Suzanne Leonard finally got her skydive ... and aside from a few short-lived wind concerns, the weather was perfect.
Weather Network presenter Suzanne Leonard finally got her chance this month to skydive with the Canadian Forces' legendary SkyHawks, after poor weather foiled two previous attempts.
"It was phenomenally exciting. It was fantastic and, surprisingly, I really loved it," Leonard said.
The weather plays a huge part in deciding when it's safe to skydive, particularly cloud ceiling, which forced the SkyHawks to scrub two previous planned jumps, once while Leonard and her tandem master were just a few feet away from the open ramp of their Hercules plane.
Leonard said it was pretty disappointing to build up the nerve to skydive, only to not be able to follow through after all.
This time, the weather had some potential to foil the jump once again; Leonard said the winds at Lake Simcoe Regional Airport were a little strong, at about 40 km/h with stronger gusts, prompting the SkyHawks to keep a close eye on the conditions, but once they neared their intended drop zone, they judged that it was okay to jump.
After watching the SkyHawks deploy wind speed indicators -- coloured strips released at a lower altitude to gauge wind drift and help calculate how far away from the drop zone they should jump from -- Leonard once again found herself right on the edge of the plane's ramp.
"My feet are off the ground, I'm holding onto my harness, I'm attached to Jonnie and his parachute so there is nothing stopping me from jumping out the back of this airplane. It was a crazy feeling! I had also just seen how far away the ground was, and that was the only time I felt really scared." she recalls.
And, finally, Leonard and her tandem master, Cpl. Jonnie Shaw, took the plunge, at an altitude of around 9,100 feet.
Suzanne Leonard and tandem master Jonnie Shaw, who was celebrating his 1,000th dive.
As they began about 30 seconds of freefall, with Leonard grinning the whole way down, other Skyhawks jumped with them.
Leonard said Shaw was in full control of the jump, and she was impressed by how agile the SkyHawks were as cameraman Sgt. François Gosselin hove into view in front of her.
"It's amazing ... we jumped, and all of the sudden, there's a SkyHawks cameraman right in front of me, so they're very adept at moving around in the air," she said.
She said she made sure to follow her tandem partner's instructions, but tried to just be "in the moment" as she took in the view of Collingwood, Georgian Bay and other sights on the way down.
"I wanted to look around and just be able to enjoy it," she said. "But it was over too soon. That would be my only complaint."
If you'd like to see the SkyHawks in action, head to their website
for more details on their schedule.