Senior celebrates 94th birthday by skydiving
Doug Curtis didn't get to jump while serving with the RCAF during WW II, but got his chance this week
Doug Curtis dropped into his 94th birthday this week — from 10,500 feet.
A member of the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, Curtis came close to having to jump out of a plane during his service but ultimately didn't.
"It's something that's nagged at me for years and I've often wondered what it would be like to do it," the spry senior told the Calgary Eyeopener.
"We almost had to go a couple of times [during the war] but fortunately we didn't and I've always had this thing in the back of my mind, what would it be like, what would it feel like? I finally got enough nerve to try it and away we went."
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That missed chance to jump out of a plane came during a close call on a wartime mission where his plane shot several times, blowing out an engine and leaving him wondering if he'd make it out alive.
"We sort of talked it over as a crew … we asked each other, do we bail out over Holland or do we risk ditching in the North Sea, which was a helluva poor ideaOr we might make it, so we tried and we made it back to the [United Kingdom]."
Dave Clarke, head instructor at Alberta Skydivers in Beiseker, who served in the British Army for 20 years — said he was initially surprised when Curtis called with the idea, but he thought it was a good one.
"I was real excited to do this with somebody like Doug who's done so much for the country and the rest of us, really," he said.
"I've seen some active service as well but nothing like what Doug saw."
After a 30-minute crash course on proper technique and body positioning, the pair climbed to 10,500 feet for the tandem jump.
Three of Curtis's four children were in full support. The fourth, however, took some convincing.
"My daughter, the way she put it was 'over my dead body,' but by the time we got around to it she changed her mind," he said.
"I think all of them thought, 'if you want to do it, do it, it's not up to us.'"
Once they reached altitude and were ready to jump, Clarke said Curtis was "cool as a cucumber."
The feeling of free-falling was indescribable, said Curtis.
"It was kind of a funny feeling until you get that thud when the chute opens and you're sort of aware that you're in mid-air," he said.
"I can't honestly say that I had any thoughts going through my mind other than 'here I am' sort of thing."
The all-important landing went fairly smooth, considering the slightly windy conditions, said Clarke.
"Just a little bump on our bums," he said.
"Doug did what he was supposed to do, lift his legs nice and high as we came in, I touched down first and he touches down just after me."
The experience was the "bottom of the bucket list" for Curtis, but even at 94 he's not done seeking out adventure just yet.
"I've got this idea now of going to the four corners of British Columbia," he said.
"Whether I do it or not, I've got maps all over the place and it's just another thought, I can't top jumping out of an airplane."
With files by the Calgary Eyeopener