Sgt. Zach Jacob of the Canadian Armed Forces SkyHawks parachute team with with Western News Reporter Mark Brett during the free fall portion of their tandem jump Tuesday. For story and photos see page 3. Photo courtesy The SkyHawks

A bird’s eye view of being a SkyHawk

A giant leap of faith

So why would anybody jump out of a perfectly good airplane?

Walking tandem with my SkyHawk mentor/saviour Zach Jacob towards the gaping rear door of the vintage 1957 Sky Van aircraft thousands of feet above terra firma, I must admit this (now) humorous question did cross my mind briefly.

However taking that backflip into the smokey abyss and quickly reaching speeds of 150 miles hour downward, thankfully, most brain functions ceased for a time.

Shortly afterwards as some semblance of cerebral order returned, I could see our accompanying free-falling SkyHawk photographer rapidly coming in and out of my field of vision from various angles shooting for a smile and thumbs up, which I may or may not have obliged him with.

At that point time seemed to stand still, but I did not.

However within about 45 seconds there came a tug from above and a feeling of floating came upon me as the parachute wondrously deployed and I could breath again.

And with the exception of the spiralling technique Jacob demonstrated, and which I got to try on my own, the rest of the journey was a cakewalk as we touched down butt first on the middle of the Penticton Regional Airport field.

Tuesday was the Canadian Forces Skyhawks opportunity to practice a little prior to their Wednesday show at Peach Fest and give media and other special guests an opportunity to experience thrill of free fall and what happens afterwards.

The Skyhawks will demonstrate their unique skills over Penticton at 5 p.m. Wednesday, the opening day of the 70th annual Penticton Peach Festival dropping in at Okanagan Lake Park.

They will be followed by the Snowbirds at 6 p.m. and wrapping up with the CF-18 Hornet demonstration at 6:45 p.m.

Jacob is a tandem instructor with with about 1,000 jumps under his parachute belt.

“It’s a thrill, it’s an honour for me to share something I love with other people and if I can influence them to take up the sport and try it themselves, it’s just great,” said Jacob as he packed the chute for the next leap. “Actually the first time I jumped there was a big scary sergeant screaming at me telling me to go but after that first one, it gets in your blood and it’s something I see myself doing for the rest of my life.

“What I love about skydiving and being a SkyHawk is interacting with the people on the ground after we put on a great show. To see the kids, the fans, all the people that we thrill and just say ‘hi.’”

Also on board this day for his first skydive was David Kerr who was on the second flight.

“Words cannot express this, coming out the plane, it was the exhilaration of a lifetime,” said Kerr, who is active with the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. “This was just a dream, just a dream. I love the Armed Forces and I have all the confidence in the world with these guys and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.”