Lewis the Lion survives (and loves) skydiving!

Lewis and the model aeroplane

Lewis the Lion didn’t sleep very well. He was just too excited. Or was that nervous? He was set to do a skydive from nearly 3000 metres (9000 feet) that morning! It almost felt like when you go to bed on Christmas night but it’s really hard to go to sleep. Do you know that feeling?

Lewis sees a parachutist poster in the airclub

The alarm rang loud and clear at half past six in the morning. Lewis the Lion still felt very sleepy after his disturbed night’s sleep but he had to spring into action if he was to be ready in time for the skydiver, Adrian, who was going to pick him, Helen and his friend Kelly up at half past seven. After Helen had showered, she forced some breakfast down her throat even though she was starting to feel very nervous indeed. See the photo.

Lewis the Lion and Helen are nervous when they wake up in the morning

Adrian arrived at the hostel and reassured Lewis the Lion, Helen and Kelly that the jump would be just wonderful and that he had the best job in the world as a tandem skydiver – piloto tandem in Spanish.

Adrian with Lewis the Lion

He told them that he had done thousands of jumps over the years and that he used to be part of the Argentine skydiving team, competing in skydiving formation teams around the world. As they drove in a van towards the Rivadavia Airfield on this bright, limpid day, about 60km from the city of Mendoza, some other important people were picked up. They were:

Andres, the pilot – el piloto avion

Lewis the Lion with Andres the pilot

Reta, the cameraman – camara

Lewis the Lion with Reta the cameraman

Mariana, the video editor – editora

Lewis the Lion with Mariana the video editor

And another cuddly friend for Lewis the Lion, Pitter-Patter, a one-eyed, yellow bird!

Lewis the Lion with his friend Pitter-Patter

Helen and Kelly then needed to sign some important forms to say that they would take all responsibility for their jump, even if it went wrong! They hoped very much that nothing would go wrong and that they would come back safely that evening to tell the tale.

Lewis cuddles up to Helen and Kelly

From Salto Rivadavia, under the bright blue sky, Lewis the Lion could see fields of vines, set against the beautiful backdrop of the Andes Mountains, some of which had snowy peaks. In Lewis the Lion’s mind, this could quite easily have been a film set and he couldn’t quite believe that he would soon be seeing it from high above the earth on the outside of a plane! He must be mad!

When they arrived at the airfield, they met another important person who was involved in the preparation of the parachutes, Fernando.

Lewis the Lion with Fernando the parachute preparer

It would be his responsibility to make sure that the parachutes were packed properly. While the pilot made sure that the aircraft had enough fuel for the journey, Lewis the Lion, Helen and Kelly enjoyed watching one of Mariana’s former videos of other skydivers. They all looked like they were having the time of their lives and it made Lewis and his friends even more excited about their impending jump.

Lewis the Lion watches a video of other skydivers

There seemed to be a hive of activity around them as Adrian and Reta got their jump suits and parachutes on. (Although there was still time for people to have some mate’ in true Argentine style!).

Lewis the Lion sees the obligatory maté whilst waiting!

Kelly was the first one to go up in the small aircraft with Adrian, Reta and Andres.

Kelly is the first to bravely do the jump!

She was feeling nervous but Adrian ran through a safety drill with both girls about how they would exit the plane and land. Both girls knew they were in safe hands with such a team of experts around them.

Lewis, Helen and Kelly go through the safety drill with Adrian

Lewis examines the aeroplane's undercarriage

Lewis the Lion watched on nervously at first as the light-weight aeroplane had difficulty starting up.

Lewis sees the aeroplane starting up

(See this video clip). But then it spluttered into action and he saw it heading down the runway as you can see in this video clip.

The light-weight aircraft

Lewis watches as the aeroplane gets ready to take off

Lewis, Helen and Fernando then sat back on some beanbags on the grass and enjoyed the sun while they waited for the plane to climb to the right altitude so that Kelly could do her jump.

Lewis the Lion thought that she was incredibly brave, especially knowing how nervous she was feeling beforehand. About 20 minutes later, Lewis the Lion suddenly saw the aircraft reappear high above his head. Within a couple of seconds he could see a couple of black dots falling from the plane very rapidly. Kelly, in tandem with Adrian and Reta, had started their free-fall from the aeroplane! They were really doing it!

