TNP reporter is Red Lion skydiver for a day
TNP reporter becomes NDP’s iconic Red Lion for a day
Yesterday, I became a Red Lion for a day.
I was invited by the iconic National Day sky divers to experience their training sessions.
Training began early in the morning at iFly Singapore in Sentosa.
I had to practise arching my back to allow an even distribution of wind against my body.
Any subtle change in my body's form would create a drastic difference in movement during free fall.
After much practice, I thought it would be easy going into the wind tunnel, but I was wrong.
I stepped into the tunnel and the wind hitting me at speeds of up to 300 kmh was enough to send my limbs sprawling all over the place.
I flew around the wind tunnel uncontrollably and bounced around the tunnel's panels like a pinball.
Thankfully, First Warrant Officer Ivan Low, a Red Lion, was there to ensure that I didn't slam myself too hard into the glass and injure myself.
My limbs felt sore from just a minute and a half of being in there.
After a quick rest, I followed them to Pasir Ris camp to try their new Parachute Flight Simulators.
The six linked simulators, installed in April, will allow six people to replicate controlling parachutes as a team. It can also be adjusted to create a wide variety of real-life scenarios.
Once strapped into the simulator, it felt like I was on board a helicopter transporting me to the drop zone.
In true Red Lion fashion, I had to execute a parachute jump over the Padang and land in the middle of the performance stage together with five other people.
Once the helicopter reached 10,000 feet, I stepped off the aircraft and plummeted towards the Padang, which looked so tiny I could cover it with my hand.
While free falling, I could even see Marina Bay Sands and The Arts House. My heart raced as I saw the Padang get bigger and bigger.
Timing is everything: releasing a parachute too early means taking too long to descend, while releasing it late would mean death.
I felt the stress build up as I watched my altitude drop, but, thankfully, I released the parachute accurately at 4,000 feet.
I then had to manoeuvre my way to the holding area located just above the Victoria Concert Hall.
When it was my turn to land, I carefully made my way to the Padang, following the landing circuit around the sitting area into the main stage.
I felt the impact of the ground as I landed and could not help but feel a sense of relief that it was over.
While the experience was exhilarating and satisfying, it was also humbling to discover how tough being a Red Lion was.
Red Lions: 'We treat every jump as if it's our first'
LEAD: Major Arnold Low, team leader of the Red Lions posing with the Parachute Flight Simulators at Pasir Ris Camp.
The venue for this year's National Day Parade may be different, but the Red Lions will face some of the same difficulties.
Red Lions team leader Major Arnold Low said: "The challenge that remains the same whenever we jump is the wind conditions on that day."
"Winds can change in terms of direction and velocity and the different types of wind at the varying altitudes affect our jumps as well."
Other challenges include the tower structures at the parade grounds and the layout of the seating galleries.
Malfunctions can also occur, like the one on July 4 that made the news. A jumper's main parachute got twisted, but he managed to deploy his reserve parachute and land safely.
He did this by using the cut-away drill, which is used to release the reserve parachute from the main parachute rig and is always practised before any jump is made.
The Red Lions have put in extra effort to ensure they will be prepared for any situation on the actual day.
Training routines are carefully followed and adapted should there be any changes in the conditions on the day itself.
Major Low added that precautions are taken whenever the team has to execute a jump and that they never let experience make them complacent.
"We always treat every jump as if it's our first."
Taking part in his fifth celebration this year, First Warrant Officer Ivan Low said the team's graceful performance often hides the difficulties they face.
"It might look simple, but there are many things going on whenever we jump," he added.
"Performing for the Golden Jubilee is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
"I feel very honoured."