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The Northern Ireland Sport Parachute club had a big problem getting off the ground back in 1977

By Paul Carson

Published 21/04/2014

Tony Morphew falling through the air in the star position. 24/11/1973
Tony Morphew falling through the air in the star position. 24/11/1973
AT and AVR paratroop officer exits from a Short and Harland Skyvan. 27/8/1971
It's not the latest dance craze, but soldiers of the 1st Batt. Royal Green jackets, showing Hazel Abbott how to land by parachute before she does her jump at Long Kesh, near Lisburn. 15/12/1969
After having just 'dropped in' from 2,500 feet onto a field at Thiepval Barracks, Sergeant Jim Walmsley (left) and Private David Whitney, of the Red Devils Parachute Regiment, have a chat about conditions. 19/9/1968
Linfield footballers look on in the background as Major Edward Gardener of the 1st Parachute Regiment makes a perfect landing on the Windsor Park pitch before the start of the Linfield v Ards match. 22/12/1969
Watched by members of the public this sky diver makes a safe landing as he touches down. 31/5/1978
Like every good sky diver he wraps up the chute and walks away to the applaud from the crowd. 31/5/1978
A member of the 3rd Parachute Regiment's free-fall team dropped into the Twinbrook Estate, near St Mark's School. 7/6/1978
Smoke blows out from the 'heel' of one of the Army skydivers after parachuting from a Scout helicopter to the grounds of Muckamore Abbey hospital, Co. Antrim. 6/11/1969
Taking the leap into the unknown is 23 year-old Heather McCurry, from Crawfordsburn, who is getting in a bit of practice for her charity parachute jump. 2/8/1984

“One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand – check canopy!” The words from the movies as a crazy brave person hurls themselves out of a plane at 2,000ft.

For some its a career, for others their next bit thrill and the really brave do it for charity.

Andre-Jacques Garnerin was the first to make successful descents using a canvas canopy and small basket, tethered beneath a hot-air balloon. The first intentional freefall jump with a ripcord-operated deployment is credited to Leslie Irvin in 1919.

The military developed parachuting technology as a way to save aircrews from emergencies aboard balloons and aircraft in flight, and later as a way of delivering soldiers to the battlefield and occasionally forest firefighters

Performed as a recreational activity and a competitive sport, early competitions date back to the 1930s, and it became an international sport in 1952.

One bunch of thrill seekers, the Northern Ireland Sport Parachute club had a big problem back in 1977 when they couldn’t get off the ground.

Everything was geared up for lift-off...but not until they got a qualified freefall instuctor.

At this time getting an instructor was nearly as impossible a Tom Cruise stunt.  Club chairman Mr Stan Lynn found that there were not many around, at least not in this country.

“ We’ve searched everywhere, but we just can’t get one,” said Mr Lynn. “I’m not just exaggerating when I say that these British Parachute Association approved instructors are like gold dust here. There are only around 150 in Great Britain. It’s all so frustrating. ”

The club had formed just before the Christmas of 1976, with a membership of 75 had no choice but to close.

They had almost finalised arrangements for the hire of an aircraft and had negotiations well in hand for fixing up a jumping zone.

They had spent around £2,400 on equipment, including 12 complete parachutes sets, and a place had been found in Belfast for training.

All they needed was an instructor.  A club made up of students, businessmen, lawyers, private pilots and six women who waited for the first lesson.

Online Editors

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