Mark faces his fear of heights in the open door of an airplane at 15,000 feet. Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 19 Jan, 2014.
The plane leveled out at 12,000 feet above Queenstown, New Zealand. I straightened up and looked out the window to my left. The deep blue of Lake Wakatipu snaked through the Southern Alps, the outline of New Zealand’s adventure capital reduced to just a few small houses in one corner of the lake.
The jump master threw open the door and the cabin pressure dropped. A green light began flashing. To my right, the line of first-time skydivers was sucked out of the plane with their instructors strapped to their backs. Out the window I saw them hurtling towards the earth at 200 km per hour – terminal velocity.
Then the door was closed, leaving just me with my brother Alex and our dive instructors. The plane nosed sharply upwards, climbing towards 15,000 feet. I tried to remain calm, but somewhere in the crevasses of my mind lurked was a primordial, instinctual aversion to what I was about to do.
From behind me, I felt my instructor tap my shoulder and pass something forward– a thin tube of oxygen, perhaps to calm my nerves. I put the tube between my lips, breathed deeply, and prayed that the parachute was packed correctly.