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

By Paul Carson

“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.

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