It was no regular day at the office for Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan, who jumped out of a plane last weekend during the Waterloo Air show as part of a tandem parachute jump with the Canadian Forces Parachute Team, the SkyHawks.
“It was awesome and a lot fun,” said Cowan. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and chance to highlight Woolwich Township, the airport and the Waterloo Air show. I was thrilled and honoured to have a chance to join the SkyHawks.”
Tandem parachuting refers to a form of skydiving where a guest skydiver is attached to an instructor by a harness. The instructor guides the guest through the whole jump, from exiting the plane to freefall, piloting the parachute and landing.
Attached to Chief Warrant Officer Trevor Lavellee, Cowan said he was not nervous about the jump, adding he’s more nervous before he gives a speech than jumping out of the plane.
“A lot of it had to do with the fact that I was in the hands of the Canadian Forces: they know what they are doing. I had a good level of comfort there and I really didn’t have to do anything.”
Two jumps were scheduled the morning of Cowan’s dive. The first was a practice run at 6,000 feet for a squad of SkyHawks who would perform during the air show on the weekend. The second, Cowan’s jump, took place at 12,500 feet.
“It seemed almost surreal,” said Cowan. “It was almost like I was dreaming. We counted to three and we just jumped out of the back of the plane.”
Cowan and Lavellee did a 6,000-foot freefall before deploying the chute.
“We were traveling at 125 miles an hour,” said Cowan. “There was surprisingly no sensation of falling. You just couldn’t hear anything during the freefall so we used hand signals for that part.”
Cowan said once the chute was deployed everything became peaceful as he floated to the ground.
Lavellee handed the controls of the chute over to Cowan so he could maneuver to the left or right and make turns and circles as they descended.
“As you come down closer to the ground you could feel it getting warmer, it was quite cold when we first jumped out of the plane,” he explained. “When I was at about 1,000 feet I could see my family waiting for me at the drop zone.”
A very nervous family awaited Cowan on the ground.
His wife, Joanne, and his children were quite tense waiting for Cowan to appear above them in the cloudless sky.
“My wife was freaked out a little bit before the jump. Initially she wasn’t even going to show up but I convinced her that she needed to be there,” said Cowan. “It’s not like I was jumping out with the Smurfs or something, these are the SkyHawks.”
“Once I landed and they saw that I was safe, I saw some huge smiles as they ran towards me to give me hugs.”
The whole jump was filmed by a member of the SkyHawks team who stayed next to the mayor to photograph the experience.
The SkyHawks are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year and are comprised of highly professional, skilled, and experienced soldiers from the Canadian Forces. The team travels around the world, participating in celebrations and parachute performances.
More great photos taken at the Waterloo Air Show August 19th, 2011 [nggallery id=49]