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Darek Kay
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Hot-air balloon jump

Hot Air Balloon Jump

Jumping out of a hot-air balloon was my dream ever since I started skydiving. I was so happy to hear that it will be offered at this year's boogie at my local dropzone! I did not have to think twice about that. The night before the jump I did not get much sleep. I had to get up at 4:00am to meet the others two hours later. It was six of us: four jumpers, one guest and the pilot. We took our gear and drove to the starting point. It was chosen according to the wind conditions, having the highest chance of flying over our dropzone. One can't steer a hot-air balloon at all, so we had to hope for the best. Setting up the balloon took us about 20-30 minutes. We geared up quickly and took off. At first, I felt the wind blowing. After gaining some forward speed the wind noise stopped. We admired the beautiful sunset and waited for our exit point.

Ready to jump

Unfortunately the wind direction changed a few kilometers before our dropzone. We knew that we would never reach it. After discussing our options, we decided to land on a small field near a country road, so the ground team could pick us up. We had to leave the balloon two people at a time, otherwise the balloon would shoot up in the air after losing too much weight at once. The first group jumped simultaneously. After a five seconds delay both parachutes opened perfectly.

First group

My partner and I got ready for the jump and waited for our pilot's OK. Kneeling at the edge of the basket was an unbelievable moment. It was so quiet, I could even hear my heart pounding hard. But surprisingly I wasn't scared. I have finally learned to turn my fear into a positive excitement. After a few seconds we were allowed to jump. My partner started the count: ready — set — go! He jumped a moment before me capturing my exit on the camera.

I expected to spin over due to the dead air, but my body position was perfect right away. The plan was to pull 5-10 seconds after the exit, leaving enough time and space for my partner to open his parachute safely. In fact, I pulled after 3 seconds as I was told later. Then I waited for the usual drag caused by an opening parachute. In freefall at 200 km/h it takes just a moment. But here in dead air it felt like an eternity. Just as I wanted to look back to check if something was wrong I felt the known drag and watched my parachute open. Now was the time to scream for joy! The jump was not over yet, though. I had to land on a field surrounded by a river, railway lines, roads and buildings. There was no margin for error.

After the jump and packing

Fortunately the wind conditions were great, and I had plenty of time to plan a safe landing. A few minutes later I joined the other jumpers on the ground celebrating the event.

I've had some awesome skydiving moments, and this was one of the best for sure. I'm looking forward to repeating it someday!

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