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Last Updated: Friday, 21 May, 2004, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Skydiving: Popular UK pastime
A skydiver
The roots of skydiving date back to the 18th Century
Skydiving is hugely popular in the UK and up to 250,000 people a year choose to participate in the adventure sport.

The roots of freefalling date back to the 1800s when Frenchman Andre Jacques Garnerin made the first parachute drop from a gas filled balloon in 1797.

He used a basket under an open parachute which was supported with poles to keep it open.

Then American Leslie Irvin made the first free-fall near Dayton, Ohio in 1919.

'Flying'

From there the sport has grown and various organisations have been set up including the British Parachute Association.

The group was founded in 1962 and nearly one million people have skydived for the BPA ever since.

There are up to 35 clubs spread across the UK and they train around 33,000 people to freefall every year.

"I suppose as with any adventure sport it is the excitement and the adrenalin rush which attracts people to parachuting, " technical officer, Tony Butler, explains.

"Most people do it because of the freefalling mainly. They don't get a sense that they are falling, they get a sense that they're flying.

I think it comes from man's desire to fly more than anything
Tony Butler
British Parachute Association
"I think it comes from man's desire to fly more than anything."

The organisation allows people to skydive in tandem or on their own from a height of anything between 12,000 and 15,000ft.

The control of the sport including safety, training, competitions, finance and development is administered by full-time officers of the association.

These include a national coach and safety officer, a technical officer, a secretary-general and administrative staff.

Mr Butler said: "Normally tandem training is only half an hour because the instructor does all of the work. But single jumpers have at least a day's training before they go up.

"The training is usually very structured. People are shown how to use the equipment, what position to take during a freefall and they are shown what procedures to take in case of an emergency."

According to Mr Butler members can skydive during the day and night.

"Skydiving at night is attractive to a lot of people but you have to be experienced to do that.

"Most people tend to do parachute jumps during the day especially in the summer," he added.


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