Ann Sutherland's Tandem Skydive Challenge

The tandem skydive was booked; the day was chosen; the Justgiving page set up and informative emails sent out under the heading 'Moment of Madness!' All I had to do now was wait for the appointed day and spend some time replying to messages in my Inbox mostly beginning with the current - though perhaps less than reassuring - phrase 'OMG!' or indeed starting with those other words of comfort...'Are you bonkers?!’..... In truth, I couldn't quite believe what I had volunteered to do myself, never mind convince others that I was being either sensible or rational! For some, a sky-dive may be a happy, easy and exciting undertaking...for a claustrophobic, unfit, unadventurous lady of mature was a CHALLENGE! It was also possibly the last thing that my much missed son Martin would have expected of his old mum

So ...the appointed day soon arrived—29th April 2013. This day was chosen because it was the day before my 60th birthday and knowing the jump had been completed would allow me to enjoy the actual birthday on the 30th, not to mention bask in the glory of a job well done!! Anyway the 29th saw me up bright and early. We had to be at the sky-dive place by 8.00am and I wanted to make sure there was no rush to frazzle an already frazzled family—I’m sure husband Andrew was more nervous than me! The sun was shining and it was all going terribly well really ...and then the phone call came...lovely Lancaster was way too windy to make a safe sky-dive and would I be available to jump the next day when the weather forecast looked to be more accommodating?! … was only my birthday, wasn’t it!!

Tuesday 30th April 2013...a slight feeling of deja-vu as Andrew and I got up early (again!); I prepared myself for the jump (again!) and Andrew got himself all nervous (again!). The weather was indeed more pleasant that day and we both felt reassured that the sky-dive would certainly happen. By 8.00am we were at the appointed centre in Cockerham (near Lancaster) and we knew it was on. There was some waiting around to be endured before one of the ‘proper’ skydivers delivered the necessary advice and explanation of what was to happen—the do’s and don’ts (much of which, I have to admit went totally out of my head once the plane was sighted on the runway!) – and the appropriate clothing was handed out.

Suitably informed, and dressed like a little round Teletubby in a Biggles helmet, I made my way to the—what seemed to me—tiny, tiny aircraft on the runway. As a tandem skydiver I was one of the first people on the plane, followed by all the cool individual parachutists who actually do this sort of thing for fun. I have to say that it was more than a little bit of a squash inside the aircraft when all those strapping lads and their strapping parachutes got on board…maybe not so good for a claustrophobic!! Before I knew it we were off and indeed there was no turning back.

Inside the plane was quite noisy and a tad uncomfortable given the number of people there, but in no time at all and after a lot of ‘high fiving’ by those on board, the first of the real parachutists was out the door and away. Thereafter everything seemed to happen at break-neck speed and soon the sky was full of parachutes. Very, very soon it was my turn and before I had time to think ‘what on earth am I doing here?!’ I was out of the plane and freefalling at a rate of knots! It fair took my breath away!


The speed and the noise when freefalling are awesome as you drop to earth like a stone. Then the parachute is deployed and suddenly the whole world seems to have come to a complete stop; there’s silence where there was noise and you are floating in a very gentle manner. Of course, you are still travelling at a rate of knots but it certainly doesn’t feel like that and you now have the time and the opportunity to appreciate the adventure a bit more. In fact this bit was FANTASTIC…so very, very enjoyable. My tandem parachutist managed to manoeuvre the parachute about so that I got spectacular views all around and over Morecambe Bay…just wonderful! Apparently my daughter said she knew which parachute I was attached to as she could hear me whooping during the descent!! 

What goes up, though, has most definitely to come down…and eventually I did notice that the ground seemed to be approaching at an alarming rate. Not being the fittest person in the world, I have to say that my landing did seem to lack the elegance of the others that day. I more or less splatted on to the ground but what the heck, nothing was broken…or even dented ….and I was thrilled at having done what I set out to do. I was pretty exhausted, though…all that nervous energy! My lovely family and a couple of friends were there waiting for me at the end and we all had a chuckle at the video that had been taken of the event (it was seriously unflattering in places!!). I suppose this little adventure was just meant to happen on my 60th after all…and I like to think that Martin would have been well impressed by the achievement. 

I must admit to feeling rather chuffed with myself over this undertaking and was

overwhelmed by the support that came my way for my ‘Moment of Madness’. I’m also well chuffed to say that MHRUK will benefit by £1460 (at the last count - excluding any Gift Aid monies) and I can’t thank people enough for their generosity in supporting such a worthwhile charity.

Of course, alternatively, perhaps people just warmed to the idea of me being chucked out of a plane at a high altitude!!....No, I’m sure that can’t be the case!!….