Today was one of those days on the job that really took you out of your comfort zone! As part of my up and coming Shoot called “Drop the Bomb” for Clemenger in Melbourne, TV Producer Jason Byrne and Myself had to get our student Skydiving Pilots license. For the last 15 years I have often hung out of aircraft, either standing on the skids or simply tethered to the aircraft with a harness and hanging my legs out the door so that I could film. For me it’s part of the job and doesn’t adversely effect me in any way which is good. However this time it was different. I was actually required to leave the aircraft and plummet to towards the ground from 12,000 ft!
This job has been building for quite some time. Nearly six months ago, I had initial conversations about a fantastically crazy plan to run a competition where the winner could throw their own vehicle out the back of a small Cargo plane. The aim – Hit a target on the ground and win a large cash prize from Client CUB! After much work during preproduction, the day of the shoot is getting closer. The only thing left to do is for me to get my Parachutists license so that I can shoot and Direct from the back of the Plane. Because we have so much equipment, Crew and off course a Car in the back of the Plane, I have to have my endorsement in order to carry out my job. Today was the day and through the gentle tuition from Nir and Ozzie at the Melbourne Skydiving Center, Jason and I carried out a drop from 12,000ft.
I elected to go first which meant I had to help open the door, check the drop zone was clear of traffic with the Pilot and finally ask my instructor Nir if it was OK to proceed out the door. The plane was a Cesna 206 and had been guttered of all seating except the Pilots. With six big guys in the cabin the trip was a bit squashy on the way up (which took 25 minutes or so to reach 12,000ft) but fun. Stepping out and preparing myself for the inevitable, we fell forward and performed a forward somersault. With my eyes wide open, I saw the plane during the spin get smaller before Nir nicely leveled out the spin. Then it was up to me to conduct a series of actions to achieve my endorsement. I was on a mission to perform each one to the best of my ability. At 8000ft, I began a series of free falling turns which was simply breath taking. It felt like I was Superman or a bird flying. I don’t think I was really aware of falling fast but the Altimeter strapped to my wrist eventually made me realise we were approaching 6000ft quite quickly. At 6000ft I placed my right hand on the Golf Ball handle and pulled the chute. With a fairly intense jolt, the Canopy opened and all was suddenly quiet! Nir had a small video camera strapped to his wrist and he started to interview me on the way down. I think I exclaimed a few times in sheer delight at how utterly amazing that experience was. I haven’t seen the video yet but I’m sure I look intense!
The rest of the flight was graceful and peaceful in comparison. Really quite seductive hanging from a couple of hooks, floating to earth on a giant bed sheet! My last task was to demonstrate a few turns left and right and then a high speed turn which generated quite a few G forces. However it was fun and so easy. Nir was an excellent Instructor and I felt totally at ease with his gentle nature. After turning into the final turn towards the drop zone target, Nir conducted the Landing. A perfect end to a really perfect day! A gorgeous warm sunny day with incredible scenery over the Yarra Valley – Brilliant!
Little update: The team down at the Melbourne Skydiving Center sent me a DVD with the video plus a disc with some images of my jump on it! I have updated the Gallery to include these. I also uploaded my second jump to Youtube here: