Words: Jonny Francis, Former President
Many people believe that skydiving is a dangerous and expensive sport. The truth is that Britain has one of the best safety records for skydiving of anywhere in the world, and most people in our club jump for just £17.
There is no avoiding the fact that Skydiving can be dangerous, but it should be noted that most injuries in the sport occur to extremely experienced jumpers who attempt to "swoop" too late (make extremely low turns), very rarely to beginners. Tight limits are imposed on wind and cloud levels to help beginners to stay safe, and our instructors have as many as 19,000 jumps experience to call upon in tailoring your advice and improving your technique.
Another concern for some members is a fear of heights - which is something we address very bluntly. I am scared of heights. Four Nottingham members are scared of taking off in planes. One is partially sighted. And three of our skydiving friends are scared that they might fall out of the plane (yes... I know). Because you aren't static, you aren't really aware of the height. And the feeling of skydiving is more comparable to a sensation of floating in water than being on a rollercoaster - but even small inputs will control your movement in various awesome ways.
For RAPS students your first few jumps are done with a radio to help guide you through your time under canopy, and your parachute is pulled for you (on a static line) to give you less to think about. The main aim for a beginner is to remain stable in the air (by arching hard from the hips) - which becomes an essential skill when you start pulling your own parachute.
In the unlikely event of a failed opening you have a reserve parachute which is packed by an extremely experienced packer and which you are trained at length on how to use. You are also trained on how to spot problems with an open canopy, cut this away and deploy your reserve. If you should fail to pull a reserve in the case of an emergency you also have an AAD - a mechanical device which should open the reserve on your behalf. The occurance of an emergency is however very unlikely, so don't worry!
There is a great social side to the sport too. Our dropzone hosts students from Leeds, Loughborough, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leicester, Warwick and Derby, with many students both visiting on weekdays and sleeping over at weekends. The dropzone has its own bar but there are often BBQs and socialising going on outside too.
Once you have become an experienced jumper, you will spend the rest of your career improving your technique. But alongside this perfectionism, there are many other disciplines which can be worked towards in the sport. These include: Formation Skydiving, Team Jumping, Freeflying (Sit Flying and Head Down), Packing Parachutes, Wingsuiting (Bird-man Suit), Camera Jumping, Demo jumps, Canopy Formations, Accuracy landing, Swooping, Smaller Canopies, Rigging, Turns, Flips, Jumping Abroad, Indoor Skydiving, Tracking, Instructing, Performing Tandems, Big-Ways and so on. If you thought skydiving was a one-off adrenaline rush, think again!