I’d always wanted to be a stuntman. Ever since I was at school and used to jump from the top of a fence and grab onto a tree branch like it was the skid of a helicopter. Now I was up here I wasn’t so sure.
It was my first HALO jump. High altitude, low opening. The producers didn’t know that though. They’d never have let me do it if I’d told them. I knew what I was doing. That was all that mattered.
I could see them from here. The producers. The film crew. They were all over the place. There was a cluster of them at each end of the bridge, at least a dozen boats full in the lake below it – floating like melons in a bowl of fruit salad, and a few harnessed to the top of a crane, all ready to film us as the train crossed over.
It was easy. As long as I opened my chute at 1,000 feet and made sure the train was directly below me, I could manipulate the lines to bring me down directly onto the train roof. How hard could that be?
The distinctive chug of the diesel engine was audible now and, as the earth fell towards me, the glinting silver bullet shot out from the barrel of a tunnel in the side of the hill. It was fast. It was very fast. Faster than I’d expected.
I pulled in one arm, throwing myself in an arc across the sky to compensate for the speed of the train. Then I straightened out and dove head first for the edge of the bridge.
As I pulled up, reverting to your standard skydiver’s spider stance, I felt the full force of gravity and air resistance tearing at my limbs. I grimaced and allowed the rushing wind to push my head back until I was looking directly at the sun above the western horizon.
The train was directly below me now. It still had to turn before it could hit the bridge, giving my straight line of a route a clear advantage, but if I pulled too soon I’d miss the train completely.
As the train hit the corner I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. I pulled. The chute should have shot out immediately, pulling hard on the back of my harnessing. But nothing.
I pulled again, but still nothing. Then I started to panic. I reached for my emergency cord but I just couldn’t find it.
The moment my hand found the cord it was pulled and my backup chute flew back into the air, slowing my descent. Only then did I return my attention to the train.
I was ahead of it. Way ahead of it. I pulled hard on my left line and swing back in a tight circle to face the train head on. Then I pulled both lines together and lifted my knees as high as they’d go – slowing my fall as much as possible.
Just seconds to go now. I knew that if I could avoid dropping below the roof of the train I’d be fine. If not, I’d have to veer away and splash down in the lake below.
This was it. Landing this jump, hitting my target on top of the train, could be my ticket to the big time. One jump was my train ticket to Hollywood.
Just a few feet now. I can see the driver. He doesn’t look happy. This isn’t how we planned it. I shouldn’t be this low. I shouldn’t be head on. I shouldn’t be here at all. But if I make it, if I hit the target…