x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Oldest skydiver in town: American celebrates birthday with free-fall over Dubai

Richard 'Dick' Corbit, an 86-year-old American grandfather, becomes the oldest person to free-fall over the Palm Jumeirah with SkyDive Dubai.

Dick Corbit, 86, prepares to land after jumping out of a plane 4000m above Dubai to celebrate his birthday.
Dick Corbit, 86, prepares to land after jumping out of a plane 4000m above Dubai to celebrate his birthday.

DUBAI // Leaping out of an airplane at 4,000?metres is hardly how most people expect to celebrate their 86th birthday.

But that is exactly what Richard “Dick” Corbit, an American grandfather of six and father of four, did today, becoming the oldest person to free-fall over the Palm Jumeirah with SkyDive Dubai.

Thirteen years older than the centre’s previous oldest skydiver, who was 73, Mr Corbit, a Second World War US Navy veteran and a retired engineer, lives in Blanchard, Idaho and was on holiday visiting his daughter Lisa, a teacher in Ras Al Khaimah.

According to his wife Ella, “it was something he’s talked about for years, he wanted to do a skydive for his 80th birthday in Hawaii, but couldn’t because the weather was too bad.”

Mr Corbit is no stranger to extreme sports and although this was his first skydive, he has previously tried his hand at zip-lining in Costa Rica, and is a regular waterskier.

Because of his advanced years, Mr Corbit had to pass a thorough medical prior to the tandem jump. Then, after a safety briefing, he was kitted out with the necessary gear.

Before the jump, he showed no trace of nerves. His wife, though, admitted she was slightly worried for his safety.

He said that from his research on the internet, the centre in Dubai was the ideal place to fulfil his dream and that it seemed “pretty safe”.

Two of his daughters, Lisa and Lynn, accompanied him on the jump, and said their dad was “absolutely fearless”. He noted, wryly, that “you have to be when you have four daughters”.

Spirits were high as he approached the airplane, and Mrs Corbit joked that “he didn’t even say goodbye”.

The skydive itself went without a hitch and with a smile on his face and a triumphant shout, Mr Corbit landed safely and smoothly. “Let’s do it again, it was amazing,” he said.

He said the views over the city were incredible, adding that “you could see absolutely everything”.

Lynn revealed that his only concern upon landing was not for his physical well-being, but if his shorts were green from skidding on the grass.

After coming back to earth he was met by staff and other jumpers at the SkyDive Dubai centre with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” and a cake.

Skydive Dubai’s general manager, Alan Gayton, said the company applied the same safety rules as for all its first-time jumpers, with safety as the top priority.

“He’s the oldest person we’ve had, but skydiving, when done properly, is safe for anyone over the age of 18, as long as they’ve passed the health check.” Had there been any incident at the centre, all of the staff are fully trained in first aid. The company has no recorded injuries in any of its tandem skydives.

So what is next for the thrill-seeking senior citizen? He says he wants to drive a racing car – of course.

ksinclair@thenational.ae