CALGARY - You don't have to be an exhibitionist to enjoy jumping out of an airplane, but it's not a bad thing when you're a member of the Canadian Forces Skyhawks parachute team.
The elite group has been putting on a show for those attending the Calgary Stampede — dropping down with pinpoint precision with their Canadian flag parachutes, into the rodeo infield.
"Once you do it a couple of hundred times it's just instinct," said Cpl. Richard Devle, who has been a member of the Skyhawks since March.
"When we jump out that plane we open our parachutes in like two seconds. I pull the parachute and then right off the bat we're looking for other guys," he said.
"We're trying to line our parachutes up to come together. We put on our performance and we usually take that formation right into where we're supposed to go. According to which way the wind is blowing, you go against it just like when planes land and that's how you come into your spot," Devle said.
"It's pretty easy."
But it's not always easy — one of the team members landed hard on Sunday afternoon and was taken to hospital in an ambulance.
He had just performed a manoeuvre with four other team members after the singing of O Canada. Everything went according to plan, but he hit the ground fast and broke his leg, much to the horror of those watching.
"You always have to be careful. Just like when you drive on the highway everyday," said Devle, who added his teammate is fine.
"You can't become complacent. You have to keep it calm, keep it slow and keep that safety in mind."
The mood was upbeat inside the C-130 Hercules aircraft carrying the skydivers on Thursday afternoon.
The three jumpers were all smiles and shaking hands with everyone around them before giving a thumbs-up and jumping backwards out of the rear hatch, their parachutes instantly visible in the distance as they began their descent.
"We do get some pretty big crowds. You can actually hear them sometimes a couple of thousand feet up. It's pretty awesome," said Devle.
"I'm basically getting paid to do what I love."
Some members of the Skyhawks are permanent but many, including Devle, are there for a one-year posting.
During that year they all do about 250 jumps — about 150 in practice and the rest during performances like the Stampede.
The SkyHawks have performed at a Rolling Stones concert in 2003, at the Juno Beach Centre Opening Celebrations in Normandy, and at the 60th anniversary of the Liberation of Holland. The show season usually runs from March until October.