Erin Haluschak gives the thumbs up sign

The Wow Factor: A leap of faith with the Skyhawks

There was just one moment – honestly just one – when I thought this was a really bad idea.

Thankfully, I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it, or much decision over the matter, as the few seconds before what seemingly looked like a plunge to my death quickly was over, and I was free falling 12,500 feet above the city of Campbell River.

I was strapped tightly to the front of Petty Officer, 2nd Class Dominic Dumont, a demonstrator with the Canadian Forces Skyhawks Team, who had full control of that moment leaving the security of the bright yellow Twin Otter to a free fall plunge somewhere over the city.

The team – supported by the Canadian Army –  has been in operation for more than 40 years, performing close formation aerobatic parachute formations to more than 75 million spectators at air shows and special events across the country and world.

On Saturday, the Skyhawks performed their demonstration with their iconic Canadian flag parachutes at the Comox Air Show.

I was fortunate to have an opportunity two days before the show to meet the team at the Campbell River Airport and tag along for a practice jump.

If I had been by myself, staring at the small dots more than two miles below, knees firmly planted on the edge of the large doorframe, I would have waved to the fellow team members as they jumped and I crawled back into the plane.

This was a bad idea.

Before I even had another moment to think about the reassuring text from my editor Terry Farrell that morning which bluntly read: “Don’t die,” the countdown to three was over and Dumont and I were out of the plane and falling.

The sensation of free falling is truly indescribable – every rational part of my mind was thinking how wrong it is, but the view alone made it so right.

After what felt like 10 seconds, our chute opened and an absolute silence came over the sky. The comparatively slow, graceful ride back to the ground was stunning.

“This is quite the view,” I remember telling Dumont, who has jumped more than 1,900 times, as he let me take control of the chute, pulling it right – then left – to experience a very gentle version of the spirals the team performs during its demonstrations.

“Yeah….I could never work in an office,” he said with a laugh.

The team, based out of Trenton, Ont., comprises both regular and reserve forces, with team members from various occupations of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

With most members already on the ground, we landed parallel to the runway. My heart slowly returned to a normal rhythm and my legs felt a bit wobbly as I tried to process what had just happened.

“Would you do it again?” asked Dumont.

“In a heartbeat,” I answered.

Thank you to the Skyhawks Team for allowing me to join you, and your time, patience and guidance. You truly do have the best office view in the world.

To see a video of my jump, go to comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

 

 

Erin Haluschak is a reporter for the Comox Valley Record, and an admitted adrenaline junkie.

 

 

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