SeaDemon Says

Power Off! Brakes On!

Posted on: July 24, 2010

It is the order I would give to the jump-pilot prior to dropping my skydive students from the Cessna 172 aircraft from an altitude of between 4,000 feet to 6,000 feet above ground level. The jump-pilot would then put the aircraft in a slight dive, throttle back to idle, and apply the parking brakes. By this time the aircraft would be directly overhead the drop zone.

“Out!” I would signal the student who would in turn clamber out the aircraft, hands on the wing strut and one foot on the wheel. The aircraft would then be slightly upwind and I would then look at the student and shout, “GO!”

Five minutes later the student would be back on ground euphoric.

My first exposure to skydiving was when I followed my father when he opened the Benta Police Field Force (now General Operations Force) camp in Pahang in the late 1970s. Members of the crack police commando battalion, known as the VAT 69 or Komando 69, jumped off Cessna 182s using their GQ Parachutes. Then, during the 75th Anniversary of the Malay College back in 1980, members of the Army’s Special Forces Regiment (now Special Forces Group) jumped off an Air Force S-61A4 Nuri helicopter and sailed down using their Parafoil chutes.

My first jump was performed out of a de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou one January morning in 1989 from an altitude of 1,000 feet above ground level using the KS T-10 static-line chutes. I did a total of seven jumps before qualifying as a paratrooper. I did a total of 52 static-line jumps both with and without combat equipment using both the KS T-10 and MC1-1BD chutes before progressing to freefall parachuting in January 1993.

Above Gong Kedak, on the Terengganu-Kelantan border in 1993
Above Gong Kedak, on the Terengganu-Kelantan border in 1993

On the upside, I became the stunt double for my friend, actor and former model Ridzuan Hashim, in the movie Lurah Dendam in 1995. It was during the shooting of the opening scene that I experienced my first cutaway when my parachute had a total malfunctioned.

Two years later, in March 1997, I was selected to represent Malaysia in the International Parachuting Competition held at the Phra Ram 6 Camp at Cha-Am, near Hua Hin, Thailand. 11 months later, I represented Malaysia as part of the parachuting expedition to the North Pole. I capped that by being the first Malaysian to perform a BASE jump and did that off the KL Tower on 3rd October 1999. In 2000, I was involved in the first Survivor series shot on location at Pulau Tiga off Sabah. My role was to drop an air cargo for the Immunity Challenge.

Landing at the North Pole at 1.48am, 21st April 1998
Landing at the North Pole at 1.48am, 21st April 1998

The cargo and back-up cargo for the Survivor series drop
The cargo and back-up cargo for the Survivor series drop

Me (right) en route to Pulau Tiga
Me (right) en route to Pulau Tiga

And along the way, I have had lots of students; including from the US, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, India, Malaysia – and some are still in touch with me. They include my wife’s batchmate Rasidah Salleh (Course 07/2000) and Clement Thoo and Norikazu Kinoshita (Course 08/2000).

Rasidah (right most) after receiving her certificate
Rasidah (right most) after receiving her certificate

Clement Thoo upon landing at the Jenderata airstrip
Clement Thoo upon landing at the Jenderata airstrip

Nori receiving his certficate from Perak Aero Club's RFI, Captain Tony

The last time Rasidah, Clement and Nori jumped together was in June 2000 in Sitiawan during an air carnival. I could still remember how gusting and dog-legged winds blew most skydivers off the drop zone. But it was fun.

Sidah and Clement inside the Police Air Wing's Pilatus PC-6 in Sitiawan
Sidah and Clement inside the Police Air Wing’s Pilatus PC-6 in Sitiawan

Last night, after 10 years of leaving the world of parachuting, I met up with Clement and Norikazu (or Nori as we call him) again. Clement still works for a software company while Nori now works for a power plant west of Kobe, Japan. It was good to see them again. Both Nori and Clement quit skydiving not long after I did. Clement got hooked to riding big bikes before an accident put that aside. He now scuba dives as well. Nori left Malaysia in 2006 and both Clement and I have asked him to take a longer leave to take up scuba diving in Malaysia.

Clement and Nori at the Bangi Kopitiam, Wangsa Walk

Clement, Nori and I at the Bangi Kopitiam, Wangsa Walk

Yes, I miss skydiving, the freedom of “flying” through the air at almost 200km/h before opening the chute. I miss diving out of the plane and watch the ground rush up to me. But I would like to remember skydiving as that favourite sport for what it was, not for the politics involved.

And I would just like to remember that last jump I did over Dataran Merdeka for the Merdeka Fund fundraising, officiated by the then-Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri (now Tun) Dr Mahathir. It was from the Fire and Rescue Services Mi-17-1V helicopter, 6,000 feet above ground level. I was jumper number six. I leapt off the helicopter, face down, watching the AgroBank and Dayabumi rushing up towards me. I tracked for a while, increasing my vertical speed to beyond 200km/h before arching my body to return to terminal velocity, stable out and deploy my chute at 3,000 feet.

I shall never forget that feeling, the feel of the resistance of the air that I felt on my face, and that sense of freedom. And that is how I shall remember skydiving.

On finals at Mersing airfield in 2000

Taqweem al-SeaDemon

July 2010
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