Photo recall: Friends in high places continue to hang out

By Poppy Wortman

Photo / Glenn Jefferey
Photo / Glenn Jefferey

"It's just ... yeah!" is flying officer Severn Smith's way of describing his 4371st leap from on high in 1994.

Now a squadron leader, Smith has fallen from the sky more than 9000 times since his first parachute jump in 1982.

"The sheer adrenaline enjoyment of it is part of my love for it," he enthuses.

"And the people involved are generally really, really good people and lots of fun to be with. I did it for a job with the Air Force for many years so, for me, it's been a job as well as a sport."

Pictured is Smith (right) with parachuting teammate Jeff Kay, 2000m above Whenuapai air base.

The pair were in the New Zealand Parachute Team, preparing for the World Parachuting Championships held in Melbourne a few months later.

Kay recalls it had been a fairly intensive day, following the gruelling training his team of four had been undertaking for eight weeks.

"We were taking days off work, during the weekends. Whenever the weather was fine and we could get the team together we'd be out there," he recalls.

"This was one of our last trainings before heading to Australia, where we did serious training for a month before the world meet."

The boys placed a disappointing third in the canopy formations.

Kay says there was never any doubt that France would take the gold as they were head and shoulders above the rest.

"But the rest of the competition was us duking it out against the USA team for second place," he laughs.

"We were doing well and then on the last day we had a couple of bad rounds and, unfortunately, came third. But, hey, it was fun."

And there was a win for the boys, with their self-designed canopies catching the eyes of international teams and leading to good sales, Kay remembers.

With his background in parachute manufacturing, he insists the team's creations were the best by a long shot.

Smith agrees.

"Even though we didn't come first, everybody recognised that our parachutes were the way to go for the future. The Australian team and other countries, including Russia, purchased them."

There was no need to bother logging individual jump numbers as Smith was so meticulous in his tallying, Kay says.

"We'd just say, 'Severn, how many jumps have we done?' and he could tell us, and we'd add it to our own personal totals," he chuckles.

"He was always the gung-ho guy."

- Herald on Sunday

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