Air Cadets are able to fly light aircraft and gliders as part of their training. But they can do more than that! Cadet Flight Sergeant Jen Nixon was one of a lucky few cadets to be selected for a parachuting course through the Air Cadets; making use of the Armed Forces parachute training centre in RAF Weston-on-the-Green. This is her account of her training.
On Sunday the 16th of July I travelled from London to Bicester North by train, although it was a 2 hour train journey it went quickly as my anticipation and excitement grew. Not before long I arrived at St Georgeâ€™s barracks where we were accommodated.
It was a 6am wake up on Monday with breakfast at 7am. A coach was waiting to transfer all 60 cadets on the parachute course to RAF Weston-on-the-Green for the bulk of the training. The training consisted of a number of lessons from familiarising ourselves with the parachute, to practicing jumping technique and malfunctions in simulated situations. After the 6 hours of training, everyone had the parachuting drills buzzing around in their heads on the way back to our accommodation with some of us even sleep talking them!
On Tuesday I woke up 2 hours before my alarm in anticipation: this was the day when most of us would jump. During the morning briefing we were told that winds were low and professional skydivers had already been out and had good jumps. The first two groups of 10 cadets got kitted up with parachutes and were ready to go not long after we arrived. It was amazing how quickly we had progressed from being novices to being competent enough to jump with only 6 hours of training under our belts.
It was time for the first group to jump. With brave faces and all the remaining cadets lined up to see them off, the first 10 made their way to the twin turbine Dornier G92 aircraft. With the aircraft fully loaded and now just a dot in the sky, onlookers from below saw the first parachute open. My dream to complete a parachute jump was now only just inches away. All 10 cadets landed safely and had smiles as big as the Grand Canyon.
With only 20 student parachutes available, there was a short time to wait until the third group and fourth group (my group) were fully loaded and ready to go. With the winds picking up the third group jumped and landed within a flash. Now it was my time. My group took the short but what seemed the longest journey to the aircraft. As the plastic sheet was pulled over the aircrafts exit the aircraft taxied down the runway, only to be stopped and told we had to disembark as the winds had picked up.
Only 30 minutes later we tried again and this time successfully took off. I was first in line to jump. There was no time to think as we were at 3500 feet within minutes. Two professional skydivers jumped before me and then it was my turn. Hearing the command â€˜in the doorâ€™ I nervously made my way from having my back against the plane to the edge of the aircraft with only the instructors stopping me falling. â€˜Look UP,â€™ â€˜Look INâ€™ â€˜GOâ€™ I pushed away from the aircraft and there I was free falling for just 5 seconds until my parachute opened into a big and rectangular canopy. I was blow away, literally, the adrenaline rush was amazing and nothing like I had ever experienced before, no rollercoaster could beat it.
I quickly completed my control checks and was free from any malfunctions and nuisance factors. I was reassured by the voice of the instructor on the ground through my radio. Facing into wind I floated to the ground until 1500 feet when I started my downwind leg. As the wind was too strong we turned to face back into wind at 800 feet to stop us from going off the drop zone. At 15 feet I half flared my canopy to slow me down ready to land and at just 5 feet fully flared my canopy and to my amazement I landed on my feet. I quickly collapsed my canopy however the wind was so strong it re-inflated and dragged me a few feet. I smothered my canopy into a ball and headed back to base from the edge of the drop zone. By now it was chucking down with rain but I could not care less as I was on such a high. I arrived back and went straight in to the re-packing area after posing for photographs of course. I could not believe what I had just done! I remember thinking well… thatâ€™s that… phew Iâ€™m alive!
This was the best experience I have done so far in my life. It was an awesome experience which I will never forget. I even received a classic photograph of me jumping out the plane to prove it. I would advise any cadet to go for it if they want a mind blowing experience; not only the parachute jump itself but the friends you make and the skills we developed through the instructors professional teaching.