The free-fallers look like dots in the sky

In no time at all, he saw two parachutes fly up and both growing dots seemed to be propelled skywards again before gently, drifting back down to earth.

The cameraman comes into land

The cameraman was the first to land as he incredibly made his parachute loop the loop a couple of times which sped up his descent. This was so that he could land quicker in order to record Kelly’s landing. By this time, the dots in the blue sky had transformed into the silhouettes of two bodies and they were coming quickly into view.

Lewis the Lion watches Kelly and Adrian come into land

Lewis the Lion, Helen, Fernando, Reta and Mariana all rushed over to greet the brave skydivers.

Kelly has done it!

It was clear that they had enjoyed it as they had big smiles plastered to their faces. When Kelly had landed the first thing she said was, “I would do that again!” This gave encouragement to Lewis the Lion and Helen as they knew that it was their turn next!

The parachutes were quickly gathered up and Fernando and Rena had the complex job of making sure that they were stored away properly without any tangles in the ropes. In the meanwhile, Andres, the pilot filled the aeroplane up with more fuel, whilst Adrian and Kelly made sure that Helen was wearing the jumpsuit correctly and that Lewis the Lion and Pitter Patter were securely fastened by a ribbon around Helen’s back. Adrian then checked that all of the harnesses and buckles were tight enough.

The tandem pilot makes sure that the straps are fastened securely

Helen felt like a proper skydiver and was even taught how to wear some special goggles.

Prepared and ready to leave the waiting room

She had a video camera fitted to her body so there would be three video cameras in all: hers, one on Adrian’s finger and the cameraman’s.

The skydivers stand by the hangar

Mariana was also taking photos of the preparation whilst Adrian started to make a video as Helen, Lewis the Lion and Pitter-Patter headed towards the plane.

Helen, Lewis the Lion and Pitter-Patter prepare to go

Lewis the Lion suddenly felt extremely calm, measured with excitement.

Helen and Lewis the Lion pose beside the aeroplane

After all, even on the pilot’s door were written the words ‘God is my co-pilot!’

Lewis and Helen read the side of the plane

He knew he was in expert hands and that they would take very good care of him.

Ready for the off!

As Helen stepped into the tiny aircraft, there was just enough room for her to sit on the floor facing away from the pilot, with Adrian squashed in by her side.

The parachutists squeeze into the small aircraft

The cameraman was also squashed in beside the pilot. As the door of the airplane closed, Lewis the Lion knew there was no escape: he would have to do the jump now (especially after paying so much money to do it too!). However, like Helen, Lewis the Lion had always dreamed that one day he might be lucky enough to jump out a plane and today was the day that one of his dreams would come true!

As the aeroplane rose higher and higher above the earth, Lewis the Lion was struck by the extraordinary beauty of the landscape around him. To his left-hand side ran the arm of the Andes Mountain range and he could see the volcanic cone-shaped mountains of Tupungato and Cordón del Plata, the second and third biggest mountains respectively in Argentina. (Unfortunately from here he couldn’t see the biggest mountain peak – Aconcagua at 6,959 metres which is not only the biggest mountain in Argentina but the biggest in the whole of South America). To his right-hand side were the uniform fields of the vineyards, after all Mendoza has a worldwide reputation for its wines. Contrasting shades of green and yellow oblongs scattered the earth below. Lewis the Lion and Pitter-Patter peaked out from Helen’s collar and could see the blue, cloudless, crisp sky and knew that very shortly they would be falling through it very fast. Ooh! How exciting and nerve-wrecking all rolled into one!

Lewis the Lion peer out of the aeroplane window

Helen on the other hand seemed surprisingly calm, like she was taking it all in her stride and Lewis the Lion could see Adrian filming them and patting Helen’s leg in reassurance. Adrian was also watching a special dial which told him when they had reached the right height for the jump. After climbing for twenty minutes or so, Helen felt a tap on her shoulder. It was time to get ready for the jump.

She shuffled forward on her knees parallel to the side of the door to the plane and facing the cameraman. Adrian then strapped himself carefully to Helen’s back, ready for the tandem jump. Adrian was the one in full control as he would operate the parachute and make sure that they landed safely. Helen, Lewis the Lion and Pitter-Patter trusted in his ability to get them back in one piece so there was nothing to worry about, just fun to be had!

