A birthday jump2 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
Marking your 70th birthday with a parachute jump over Waikaraka Park may not be most people’s idea of a fun celebration, but for keen sky diver Mike Jones, it was the only way to do it.
The event, at the end of July, almost didn’t take place. Mike and his friends had to complete the jump before sunset, but first a 747 taking off from the airport delayed their small plane, and then, just as they were ready to go, a police helicopter flew over the park and they had to delay again. Fortunately, the helicopter headed down the motorway and they got the jump in just before sunset.
Mike only took up parachuting when he was 40, starting out as a cameraman filming other jumpers with a heavy camera strapped to his helmet. He says he is much happier these days with digital cameras as they are much less strain on his neck!
Despite a rather late start in the sport, filming competitions and big events meant Mike soon became very experienced and he is now close to completing 1,300 jumps. He says every jump is different. From jumping at sunset over Muriwai, to jumping over Hawaii, when the islands are just spots in the ocean below. Each one brings its own unique challenges and offers a different view every time. Changeable weather means that even when you’re in a familiar area, you cannot take anything for granted.
There were plenty of challenges in jumping over Waikaraka Park; the main one was that being in the middle of a city there’s not a lot of room for error. They also had to stay well clear of the power pylons south of the park and the lighting towers on the north of the park.
They did a “hop and pop” jump from around 5,000 feet, which is low for sky diving, and meant they had to open their parachutes almost as soon as they were out of the aircraft. This low altitude was because with the Auckland Heliport just over a kilometre away, the airspace over Waikaraka can be very busy.
Mike (in the grey jumpsuit) with the jump team and his family.