FS Aj Sandhu has just completed an Air Cadet parachute course
"Parachute Course 13-16th July
60 cadets from around the Corps deployed to Bicester Garrison in Oxfordshire to take part in what is rumoured to be the hardest course to be selected for due to the sheer volume of applications for the limited places available. Some cdts travelled up to 16 hours (from the Outer Hebrides) and this made my 2 hour journey seem a lot less painful. Upon arrival we were put into rooms and sods law dictated that I was IC of a very rowdy bunch of teenagers. Our initial brief set us up for an awesome course; the staff were friendly and relaxed and there was to be no use of rank unless absolutely necessary which made for a pleasant contrast to the other more military orientated courses available. On the Monday we travelled to RAF Weston-on-the-Green where we covered 6 hours of ground school training with constant, repetitive drills. Our arrival here was slightly delayed due to a rather typical RAF admin hitch-they forgot to send a coach which proved to be several seats too small anyway! We were introduced to the equipment we were using, how to use it, how to jump and what to do when it all went horribly wrong. Due to weather limitations we were not able to jump on this day, so we returned to the Garrison in hope of nicer weather the next day. In the evening we were free to relax and headed down to the bar where we sat around and chatted while anticipating an exciting day to follow.
Tuesday morning did not bode well, the sky was heavily overcast and there had been rain the previous night. Nevertheless we returned to the jump school to do some refresher training, after which miraculously, we were greeted by clear and sunny skies. In groups of 10 we were strapped in and went up to complete our jumps. Our taxi to the skies was a rickety Dornier G-92 held together by bodge tape but we didn’t really mind seeing as we all had parachutes. After climbing to 3.500 feet the door was thrown open and the adrenaline really started pumping. I was not at all nervous, that was until I got to the door and looked out. Feeling a little queasy I had no choice but to throw myself out when the thumbs up was given. We were on a static line system, common in the military. This means that the cord to pull the main parachute is connected to the aircraft and after a certain amount of time freefalling the cord was pulled deploying the main canopy. The sensation of free falling was amazing, plummeting to the ground and constantly accelerating until after 5 seconds, the parachute came out. Despite so much training, all was forgotten in this time. Once the main canopy was out I took control of my parachute and had around 2,000 ft to carry out my control checks and to mess around pulling some tight turns. At 1,500ft I began my landing circuit. The ground commander could talk to us via a radio so I never felt unsafe and any nerves were eradicated by the sheer power of the adrenaline. My landing was rather unorthodox and when trying to get the canopy down I was dragged about 6m on the ground but I cared not, the thrill of jumping had fully overcome me. In the evening we had a party to celebrate a full compliment of successful jumps with only one injury.
On Wednesday we returned to Weston for the last time where we were debriefed and saw videos of ourselves jumping out. Following this we were sent home.
The parachute course is possibly one of the best things offered by the ATC. It is £110 less than the civvie equivalent costing only £90. I am now also to some degree qualified meaning that I can jump for only £25 whenever I want. If you are over 16 and want to get the best from the Corps, you would have to be insane to not apply for this course next year."[/i:35xvkg56]