Jumping out of an aeroplane with a parachute
while high in the sky is not everybody’s idea
of fun, but skydiving has become both a
popular pastime and an international sport
in recent years.
Both the parachutes and the technique in
jumping has taken on a completely different
picture from those old wartime photos of
‘the paras’ jumping out over Arnhem back
For the past 25 years I have been skydiving,
having made more than 7,500 jumps, and
represented Great Britain in two world
championships, coming fourth in one and
fifth in the other.
It is a matter of pride to have been a
British team member for four years, and
my competitive days has taken me all over
the world, competing in Europe, the United
States, Brazil, Russia, Hong Kong and many
These worldwide displays can mean
jumping into some unusual places, including
the Leeds United soccer ground at Eland
Road, the Hong Kong correctional services
establishment in Stanley, the Biggin Hill Air
Show and many more venues.
But, like any sport, there is always a need to
look to the future, so as an Accelerated Free-
Fall (AFF) instructor, I also train students and
coach up-and-coming teams who hope to
become the British champions of the future.
My father has been a Mason for many
years, and he encouraged me to join the
Craft, and I was initiated into his Lodge,
St John of Bridlington No. 4434, Province
of Yorkshire North & East Riding, about
six years ago.
For me, becoming a Mason has been as
exhilarating an experience as parachuting
and has greatly widened my horizons as an
individual. You would think that after being
involved in such a scary profession as
skydiving, standing up in the Lodge and
doing the 1st Degree working tools would
be easy. Well, it was probably the scariest
thing I have ever done, so next time you see
a young Mason doing his first piece of ritual,
remember how you once felt!
I have even persuaded David Duffill, the
Master of St John of Bridlington Lodge, to
make a parachute jump, as a result of which
he raised money for the Lodge charity fund.
So if you are looking for a unique way of
building up your charitable funds, here’s a
novel way to go about it.
Skydiving is also spectacular for the film
and TV-makers, and my company
manufacture parachute equipment which is
exported all over the world. We recently
manufactured the parachute equipment for
the new Brigit Jones film which is currently
And, of course, the stars don’t actually
jump themselves, so I have acted as a stunt
double and supplied equipment for many
famous actors, films, TV shows and
advertisements such as Hanover Street,
The Eagle Has Landed, Empire of the Sun,
Coming out of the Ice and Plenty.
We also made two special emergency
parachutes for a high altitude bail-out from a
balloon for Sir Richard Branson and Rory
So, do you fancy jumping out of
an aeroplane wearing a parachute? There are
several methods of skydiving, see right column.
Jumping for charity|
The Tandem and Static line parachuting
can be performed for charity and is
a good way of boosting a Lodge’s
charitable funds. Should anyone like
to have a go they can contact me
directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
or contact the British Parachute
Association on email@example.com
or call 0116 278 5271.
This is the easiest and most hassle-free way
to make your first jump, because with this
style of jumping you experience the thrill
of both a freefall and a ram-air canopy ride.
A tandem skydive is carried out in a dual
harness so that you are securely attached to
the tandem instructor. The instructor takes
charge of all the important things, such as
opening the parachute, so you just relax and
enjoy the experience. Most tandem skydives
take place from 10,000 feet.
Accelerated Free-Fall (AFF)
By this method you will jump from an
altitude of 12,000 feet and experience 40-45
seconds of freefall before opening your own
ram-air parachute at 5,000 feet. Two
qualified instructors with over a 1,000 jumps
each will be on either side of you to help you
all the way until after you have opened your
parachute. This is an 8-10 jump course, and
results in you becoming a fully qualified
skydiver, the quickest and most motivating
way to do it.
Static Line Ram-Air (RAPS)
Modern advances in parachute design make
it possible to jump a ram-air parachute on
your very first jump. This course involves
approximately six hours training, and you
leave the aircraft on your own, but still
attached by a static line which then
automatically opens the parachute for you.
This is a slower method of advancing than
AFF, but is usually cheaper.
Chris Thomas takes to the air
Chris Thomas (centre) with
Sir Richard Branson (left)
and Rory McCarthy