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Interview Helen Westmancoat - February 2015

Date posted: 
Wednesday, 4 March, 2015

We have another great interview of a 'serial tandem skydiver' for your to read here. This is the story of Helen Westmancoat who has been doing tandems for various charities since 2011. She is enthusiastic to keep jumping since jump number one and she totally gets why skydiving is so fantastic! Read her story here:

Helen Westmancoat

1. When did you do your first tandem skydive and why?

I did my first tandem skydive at Skydive Hibaldstow on 30 July 2011 for SPARK the student support charity for York St John University where I worked. I'd always wanted to do a skydive so when the opportunity came up I took it.  Anyone who knows me, knows I like a challenge!

2. How many tandems to do you have to date and why haven't you taken up an AFF or Static Line Course?

I've done 11 tandems to date, 10 at Hibaldstow and one in Vancouver, Canada. I would love to be able to do AFF or Static Line but sadly under BPA rules I am too old to start to learn to go solo.  I'd still like to learn more about parachuting though, even if I can't do a solo jump. However, if I can encourage others to have a go, then I will.

3. Have all your jumps been for the same charity?

I've parachuted to raise funds for Age UK, the Scouts (for a trip to Kandersteg), PhysioNet, and also 2 jumps for BLESMA, as well as for the charity that started me off. I'm planning on doing the Support Our Paras event in the summer, and also have another charity jump lined up. I enjoy doing the jumps and might as well raise funds for charity whilst doing them, so long as people keep sponsoring me. It's a good talking point and I even had a total stranger at a conference sponsor me because she was so impressed that I skydive!

4. We admire your persistence to keep tandem skydiving, do you think you will ever get bored?

No I hope I won't get bored, and it is one way of being able to skydive without going solo. I love the views you get from above the clouds, and the different things you can see up there, like a Brocken Spectre (ask Noel the Chief Instructor at Hibaldstow!). It's also good fun, and a unique experience every time. I like having someone to talk to whilst descending under canopy, and I've been able to do things like a Wave-Off and steer the chute. Everyone at Hibaldstow is very friendly and professional, so it makes for a good experience.

5. Do you have any advice for fundraisers planning their first charity skydive?

Set yourself a realistic target, get as much local news publicity as you can because skydiving is still seen as something "brave" to do, use both on and offline sponsorship forms, social media, and on the day relax and enjoy the experience. It's a bit like Marmite, you'll either love it or hate it, and most people love it.

6. Which of your tandems was your favourite and why?

I've enjoyed them all, but if I was asked to pick one it would be one I did a couple of years ago when the sun was starting to set.  We'd been waiting nearly all day because of cloud and wind, but then the clouds started to clear, we were called back to the airfield, and it was a beautiful evening.

7. Describe to anyone who has never skydived what the experience of freefall is like?

The first time you jump you gasp as you leap out of the plane, then the air resistance feels like being in a very strong wind and you're flying, with an incredible all round view around and below. It's noisy as the air rushes past you, and an incredibly exhilarating feeling at the same time.

8. When you are not skydiving, what do you do for work and fun?

I've just retired as Deputy Librarian at York St John University. I've taken up the role of District Commissioner for Harrogate and Nidderdale District Scouts (HANDS) and am looking into getting some of the older scouts to try skydiving. In addition I'm a keen walker, theatre-goer and enjoy crafts of various kinds. Oh and of course, being a librarian, I read a lot!

Photos of Helen

In Freefall

Helen and Noel

Exiting the Turbo Finist SMG 92