Jumping for joy
Sky Hawk's LaFramboise only the second woman ever to jump for the team

Darren Campbell
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 26/98) - Cpl. Michelle LaFramboise is doing a little trailblazing.

The former Edmonton school teacher is one of 13 members of the Canadian forces parachute team, the Sky Hawks.

But what makes her a true trailblazer is that she is only the second woman to be a member of the team in its 27-year history.

This is LaFramboise's first year with the Sky Hawks. She has been with the armed forces reserves since 1995.

She said seeing a woman parachuter is such a rare sight that some spectators don't even realize she skydives with the rest of the Sky Hawks.

"I get asked by some people, 'Do you jump, too?'" said LaFramboise.

Yes, LaFramboise sure does jump and she does it well. As part of the Sky Hawks, the 32-year-old will do 61 shows in 38 locations in Canada and the United States this year.

The show season runs from May to October -- training starts in February -- and despite the sometimes gruelling schedule and constant travel, LaFramboise is enjoying her work.

"I love it. It's pretty much the opportunity of a lifetime," said LaFramboise. "It's a lot of fun and it gives you quite a feeling when you're representing your country and you're being ambassadors for Canada."

As for how LaFramboise got the skydiving bug, she credits her cousin who started doing it 11 years ago and would tell her all about it.

"I'd just listen to him in awe and thought it (skydiving) would be so cool," said LaFramboise.

After going on a few observation flights where she watched how it was done, she went on to do some skydiving on her own. She hasn't looked back since.

"It just gets better and better," said LaFramboise.

She added that she never actually intended to try out for the Sky Hawks. But after finishing her basic parachute training, a friend asked her if that was the next step. After thinking about it some more, LaFramboise decided it was.

Things didn't go silky smooth for her. Last year, LaFramboise went to the Sky Hawks training camp but failed to make the cut. But after stepping up her training this year, she tried out for the team again and made it.

She said being the only woman in an all-male team hasn't been a problem for her or the other Sky Hawks.

"At first people might look at you a little differently," said LaFramboise. "But once you've proven yourself, you're just like one of the guys."

And although she said she is used to dropping out of planes at over 3,600 metres from the ground, LaFramboise does admit the Sky Hawks job may contribute to the confident air the team seems to carry about them.

"When you're jumping out of a plane in the air, I guess you think you can do anything," said LaFramboise.