by Kirk VanZandt
Yes! - The skies over Georgia were once again filled with multicolored canopies at 13,000 ft! Peach State Skydiving Center arranged two King Air jumpships for this practice, although only one had a skydiving door and exterior hand rail. It was an extremely clear weekend in north Georgia which we looked at, as a blessing. But as usual the bad comes with the good - it was quite BURRRRRRRR in the mornings. I am not sure what the temperature was, but both mornings there was frost on the ground as the planes took off. Sunday was colder than Saturday! On Saturday, the lead aircraft with the base eight and cameraman chose the plane without the door on the first jump, but it seems every jump after that they reserved the plane with the door. Now why do you think that was? They said it was because there was a grab rail on the outside; Sure! As you have guessed, I was in the trail plane the entire weekend. As the day grew the temperature came up to an almost respectable level. The winds were honking at altitude both days; on Saturday we got out 3-4 miles upwind. But they were steady and very little thermals occurred during the day. So the weather was almost perfect for CRW, what else could we ask for?
Five jumps were made on Saturday and four more on Sunday. The dives were clean, mean, fighting machines! 16 and 17 ways were on order as some of the "Base" usuals could not make it. New faces filled in some of the slots - Steve from Texas, Chuck from Pennsylvania, and Laura Ausel (Sunday only). The new people integrated in well with the base, so much that all but one of the dives completed and that one was early on and only one out. All of us were a little rusty at first.
No wraps or worrly-gigs were seen this weekend with only a minimum number of aborts. All was looking good, until Frank "the wild man" Bender had a malfunction out the door. It was a line over with a friction knot in the slider about 1/4 of the way down. He was "Break Dancing" like I have seen no other; it became a violent spinning malfunction before he chopped. He was the last out of the lead plane, so most of the others in that plane were busy on their approaches and docks. The people out of the trail plane saw two people going with Frank. Most of them thought that he had enough people with him and went on with the dive as we have been told in the past -- "Make the most out of any dive, and do not clog the airspace for others who are more skilled then yourself". We completed the formation minus the missing jumpers. It gave a lot of people a chance to use their minds to figure out were they needed to be, and plug what slot. Everybody did a good job at this skill. The skill that most of us did not have, was to recognize that one of the jumpers going after Frank was the cameraman (he has a Prodigy). The end result of this story, is Frank landed safely (a little shaken), free-bag caught, and NO MAIN CANOPY! There was no one to follow the main. To me it was a fluke, Frank has packed more parachutes then I can even imagine, all without a "function", so the only thing to call this is a "fluke", and it can happen to anyone of us! Everybody that was on that jump needs to apologize to Frank. We all should have helped, as we would like back "in-kind", if it ever comes our turn. Frank is a great guy, he works hard, and deserved better from us. It might or might not turn up like the last canopies that were lost; but maybe we can talk FCI into giving him a discount (what about it RED?), or maybe we can take up a collection to help pay for part of the missing canopy. The only good part of all this is, Frank is OK and will be back jumping with us in November (he stated so! "You got to get in there man!").
So nine good practice jumps were done. People are still moving around and learning new slots, but the talent is growing. It getting faster and finer tuned. So hopefully in the April/May time frame we will become a smooth running machine that will be ahead of world record pace!
Keep Your Knees in the Breeze and
Dream of Big Diamonds in the Sky,
- Kirk VanZandt -