Saturday 05 Oct 2013 will be remembered by many for a very long time. One family will always remember the day with fondness, of that I’m sure. The day began quite inauspiciously for a few folk. They managed to drive off to the wrong airfield… almost 80 kilometers off course. On arrival a temporarily relieved Niall assumed the unthinkable… yes, the jump had been cancelled. However, one phone call later he was set in the right direction…
No… not Birr Airfield Niall, there are other airfields in the wilds of County Offaly as well you know!
However, Niall’s little navigational indiscretion did pay dividends of a kind. Because the good Dillon family only made it to the Irish Parachute Club’s field close to two o’clock, Niall had to wait at the end of the tandem jump queue. This meant we could all stand around chatting about all things aviation.
Almost the whole agenda was devoted to debating Niall’s fear of heights! Yes, the top of a flight of stairs is deemed high by Niall. Well, to be honest… anyone who tumbles from the top of a flight of stairs could be rather the worse for wear. There was a fair amount of good-natured ribbing on the go most of the time.
You may wonder why you don’t simply arrive and go up immediately. Well, the weather was absolutely stunning. The slight, variable breeze was almost a necessity… to cool the place down to comfortable levels. All of this early in October! We were truly blessed… the weather more than playing it’s part, as if it was destined all along to be a special day for special folk doing special things. The main consequence of this fine weather in October in Ireland? Many folk queuing up eagerly… to jump out of serviceable aircraft!
Niall was eventually called… all the drills completed and as his tension grew steadily the seemingly endless waiting finally came to an end. The aircraft landed and taxied to the waiting area to collect the next group of jumpers… this group included the extremely nervous Niall, together with his tandem instructor. Once airborne, we on the ground, seemed to have to continue the endless waiting. The aircraft eventually made an appearance and seemed to be playing hide and seek behind the clouds.
Then… all the waiting was over. Soon the free-fallers opened their chutes. It took a bit of time but as they descended we eventually made out the tandem pair. That was our Niall… floating serenely back toward the soft welcoming embrace of Mother Earth.
Once back on the ground Niall chatted about the jump like an old pro. He had obviously enjoyed some parts of the whole experience. He described in detail the moments when reality struck. As he said… when the first jumpers exited the door… now you see a person… next split second… whoosh… gone… one, two, three… four… gone!!
The added dividend I mentioned earlier? Because of his late arrival he went up as the last tandem jump… with a group doing a 13 000 foot jump and not 10 000 as originally planned. Three extra thousand feet of free-falling!! FUN… in the extreme.
One thing I have learned from this whole eventful afternoon’s fun. It is possible to overcome fear. It is possible to look your loathing in the eye and do something totally daft or great if you have the belief! Between all the banter and cheerfulness, Niall demonstrated strength… somehow, most of us there knew he wouldn’t chicken out… after all, he is a leader of people. Being that leader has its own challenges and fears to conquer.
Good for you Niall… you have deepened the respect folk have for you and all in the name of helping the wishes of children come true!! On Saturday you brought smiles to quite a few faces… soon your jump for joy will bring happiness to others! Thanks.
Please click on the top left photo… the gallery contains the whole sequence of Niall’s jump… from arrival to departure. One or two photos are not that great because the zoom lens is playing up…
Please do click on the link to see how much Niall’s jump raised for the Make a Wish Foundation here in Ireland