FOR many it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but when Craig Bennett jumps out of a plane at 12,000 feet it’s just another day at the office.
The Queanbeyan skydiver has performed more than 6000 jumps during his 20-year career as a competitive parachutist. He is a member of the three-per son Australian Parachute Team, where his role is to film two acrobats as they jump from a plane and complete as many predetermined positions as possible within a minute.
Positions can include hooking their foot around the straps of the parachutist below, then swapping as they take hold of the first jumper’s chute. The tape is then submitted for the judges’ consideration.
“We jump out of plane and open our chutes straight away,” Bennett said.
“We then have 30 seconds to link up. After that we have one minute to do as many formations from a list that we can.
“[People] don’t die often, but it can be dangerous.”
Bennett takes three months off each year to practice with teammates Jules McConnel and Michael Vaughan.
The team will jump eight to 12 times a day as they work on the variety of positions used in international competitions. Since their first jump together five years ago, the Australian team has worked hard to build a reputation on the world stage.
Las t weekend at the National Skydiving Championships in Toogoolawah, Queensland they dominated the competition, taking home the title and setting a new Australian record of 24 formations.
“When we started competing five years ago parachute formations was a new discipline invented within the skydiving world,” Bennett said.
“We don’t have much competition in Australia. We are trying to foster as much competition as we can but it takes some time to get up to this level. No one is going to take a quarter of year off to train like we do.”
The team is just one formation away from the current world record of 25. It’s a goal the team have set their sights on when they join a team of 40 Australian athletes in Dubai for the World Parachuting Championships during November.
“For our first world champs in 2007 we came 13th, the next time we came third. We are looking at picking up the first place this year – we are improving all the time,” Bennett said.
The team plan to conduct more than 300 training jumps at Moruya Airport before the event. As well as a whole lot of practice, Bennett said the team’s success had been bolstered by the use of new, custom-designed prototype parachutes.
The team tried the new chutes during the Dubai Cup last December. “The new canopies are smaller, faster, more responsive and robust than our previous canopies,” he said.
“We will be the only team using the design, I think they will give us the edge we need to become the world number one.”