After serving with Parachute Battalion, veteran gets to leap again


By Barb McKay


When it comes to jumping out of airplanes, Jack Pym is about as experienced as they come.



Jack Pym, centre, went skydiving last week with Stan Soloduka, left. Charles Mann, right, plans to jump next summer as well. (submitted photo)



Pym, a Second World War veteran, was a member of the First Canadian Parachute Battalion. Last Tuesday 86-year-old Pym had the opportunity to take the plunge once again. The chance came when Pym’s chiropractor, Stan Soloduka, told him that he was interested in trying skydiving. He had his own plane and wanted someone to come along with him. Pym said he would like to join him.


The two climbed into Soloduka’s small plane and flew to the Niagara Skydive Centre in Dunnville. The men were to do a tandem jump, but were expected to undergo training before being taken up with the professionals. As the details were being sorted out a slight exception was made for Pym.


“Stan said, ‘he was with the Canadian paratroopers,’ and they said, ‘oh, well we’ll just give him a refresher,’” said Pym with a chuckle.


The First Canadian Parachute Battalion was an elite group of Canadian soldiers that was known for never failing to complete a mission. The battalion members were the only Canadians to participate at the Battle of the Bulge. As a member of the battalion, Pym was trained to jump through a hole in the floor of the aircraft, rather than the door. His jumps were short, typically around 1,000 to 1,200 feet, at a speed of about 18 feet per second.


“You were hooked up to a line and once you stepped out, you were gone,” Pym said. “You check your chute and then you’re on the ground.”


Pym can recall doing one free fall jump during a training exercise in England.


“I looked down (out of the plane) and the cars were the size of mice,” he said, “and they said, ‘Jump Pym!’”


Pym remembers seeing his feet in the air above him as he tumbled around.


Last week’s jump was much different than what he experienced as a paratrooper.


At 11,000 feet Pym did a free fall for a good minute before his chute opened.


“It was just like flying in a plane,” he said. “I got a good look around.”


It took about 30 minutes for Pym, Soloduka, the instructors and a cameraman to take the plane up to the height where they would leap out.


“It was a small plane and we were crammed in there like sardines,” he said.


Once the plane reached 11,000 feet the small door opened and out the men went, one at a time. Pym jumped first, with the cameraman who had stepped out and was hanging on to the strut.


“Everyone asked if I’d be scared and I said, ‘No, I’m not scared.’”


It was cold at the high altitude and quite windy, Pym said.


It was Soloduka’s first jump. He enjoyed it so much he went up and jumped for a second time.


“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s an adrenalin rush.”


Pym plans to skydive again and he won’t be alone. After hearing about his adventure seven of his grandchildren plan to jump with him.


“My grandchildren all want to go now,” he said. “If they want to go, I’ll go.”


Next summer, Pym said, fellow Second World War veteran and former Kincardine mayor Charlie Mann plans to join him on a jump. Soloduka hopes to fly the veterans down for the big event.