When most people plan their retirement, they look forward to some well-earned relaxation, more time spent in the garden, walks in the country, or perhaps take up a small hobby to fill some of those free hours. In other words, look forward to a more relaxed pace of life
When Michael Graham, a Grand Officer from Jarrow, South Tyneside entered retirement, his only thought was to get back to his previous passion: skydiving!
Michael did his first jump at Sunderland airfield in the North East back in 1980, when his wife tricked him (after a drink or two) into putting his name down for a static line jump for charity. After his first jump, although terrified, he had caught the bug and this saw the start of more than a decade of dedication to the sport.
This period saw Michael progress to become a skydiving instructor, buy an equal share in Border Parachute Centre in Embleton, Northumberland, skydive in locations all over the world and introduce his entire family to the sport. His wife undertook several jumps, his youngest son one and his eldest several hundred whilst serving with the RAF.
After leaving the partnership in 1992, Michael decided to retire from the sport, having achieved just about everything there was to achieve. With his equipment sold, he redirected all his efforts to his Freemasonry and his Golf, both of which had taken a backseat while he skydived.
However, the lure of jumping again had never left him and last year, at the tender age of 66 years, his urges could no longer be ignored and he contacted the relevant authorities to prepare for his return to the skies. Peterlee Parachute Centre, or the Skydive Academy as it is known, reassured him that his age was not an issue due to his previous vast experience. Persuading his family, however, was another story!
After the relevant medical checks, equipment familiarisation course and general safety briefs, Michael took to the skies on the 28th September 2013 and continues to this day to be a regular at the airfield. True to his nature, Michael has thrown himself literally headlong back into the sport and gained his Formation Skydiving Coach certificate. This enables his to pass on his many years of experience to younger, up-and-coming skydivers.
'I will continue to skydive whilst I am still fit enough and, to me, my age is not relevant,' Michael comments. 'My family, whilst not endorsing what I do, are at least coming to terms with it!'