behind – there were certainly a few muddy patches to show for this – but Paul managed to catch a good wind so I was lucky enough to land on my feet. Now that I was on the ground everything that happened during the last 5 minutes became a blur. It was a surreal moment. As I looked around I could see that everyone had their own personal way of celebrating the end of their jump. Most were truly elated and were high fiving their fellow jumpers whilst others were more casual but clearly enjoyed the experience. I think I was in shock. It wasn’t until about a week later that it really sunk in and I began to appreciate that I had achieved a small feat, and experienced much that many others would never get to enjoy. I highly recommend that everyone should experience a sky dive at least once in their lifetime!
Once you have got out of all the kit there is nothing left to do but to make a quick visit to the media centre to grab your photography if you booked a photographer and your goody bag which includes a certificate of proof that you were mad enough to jump.
This is probably the closest you will ever get to experiencing flying – it is incredible. Thank you to Go Skydive and especially the lovely Paul Blair for giving me a day I will never forget.
5/5 stars and Highly Recommended.
APR-SEP: Friday, Saturday and Sunday
OCT-MAR: Saturday and Sunday
10,000ft Jump = £250.00
15,000ft Jump = £310.00
Personal Cameraman – starts from £99
12 month gift vouchers available
Min age: 16 (16-18 requires parental consent)
Max age: none, but over 40 requires a signed medical form
Go Sky Dive at Old Sarum Airfield is the UKs’ only tandem sky diving specialist centre and the home of Charity Skydive Wiltshire. The team is committed to delivering a relaxed, professional and memorable day in the air above our beautiful southern countryside, they understand what first time / amateur skydivers need to feel safe, secure and happy for the most amazing experience of their lives and boast a 100% safety record as well as thousands of jumps every year. Dedicated, dare devil fund raisers also use the facilities every year to raise money for numerous UK charities. There is plenty or parking on site and the facilities are excellent so take your family along to share your special day. Old Sarum is the 2nd oldest operation airfield in the UK with a history going back to WW1 (1916). It is also the newest drop zone in the UK.
For more information visit www.goskydive.com.
Go Skydive. Hangar 3, Old Sarum Airfield, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP4 6DZ | 01722 568 655