The aim of the Skydive Project is to assist in the rehabilitation of wounded veterans by training them in the sport of competitive skydiving. This initiative is led by BLESMA (British Limbless Ex Service Men’s Association) with support from Team Army.
Individuals who have shown an aptitude toward the sport are steered via the Army Parachute Association (APA) toward the skydive team who in turn approached Team Army for financial support for their 2012 programme.
The project will take up to 6 amputee servicemen through a programme of training were they will first undertake specialist free-fall training with Airkix in Milton Keynes. They will then go on to complete tandems jumps and then learn to skydive through AFF courses run in the USA with an end goal of competing in the 2012 Services Parachute Championships and the UK Nationals against able-bodied teams.
Alistair Hodgson is one of the volunteer coach’s for the skydive project. This is his story.
I was blown up in Northern Ireland in 1992, I lost both legs as well as multiple other injuries and was in and out of hospital over six years for various surgical operations to put me back together as well as possible.
When I was eventually discharged I began looking for something to enhance my life in some way or maybe to fill a huge gap in my life that I had been presented with. I tried many different outdoor pursuits from sailing, climbing, Kayaking and canoeing to karting, jet skiing and open water swimming. In nearly all of these sports I found myself to be at a disadvantage when compared to able bodied people and I really wanted, even yearned to find something that would put me on an even playing field.
It was after meeting Paul Burns on an outdoor pursuits event that I was introduced to skydiving, first with a tandem jump and then a couple of months later in March 2000 I embarked on a skydiving course. I had no idea then what the sport had installed for me.
I found it to be the most exhilarating thing I had ever done, I was instantly addicted, I have been jumping nearly every day ever since. This was what I had been searching for! I quickly became proficient and skilled in Freeflying and began to compete against able bodied skydivers and in my first competition won Gold in intermediate Freeflying, I went on to win Bronze in advanced freeflying at the British National Championships, Gold in Freestyle four years consecutively and currently, Silver at the World Skydiving Championships in 2010 and Bronze at the world championships this year. I have become a full time competitor and part of the British National Team, I will be competing at the World Championships again next year in Dubai where along with my wife and team mate we expect to win a medal again. Skydiving gave me an opportunity and opened a door to a new world where my disability was no longer an issue and I could compete with the best able bodied skydivers in the world and even win a silver medal, only a few points behind the world champions. Skydiving gave a new value to my life and I will be forever in debt to those who taught me and introduced me to the most wonderful sport on the earth. There is a saying that is sometimes used to help people understand what this sport does for you, this is it “if you’re a skydiver no explanation is necessary, if you don’t skydive, there is no explanation.
Alistair (Al) Hodgson – Private 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment