Student travel-writing competition: I am flying. And it's incredible

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The Independent Travel
The vibrations inside the Islander are tremendous. They are probably more noticeable today because I am squatting on the floor where a seat should be and gazing out into a blue void where the door should be. For some strange reason, the RAF Parachute Training School motto - Knowledge Dispels Fear - keeps popping into my head. So why the hell didn't I ask more questions?

We are heading for the two-mile- high zone and for the first time the instructor, Brendan Jones, manages a smile. We are as close as two peas in a pod, me and Brendan.

Closer, in fact. I am actually strapped tight to his chest. You see, my first-ever freefall has got to be a tandem jump. A little drug called thalidomide has seen to that. It is not possible to be a solo skydiver when you have got no arms. And no legs.

At 10,000 feet there is no fear. No exhilaration. They come and go a few seconds later as we dive into the big blue blanket that will lead us back to the green welcome of a Yorkshire field. No, all I feel is a desperate need to go to the loo.

No one has bothered to mention how cold it gets up here. That was never part of the dream that began when I first learnt there was such a thing as a tandem jump and I realised that, limbs or no limbs, I could learn to fly like a bird.

What I did not dream about, either, was the red tape, frustration, approvals and cancellations before it could all become a reality. It seems that no one with my degree of disability had ever jumped through the skies before.

Suddenly we are falling . . . the slipstream hits us and we are jerked to one side before we start to hurtle towards the tiny patchwork fields and cotton- strand roadways of some Yorkshire toy town.

Far below are friends and well- wishers who simply cannot understand why anyone should want to jump out of a perfectly serviceable aircraft.

There is a film crew, too. They are waiting to hear from me as we rush towards them at just over 120mph. Something inside my head calculates that that is a mind-blowing 176ft per second. Sadly for the BBC, the microphone becomes detached. But the blue goes on and on. High above, in the wispy white clouds, there is a hole through which we have just fallen. It is noisy and yet peaceful. We are alone.

We are flying. And it is so incredibly good. So very personal. So precious.

Reality comes at 1,500 feet when the canopy deploys. My head jerks back as if we have reached the end of a giant piece of elastic. There is a last-minute rush of air and I am still trying to make myself heard above the deafening cheer from a sea of friendly faces as we land - on Brendan's feet.

The next few minutes are a blur, a mixture of back-slapping congratulation and unparalleled elation.

And for the next few minutes, I completely forget that desperate need to go to the loo.

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