Skydiving Experience: Band of brothers in the sky
By Azlan Zakaria
UNITY IN THE SKY: Over Kota Kinabalu. Photos: Aloys van der
I BELIEVE I COULD FLY: Looking at the flashlight of a camera in the
The exit point.
It was a completely outstanding and humbling experience. Jumping
from a plane 7500 feet from the ground, at a speed of 130 miles per hour, free fall for 6
seconds in the dark, and once the chute opens, glide and land in the middle of Likas
Stadium in Sabah packed with 40,000 thousand spectators witnessing the grand opening
ceremony of SUKMA IX Games 2002 is not your average opportunity.
How did I get this marvelous opportunity that totally rocked my
Skydiving has always been a dream and I thought it would remain
just a dream. When I read the advert in Borneo Bulletin last February about the Sabah
Boogie 2002 for tandem jumps, I said to myself I want to do this. I contacted Christine
Perrod manager of Borneo Connections Sdn Bhd in Sabah, the company responsible for setting
up the event.
Finally after a few delays, I got my chance to do the tandem jump
during the SUKMA Games opening ceremony. Yes it was my first jump ! And judging from how I
felt before the jump, I'm glad it was a tandem jump, and I was taking a ride with an
Was I scared? Of course! Fear is always present, especially if your
knowledge on the mechanics and safety aspects of the sports is limited I was fortunate in
the sense that Christine Perrod, who is also responsible for making all this possible for
me was kind enough to share her knowledge. And that goes for the Malaysian Contingent as
well where a lot of these information were passed over coffee in the food stall next to
the hotel where we stayed.
The participants comprised two teams, the Malaysian and
International teams. The Malaysian team included personnel from the Malaysian Air Force,
Navy, former servicemen, government and private sector. Lt. Mohd Nizan is especially
supportive, friendly and forever willing to share his experience and knowledge.
The international team comprised world class skydivers from
Holland, Belgium, USA, Switzerland and Germany. There were 11 men and a lady who runs a
sky divers restaurant in Spain. Of course there is my tandem jumpmaster, Mr Michael Donlon
who is based in New York, USA and had come to Sabah just for this event. He's a great guy
who made me feel more confident and relaxed from the moment we met in the bus on the way
to the airport. I didn't know then that he was going to be my tandem jumpmaster.
His skydiving background is also a great boost. Michael has done
over 4600 plus jumps both solo and tandem all over the world. He's a skydiving Instructor,
Accelerated Free Fall Instructor and Static Line Instructor. What could I say except wow
I'm in good hands and I'm good to go! And I did!
When I saw the TV mini-series, Band of Brothers, I wondered how the
paratroopers must have felt having to jump from an airplane at night under fire. Now I
know. The only difference was the people shooting at us were cameramen!
Part of the anxiety and feeling scared lies in the waiting once
you're airborne. I kept running the sequence of what I needed to do once I'm out of the
plane over and over again in my head and occasionally my hands would give away my
thoughts. My jumpmaster, Michael sensed it and steered my thoughts to another direction by
asking me what I do back in Brunei. It was a clever strategy on his part. The minute you
stand on the edge of that door, it's now or never and at that point I honestly wasn't
afraid anymore. Maybe it was because I couldn't see the land below me except for the
brightly lit Likas Stadium. From up there the Stadium was about the size of your average
Chinese sauce bowl! As how Mr.Rainer, Sabah's first civilian qualified skydiver puts it,
"Up there everything happens so fast unlike in scuba diving. Things move slower
Once the canopy is deployed, it's time to relax and enjoy the view
from the top, it's breathtaking! And at that moment I remember R. Kelly's song, "I
believe I can fly."
I also believe that someday Brunei will also be ready to undertake
the addition of skydiving and other adventure sports . It will be a great addition
especially to our tourism attractions. Skydiving competitions attract enthusiasts the
world over. A wider choice of adventure sports should also help encourage a more dynamic
and confident attitude towards participation in sports.
Overall the Malaysian and the International team were great.
The same goes for the International team. You can tell that this
sport brings out the spirit of comradeship among them and everyone was helpful and
cheerful. Aloys Van der Palen, the cameraman who jumped before me and took my photos is
truly a professional in his trade. It's interesting how he can take snap shots of Michael
and I free falling at 130 MPH in the dark. He even said, " When you see the lights in
front of you, smile." Yeah right!
Apart from myself and Tengku Datuk Zainal Adlin, the dynamic
Chairman of Sabah Tourism, there was also a 12 year old girl who participated in the
tandem jump. Her name is Sieu Ling and in the plane before the jump my curiosity led me to
approach her and be friendly. I asked her how many times she has done the jump.
All suited up and seated with legs dangling and swinging she
replied, "This would be my third time." My jaw dropped. I informed her this was
my first time and I detected a smile. I asked her, ' Any tips you can give me before
jumping?" She hesitated for a moment and I waited full of anticipation for the honest
reply of a 12 year old girl.
Finally with legs still swinging, she said, "Just jump,
lah!" You can't beat the honesty of a child! Just do it!
On the way back to Brunei, my thoughts focussed on the beauty of
our planet. From up there, I re-confirmed it's truly an amazing and beautiful planet we
share. Before the jump, we were a great mix of people of different ages, races and
Up there, we were just human beings with no distinctions. We were
truly just a band of brothers looking out for each other, sharing the same joy and
marvelling at the experience. If only this brotherhood of the human species can be
possible below the wind then life would not have to be such a struggle.
Source: Borneo Bulletin Sunday
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