Army officer completes first ‘lethal’ BASE jump in India (Lead)

October 29th, 2010 - 7:10 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 29 (IANS) Though trained to intercept enemy communications, jumping off heights for the thrill of it is his passion. Lt. Col. Satyendra Verma of the Indian Army, also an expert skydiver, Friday jumped off a 450-foot TV tower in the capital becoming the first Indian to successfully complete a BASE jump — known as “lethal sport” - in the country.

BASE jump - an acronym for Buildings, Antennae, Spans and Earth - is regarded as highly risky. It is an adventure sport because it is done from a fixed location at much lower altitudes with an unopened parachute that is released after a short free fall.

Verma, who was commissioned into the Corps of Signals in 1991 and is serving as a Signals officer, jumped off the 450-foot Pitampura TV tower in northwest Delhi just after dawn, amid uncertain wind speed and hazy conditions.

While perched on top of the tower, known as a smaller replica of the Telecom Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Verma waved to his officers and a battery of media persons watching from the ground.

He then leapt off, steadied the aerodynamics of his body after a free fall for some seconds, before opening his parachute amid loud cheers and applause.

And when the chute opened fully, Verma’s seniors heaved a sigh of relief because this was the most difficult part of the sport before the landing. From the time of jump to landing on the ground - it was a thrilling, racy 30 seconds in the air for Verma.

“It was a thrill — nothing more, nothing less. When you jump, you forget everything. But it involves right preparation, and when preparations are right, nothing will go wrong,” Verma told IANS later.

The jump marked the year-long centenary celebrations of the corps and 25 years of the Army Adventure Wing.

“Proud” to be a hardcore adventure enthusiast, the communication officer has earlier done two BASE jumps in the US and Malaysia and has over 1,100 freefalls to his credit.

Verma, who has a B.Tech. in electronics and telecommunications and is an expert in communications and computer networking, is preparing for more adventures ahead but won’t reveal his goals because he is too afraid — of his family.

“I have more plans but won’t discuss it because my family may be watching,” the captain of the army skydiving team said smiling.

BASE jumping generally entails slower airspeeds than typical skydiving because of the limited height. Jumping from higher altitudes is easier than BASE jumping because a jumper gets more time to control the aerodynamics of the body and open a parachute.

Director General of Military Training Lt. Gen. Ramesh Halgali told IANS that the “underlying message” of the event was “of course to attract young Indians towards the army”.

Halgali, under whose aegis this activity was executed, said the army was imparting training in more than 17 fields of adventure, including mountaineering, sport climbing, white water rafting, paragliding, paramotoring, skydiving and land yachting.

“Verma’s feat will send a message to the youth of the nation to undertake such challenging activities and encourage them to join the army,” said the general.

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