Le saut

Three days after stepping off the plane in Paris, I jumped out of one in rural Normandy.  Normal, quoi.

My uncle (of sorts), who had furnished me a place to stay in Paris my first night vite fait, and with whom I was staying a week before heading south to where I’d be living for the year, e-mailed me a few days before my departure, asking me a no-frills question: My son and I are going to do our first skydive on Sunday, would you care to join us?  And me, well, I said yes.

So we drove out to the aérodrome in Saint-André-de-l’Eure for a “baptême de l’air” (France is a Catholic country, remember) and found a large group of people waiting equally for their chance to attain salvation.  We joined the line and my nervousness grew for the next three hours (worried to panicked and all the stages of denial in-between).

Once our names were called, there was a quick five-minute briefing about how to get in the airplane, how to jump, how to take over and release the emergency parachute in case your instructor became unconscious.  Or dead.  C’est du gâteau, hein?  Fastoche.

Visibly trembling, I suited up (snazzy), met my instructor (chatty – a shame since I had lost the ability to speak French about an hour before we left my uncle’s house) and was escorted out to the tarmac, waddling clumsily along in my straps.  Good thing this was all captured on video!

The pilot (a Belgian who flies like a madman, so said my instructor) hardly took a moment to stop before taking off again.  I was sat on the lap of my instructor, on the immediate right of the pilot, facing into the cabin.  Then up, up, to where the fields below were just blocks of color, and further still to where all traces of land were hidden behind a thick layer of clouds.  I can describe the ascent in quite a nice and flowery way now, though at the time, not much more than a string of profanities (both English and French) was going through my head.  Why, why, why.

Ah, the half-hearted grin of a girl convinced of her imminent death, interrupted by my instructor, who strapped us so closely together that it hurt, an annoying pain that I appreciated, as I was sure it would be the physical sensation I would experience before an eternity of lifelessness.  Spoiler alert: I live.

When the door slid open, we scooted to the edge and my legs hung out, clicking against the underside of the plane.  Contrary to what every fiber of my being was telling me to do, my instructor made me lay my head back on his shoulder, rocked a couple of times, and we tumbled forward.

In case it needs repeating or you stepped away for a moment, I jumped out of an airplane.  An airplane.  Eurgh, it’s scarier to think about even now.  Why did I do that?!

The free-fall was for a distance of about 3000 meters, and lasted around a minute.  Once the parachute was released – the best thing to ever happen in my life – we floated the remaining 1000 meters for six or seven minutes.  The scenery was as plain as it had been pre-jump, but it felt wonderful to slowly spiral down over it, knowing that I’d be living and breathing on it again soon.

Phew!  Glad I’ve done it, but I’m glad it’s all over, too!  Jamais plus…At least I have the pictures to prove it!  Mes grands remerciements à l’équipe de FlyTandem for their in-flight photography and expertise as I flung myself out of a plane 4000 meters in the air.  I wouldn’t trust just anyone to catch me!

Warning: Excessive nostril.


82 thoughts on “Le saut

  1. I liked your instructor — such a comedian! You are so brave — I probably would have been going “AAAHHHH!” all the way down.

    I notice that the goggles on both of you disappear later and I wondered why.

    1. We only wore the goggles for the free-fall, I guess to keep our eyes from drying out. They aren’t terribly comfortable, because they have to be strapped tightly onto our heads so they don’t fall off, so once the parachute was let out, he took them off!

  2. Oh my goodness. Congratulations! I felt your apprehension. I still have not done it and your tandem guy, it’s just another day for him, just was not on the same page with you. I was coerced into a “ride” at Six Flags in Dallas, Tx. It was essentially a parachute-like harness around your torso that they clip into a rope that they pull back and high and far and then you or your friend unclip to “freefall” in a forward arc. Needless to say I did not do the unclipping. I think I just held my breath until my feet found the ground again;). So who knows if I’ll ever do the jump. I’ll be in France next May and thought a hot air balloon ride may be more my style;). Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

    1. Thanks so much! And congrats to you on your equally terrifying plunge! Glad we’re both still around to tell the tale! 🙂 Enjoy your time in France…I think a hot balloon ride is a great idea for your trip – more time to appreciate the beauty of the country, and less time contemplating the consequences of a parachute failing to open!

  3. You are so brave! My son and I have been watching parachuters by our house for about 11 years now and it’s always beautiful to watch them float down gracefully. Your experience of a tandem jump is the best I’ve seen here on WP. Thanks for sharing your pictures!

    1. The floating down is the fun part – how great to see parachuters so close to your home! It’s almost nice enough to make me forget about the gut-wrenching free-fall! 🙂 Thanks!

    1. You know…I’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand for its natural beauty, but have only thought of seeing it on foot. Maybe I’ll have to make a second jump. Maybe! Hope you can find another opportunity to jump!

  4. You should try Paragliding!!! It’s WAY more fun! You are soaring like an eagle for up to an hour or so, if you have a good pilot!!!! Just as thrilling, but lasts SO much longer!!! And heck, if you have the nuts to jump out of a plane….what’s the big deal about running off a cliff!!! lol just a suggestion! 🙂

    1. This skydiving company travels around France, doing jumps all over the place! Maybe a similar company will travel to where you are, so you can give it a try! Such a unique experience!

  5. Every comment I have ever heard from people saying “You jumped out of a properly working aircraft? On purpose?” come flooding to mind each time I hear of someone doing this. I have a horrible fear of heights and just climbing to the roof recently for Christmas lights reinforces the likelihood I will never step out of a plane of my own volition. I admire your daring and loved your photo documentation. This is a fabulous post!

    1. I was very tempted to back out of the whole thing, and I’m not even afraid of heights! Cheers to you for getting up on the roof! Much more daring than me – I wore a parachute the whole time! 🙂

  6. Your “Why, why, why” is probably exactly how I would have felt–but what excellent photos came out of it! I may do this–if another, more experienced, more crazy person is strapped to me and actually does the jumping-out/opening the parachute.

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