Archbishop leaps from 12,500ft
The Archbishop of York leapt from 12,500ft amid billowing orange smoke today in a parachute jump for a military charity.
After landing safely Dr Sentamu said: “It was fantastic," He added: “I was praying like anybody’s business up there. It was an amazing, amazing experience. Lee (Lance Corporal Lee Read) who was behind me as he spun around, it was such an experience. I thought to myself ’Why have I taken so long to do this?’.”
Dr John Sentamu, 59 next week, made the jump over RAF Langar in Nottinghamshire in perfect conditions. Before the leap, he said: "Pray for me." He free-falled for 45 seconds during the five-minute escapade before landing smoothly.
The Archbishop was a vocal opponent of the invasion of Iraq, but said his decision to do a jump for the Afghanistan Trust was to show respect for British soldiers whose courage and sacrifice were not always properly recognised.
I’m hoping that the sun will shine today, not only for the parachute jump but also for the anniversary of the D-Day landings in which so many brave servicemen and women gave their lives,” he said.
The Ugandan-born Archbishop is known for carrying out attention grabbing stunts to raise awareness of issues such as poverty and the situation in Zimbabwe – he lived in a tent in York Minster for a week to encourage peace in the Middle East – but today’s was the biggest exploit yet.
After the jump he described the experience. "We were at 13,000ft and then we free-falled for 35 seconds. It happened very quickly and then the man I was with started spinning around. It was absolutely exhilarating. When I was standing at the door (to the plane) I said ’This is it, it’s the point of no return, it’s the point of no return’.”
The Church of England's second most senior leader jumped in tandem with a member of the Red Devils parachute display team, taking off from Langar Airfield.
Dr Sentamu has raised £50,000 for the Afghanistan Trust, a charity that supports the families of paratroopers from 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, who have been wounded or killed whilst serving in Afghanistan.
The Archbishop said he was supporting the Parachute Regiment in memory of Lieutenant Colonel ’H’ Jones, who was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery at the Battle of Goose Green in the Falklands conflict.
The Red Devils, formed in 1964, is made up of 25 serving paratroopers from the Parachute Regiment. Each member of the team has seen action in either the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Kosovo or Sierra Leone, while many have served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The team carries out more than 100 parachute displays each year at public events worldwide.
Guy Brudenell, a businessman, persuaded the Archbishop over dinner to join him on the charity event. “I said I was doing a parachute jump and he said, ’I’ll do it with you’. I was completely taken aback,” Mr Brudenell said.
“I was chuffed to bits but I thought when he goes home and wakes up the next morning, I won’t hear from him again. But the next morning I had his press secretary on the phone saying let’s get it organised, which was fantastic,” he added.
Mr Brudenell runs a helicopter charter service and has his own helicopter pilot’s licence.