The clenched fist stopped millimeters from my nose, I didn’t blink or flinch, I just slowly rolled my eyes to the right until I made eye contact with the Dispatcher!
With lightening speed, the fist opened, and the outstretched fingers threatened to grab, and smother my face, but, just as fast as it had opened, it closed again. This was repeated a further twice. Staring into the eyes of the Dispatcher, I slowly nodded, to confirm my recognition and understanding of the signal.
15 seconds until JUMP!
The chopper (HUEY), with its doors slid open, came into a sudden and abrupt hover, 1.500ft above the stunningly magnificent Bavarian Alps.
The noise of the rotor blades, whooshing and thudding, made speech impossible. A strong warm wind blew through the open cabin, adding to the cacophony, ruffling the men’s hair and making their eyes water, as they sat on their butts, knees pulled up to their chests, waiting to shuffle forward, ready to jump.
I sat in the open doorway, my feet dangling in mid-air, behind me 6 men of the legendary fighting Two Seven, in front of me death or glory.
The occasional white fluffy cloud hung in the void between the chopper and the mountain tops, as if acting as a safety net, a reassurance that if anything went wrong, we could land and bounce on them, as if on a trampoline.
I glanced over my right shoulder, I saw the pilot sat in front of a mass of dials speak into his mouthpiece, his lips moved but no sound came out. The Navigator sat next to him nodded in agreement, and then gave a thumbs up. The Pilot gently moved the joystick to the left, and the chopper tilted.
Although I wore a parachute, and was going to jump anyway, I held on tightly. Unnerved by the sudden list, I swallowed hard and regained my composure, hoping that no-one had seen my temporary look of panic.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, as shocking as a slap across a cold face, the palm of the Dispatcher’s hand struck my shoulder, WACK! A cross between a pat and a shove.
Instantly, using the flattened palms of my hands I lifted my body weight, and pressing against the cold chequer plate floor, with all my might, I thrust myself forward. Screaming like a man with his bits in a vice. I plummeted at maximum velocity toward the scenic, beautiful landscape of the Alpine World below. With my arms wrapped over my reserve chute, still screaming, I fell through the emptiness like an anvil. With my stomach in my throat I fell. Like a washing line full of bed sheets on the windiest day, the sound of the chute exiting it’s container roared in my ears, competing against the rush of wind and my wimpy screaming. With a sharp loud cracking sound the main canopy filled with mountain air. Then all was silent, all was well.
I hung there, (to my thoughts I was stationary) suspended in this strange world of silence under the billowing, green Commando chute, at the mercy of the elements. I reached above my head with stretching arms and grabbed hold of as many para cords as I could, I just needed to hold onto something, instinct I suppose. Craning my neck backwards I looked up, check chute. I must have looked at every stitch on every panel.
Feeling a little more relaxed my confidence returned and I surveyed my surroundings, I saw the under belly of the chopper, hung there on spinning rotors as it disgorged another body, nice exit I thought, better and more professional than mine. To my front and below, a massive green canopy drifted from left to right on the strengthening wind. I could’nt see who was under it, I think it was Steve.
I would have liked to stay there forever, in that silent magical space, but the law of gravity pulled me down to the awaiting meadow and it’s carpet of golden Buttercups and the pleasure of doing it all over again. Twice!
Categories: Burning the Midnight Oil