Parachute challengers feet on ground

THEIR usual day job is to teach the Army's elite to parachute behind enemy lines.Now Suffolk-based parachute instructors are keeping their feet firmly on the ground – and their bottoms in the saddle!A team of football-mad RAF parachute jump instructors (PJIs), based at Wattisham Airfield, have vowed to cycle to all 20 premiership football teams within a week to support one of their colleagues two-year-old daughter who suffers from cystic fibrosis.

By James Fraser

THEIR usual day job is to teach the Army's elite to parachute behind enemy lines.

Now Suffolk-based parachute instructors are keeping their feet firmly on the ground – and their bottoms in the saddle!

A team of football-mad RAF parachute jump instructors (PJIs), based at Wattisham Airfield, have vowed to cycle to all 20 premiership football teams within a week to support one of their colleagues two-year-old daughter who suffers from cystic fibrosis.

The band of cyclists includes Russ Murphy, a 28-year-old from Stowmarket who joined the RAF after attending Stowmarket High school.

The RAF PJIs teach some of the British Army's crack units, including the SAS, the Parachute Regiment and the Royal Marines, to jump from heights ranging between 600ft and 35,000ft.

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This time they've opted for a different kind of challenge.

Simon Siddons, a sergeant and a Liverpool fan, explained that many of the PJIs at Wattisham had served with Flight Lieutenant Pete Whiting, a member of the daredevil RAF parachute display team, at a former posting RAF Brize Norton.

The plight of his little daughter Annabelle, who was diagnosed with the degenerative lung disease aged 14 months, inspired them to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

They hope to raise funds too for the RAF Benevolent Fund and East Anglia's Children's Hospice.

"We're hoping to raise £5,000 but hopefully we'll raise a lot more than that with an internet auction of signed football memorabilia, including two Liverpool shirts."

The auction will take place on www.ebay.com.

The 11-strong team, including a support group who will tail them in a van equipped with plasters for saddle sores and puncture repair kits, begin the 627-mile journey from Newcastle United's St James' Park ground on August 12.

All avid football fans, they aim to visit every member of the top football league this season and they assured of a special reception at Liverpool from 1970s ex-Reds star Brian Hall.

"It's a shame that Ipswich got relegated," added Sgt Siddons. "We would have liked to have finished at Ipswich Town."

Anyone wishing to support their fundraising bid should call Simon Sidoons on 01449 728920.

Weblinks: www.cftrust.org.uk

www.raf-benfund.org.uk

www.each.org.uk

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