You might have seen it in Drop Zone or Terminal Velocity, Hollywood films that have taken the sport of parachuting to greater heights of popularity. There are few sports that give as much thrill as jumping out of a plane 2,400 metres above ground, plunging towards earth at 9.8 metres per second . . . and landing safely on the ground. 'It's fantastically exciting,' said Georgina Wong, public relations committee member of the Hong Kong Parachute Association. 'For children or youngsters, parachuting teaches you self-discipline and taking responsibility for one's self and for others. 'When taking part in a sport like this, safety is the number one priority. It's not the dare-devil sport people tend to think it is,' she said. Parachuting is more than just leaping out of a plane and opening the chute in mid-air and enjoying the view as you float back to earth, said Wong. 'It's more than that because it's flexible. The parachutist can perform acrobatics in the sky. And yes, everything Wesley Snipes or Charlie Sheen performed on the silver screen can be achieved in real life. 'Initially people would be scared to death to jump out of a plane. Getting nervous is actually a good sign. Even the most experienced parachutists are nervous before they jump,' said Wong, a veteran of 140 jumps. Leaping out of a plane might not be everybody's idea of an exhilarating 'rush' or thrill, but once you have achieved a jump, one enjoys a sense of accomplishment not to be had from many sports. Just a strong stomach, some courage and common sense are all that is needed to start a course in parachuting. Parachuting cannot really be compared to other 'thrill' sports like bungee jumping, where the 'high' of an adrenalin rush lasts but a few seconds. 'It's not like a roller-coaster ride. The feeling is not the same. It actually makes you feel weightless, because you're so high up. You don't feel as if you're falling or tumbling towards earth,' she said. Wong believes parachuting is safe as a sport, contrary to popular belief. 'Actually parachuting is quite safe. The number of incidents have tended to be more due to pilot error. If one is properly trained, there shouldn't be an accident.' She added: 'There are many safety features that go with parachuting. You can use the reserve canopy [chute]. It's like travelling in a car. If you come to a red light, you don't just apply the breaks, you put on the handbrake as well. We have a very good back-up system. 'Students or experienced jumpers have safety devices like the AOD [Automatic Opening Device] should something go wrong, like if the parachutist blacks out for some reason. The AOD monitors the fall rate and the chute automatically opens. It measures the pressure and what speed one is falling, so when you're 750 feet [228 metres] above the ground and you still haven't opened your chute, it will do the job for you. 'There are other safety devices like the Dytter, which is basically set at a height and an alarm clock goes off inside your helmet to remind you to pull your rip-cord.' Anyone over 16 and under 50 can try the sport. Once you have accomplished your first few jumps, you can start progressing to formations and complex exercises like performing somersaults, 360 degree flips, turns and other acrobatics which require technical skill. Beginners jump from a 'static' line with a harness. As soon as they jump off the plane, the chute opens. After their seventh jump, the harness can be taken away and you can open the chute yourself in what is called 'free fall'. Hong Kong parachutists generally jump from a height of up to 2,400 metres.