In a previous article I mentioned that I took on an unexpected child-minding job on what turned out to be a very rainy day. The three of us ended up in front of the computer searching online for adventure activities to entertain young children. Both the kids chose what would be their most favoured activity if they were lucky enough to receive one as a birthday gift. One chose scuba diving and the other chose an indoor skydiving experience, as I was feeling a little flush at the time I set them a little challenge. I asked them to each produce a potted-history of the subject and what they might expect to do on their chosen experience, on submission of these pieces I would treat them to both activities as a combined birthday and Christmas present. Mark was the one who chose the skydiving and this is his essay.

In the years before their first powered flight in 1903 Orville and Wlbur Wright managed to learn the rudimentary techniques of flight by building and piloting gliders. They felt that powered flight was a possibility and began work on the Wright Flyer; they collaborated with one of their Dayton bicycle shop employees, Charlie Taylor in the design of an engine, which he subsequently built for them in no less than six weeks.

They chose a beach at Kitty Hawk as their testing ground, realising that the constant prevailing wind would give their craft the lift they needed to achieve flight. Thus the scene was set for December 17th 1903 when following three successful, but short, flights, Orville took the controls for the fourth attempt of the day, he soared to a height of twenty feet and 852 feet and 59 seconds later he landed triumphantly. Although they were not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible.

Since those days of the early pioneers of flight, travel by aircraft has become second nature and hundreds of flights to all parts of the globe are taken every day. Now, not only do we have fixed wing aircraft for both commercial and military use, we also have helicopters and even single seat microlights which are essentially a hang-glider with an engine.

Even before man achieved powered flight he had mastered the art of parachuting, when, as early as 1797, Andre-Jaques Garnerin was jumping out of a hot air balloon and floating safely to the ground. The development of the parachute meant it could be used to rescue airmen from stricken aircraft and balloons, later it delivered troops to the battlefield.

By the 1950s parachuting became to be looked on as a sport or leisure activity. Freefall is achieved by taking the plane to a great height before the participants jump. The parachute is not deployed straight away so the skydiver has some time to ‘fly’ before opening the chute. Experienced skydivers can perform tricks and clever manoeuvres to get the most from those precious moments of flight.

Nowadays this sort of ‘flight’ can be achieved indoors in specialist hangars. A wind tunnel, similar to the sort used to test the aerodynamics of a car, is upended so that the resultant blast is directed upwards. After being kitted out and given a safety briefing, the participant launches himself in to the huge blast of wind to achieve the same sort of flight a skydiver from a plane would experience.

I hope Mark enjoys his day – he deserves it.

A kid's flying experience is just one of the hundreds of interesting things to do outdoors that can be purchased as a gift or for yourself from My Outdoor Store. Follow the link to discover our vast selection of days out ideas.

Author's Bio: 

Bruno Blackstone is a freelance writer interested in all things to do with the outdoors and helping others get the most from the outdoors. Starting with a psychology degree his early career was as a social worker and family therapist working with families to help them achieve more positive and stable relationships. In his more recent career he has coached many senior executives in both small and large organisations in areas such as strategy, human resources, organisational design and performance improvement. He now continues his work in the business world but he is also co-owner of My Outdoor Store a price comparison site for outdoor enthusiasts.