A mum-of-three with a fear of heights has described the moment she felt her heart in her throat as she prepared to leap 14,000ft from a plane.
RAF military wife Maria Gordon braved a skydive to raise money for the RAF 100 Appeal – taking to the skies for the ‘One Weekend 100 Tandem Skydives’ event.
She did all this in memory of her late father Graham Handley who served as an aircraft technician for 27 years. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and given six to 12 months to live, but sadly passed away just three weeks later.
Since her father’s death, Maria has taken on numerous physical challenges, raising about £14,000 for cancer charities and the RAF.
“It occurred to me that the 100 Tandems event would be the perfect way to commemorate my dad and his association with the RAF – especially with this being the centenary year,” said Maria, who is stationed at RAF Digby.
The skydive took place at RAF Weston-on-the Green, Oxford, where Maria joined the RAF Sports Parachuting Association for the jump.
There she was paired up with her tandem skydiver Ralph Mitchell.
She said: “We were the first to jump so were positioned right next to the doors – I think my heart in my throat at this point. But once we had jumped it was okay. Ralph had asked me how adventurous I wanted the skydive to be, and I replied that despite my fear of heights, I love the spinning motion of fairground waltzers, to which Ralph responded that he ‘wouldn’t disappoint’.”
True to his word, Ralph and Maria rapidly descended in a series of spins, evoking what Maria described as “screams of delight so loud that they could be heard from the ground”.
“I have never done anything from quite such a height as this before,” she said.
Maria’s other physical challenges for charity have included a climb over the Great Wall of China, scaling the O2 Arena in London and various long-distance runs.
Last year she also climbed the Andes to visit Macchu Piccu in Peru and has appeared on the BBC TV game show Pointless.
Her skydive effort raised £1,000 which she has now presented to the RAF 100 Appeal.
She added: “I was thrilled to have been able to take part and honoured to be an RAF centenary fundraiser – but even prouder to have raised so much money in my dad’s memory.”