The strong wind catches Helen's hair and Lewis' mane

Suddenly, the door of the plane opened up and a gush of air filled the space around them. It was time for Helen to try to remember the practice drill they had had back below. Rena, the cameraman was the first to leave the aircraft and he placed his foot on the wheel of the airplane and hung onto the wing. If Lewis was to be brave, he thought that the cameraman had to be infinitely braver. The wind was so strong that it blew Helen’s hair and Lewis the Lion’s mane all over the place. It was really difficult for Helen to move her legs outside of the plane as the wind caught them and made it difficult for her to place her feet on the step. She hung carefully onto to a thin looped handle near the door so as not to lose her footing. However, when she had successfully placed her feet, Adrian encouraged her to let go of the handle and hook her thumbs off the straps on her chest.

Preparing to jump from the door of the plane

As Adrian moved in quickly behind her, she was given the signal to hang her legs off the side of the plane. Because Helen trusted Adrian this wasn’t as scary as it might sound. However, Helen then heard Adrian call out and the three of them started to fall all together away from the aircraft (along with the animals!).

Free-falling from the aircraft

Helen waited for the tandem pilot to give her the signal to stretch her arms out. It all happened so quickly that her brain couldn’t really comprehend what was happening as they were hurtling at top speed towards the earth below.

Lewis and Helen scream with joy as they free-fall

As soon as Helen splayed her arms out, the sensation was second to none. It felt like she was moving through a wind tunnel very, very quickly. In fact the free-fall didn’t seem to last for long enough and probably only lasted for about 15 seconds. Lewis the Lion, with his head looking down towards the earth, just couldn’t believe how wonderful a sensation it was and only wished it could have lasted for longer. He could see why skydiving might become addictive!

Lewis the Lion, Helen, Adrian and Pitter-Patter enjoy the fall

Whoosh! All of a sudden, the tandem pilot had pulled the cord and a bright orange parachute had shot up above their heads carrying them further up into the air temporarily. Helen, Lewis the Lion and even one-eyed Pitter-Patter just couldn’t help grinning their heads off as the peacefully glided towards the earth.

The sun is shining as the parachute glides down

They had all been so, so brave and Helen told Lewis that he really did have ‘the heart of a lion!’

Floating back down to earth

It was now time to relax and enjoy the view around them. Helen sounded like a stuck record as she kept using positive adjectives to try to sum up the experience. ‘It’s just wonderful!’ and ‘It’s stunning!’ seemed to be two of the phrases on loop!

Lewis the Lion glides down with the parachute

The descent by parachute took about 8 minutes and Helen and the animals wondered how on earth Adrian knew which field to land in as he steered the parachute towards the airfield: it all looked the same to the inexperienced eye.

Lewis the Lion comes into landing

At first, Lewis the Lion was nervous about the landing but he had trusted Adrian so far and it had all gone well so why shouldn’t the landing too?

Helen and Lewis land safely with Adrian

Adrian told Helen to lift her legs right up so that she landed on her bottom; after all the jumpsuit had a specially padded bottom area. So, she did that and didn’t have to worry about landing on her feet but delicately slid in on her derriere!

Lewis the Lion are ecstatic that they have landed safely

They’d done it! They had skydived out a plane and landed safely back down to earth. What an achievement! None of the parachutists could wipe the grins off their faces as they stood up and bundled the parachutes back together.

Lewis the Lion, Helen and Pitter-Patter are happy to have landed safely

Mariana now dashed off to make up a video with all of the recordings, whilst Helen, Kelly, Lewis the Lion and Pitter-Patter sat out to enjoy this sunny day.

Watch out for the video of Lewis the Lion’s skydive which will be coming soon!

What’s the one thing you would most like to do or achieve in your lifetime? Why?

About Helen Molloy

Helen Molloy has been a Primary Learning and Teaching Consultant, leading on the introduction of Primary Languages in the City of Stoke-on-Trent for the past 5 and a half years. She is passionate about language learning and inspiring children into developing a curiosity and awareness of other people's languages and cultures.
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2 Responses to Lewis the Lion survives (and loves) skydiving!

  1. Ofer Mekmal says:

    I think Lewis the lion is very brave.
    One day i will also jump from an airplane, just like he did!

    • Helen Molloy says:

      Yes, I agree that he’s a very brave, little lion but he had so much fun doing it! He’s sure that you will love it too when you do your sky-dive. He might even be tempted to join you again, he had so much fun!
      Good luck with your jump too.
      Lewis the Lion and Helen x

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