by John Fogg
'Twas a dark and stormy Friday night" and all were assembled in the hangar for the introduction by Ted Cheung.
So began the novice crew camp at Xenia. Ted's introduction was concise and informed, illustrating the role of Diamond Quest as a non-profit organization dedicated to introducing canopy relative work to new people in a safe manner and improving the skills of all concerned with a view to achieving larger formations.
The rest of the evening was spent rigging the Prodigy canopies to containers. This was the point where the eyes started getting a little wider. The canopy is prepared and flaked either by side pack or pro-pack and laid down. Then things get a little different. There is no deployment bag; instead, a diaper is used. Essentially a piece of material stitched on the canopy. The lower half of the flaked canopy is then 's' folded over the diaper, which is closed by a single rubberband and the first stow of the lines. The rest of the lines are then free stowed into a pocket on the diaper similar to the free bag on a reserve. This "assembly" is then placed into your container and the rest of the canopy 's' folded on top. Now the fun starts! Getting the container closed is an interesting process. When complete you have canopy material sticking out from all edges, the risers are sticking out because the covers cannot cope with the extra controls. The finished pack job looks a little something like a bargain basement deal from Honest John's Rigging shop!
"Looks good", Ted would enthuse and Chuck would back it up with, "if it looks neat, it ain't right!"
Saturday morning we are divided by our experience levels. Most, like myself, have never
done any crw and are paired off with the instructors. Those with some experience are
then teamed up with Steve Petto and Frank Bender. These guys celebrated their gold wings
with their first hour of freefall! After briefing we make are way to the Casa, the rest
of the load examining our pack jobs with looks I cannot describe as envy. The aircraft
turns onto the wind line and we prepare for exit.
Ted shouts "Safety Briefing!"
"Don't die!" comes the reply.
This arouses the tandem students from their slumber in time to see the green light come on and the Novice CReW camp exit in their assigned groups.
I have a little fumble then deploy the canopy figuring that taking this pack job to terminal might
not be advisable. Chuck invites me over to his piece of sky and we start flying side by side. He
sinks out and flies his canopy into my back whereupon I make a deliberate effort to forget the
entire brief and try grabbing his center cell with one hand, making sure I keep the toggle in the
other. Chuck tries again with the same result. So he flies along side and communicates in the
clear, concise manner we have been taught.
"WILL YOU LET GO OF THE F*CKING TOGGLES!!"
"You only had to ask", I mumble back.
He flies back and approaches again. This time I grab the canopy and gingerly put my feet through the lines. I slide down, place my feet under the cross connectors and breathe out. A CreW pup is born but its going to be a while before this one opens its eyes!
After lunch, the cloud base is down to about 5000ft and the Casa is shut down. A few pups have decided to sit down for a while but someone has persuaded Jim to fly the Beech instead. I exit and am top docked by Chuck then Ted approaches me. I accept the canopy and wait for Thomas. Four Stack!! We have potential for a fifth but run out of time and start breaking it down.
"Have you ever done a side-by-side?" shouts Chuck.
"No" I carefully answered.
"Okay. Hang on to my harness".
"NOT my reserve handle!"
We settle the canopies and turn back towards the DZ. I am just beginning to enjoy the ride.
"Now give me your right leg"
"Hold my ankle then a little left toggle" "Huh?& & .Aarrrrrrrrrrhhhhhh!!"
Summary: Second CreW jump, first four stack, first side-by-side, first down-plane. BEER RULES!
Sunday morning dawned bright and clear with myself a little hazy. We now began to focus on offset docking and diamonds. Thomas Kerler's eyes began to open a little wider as the success of these led to the possibility of an attempt on the State record.
Ted and Brian began playing checkers with the fridge magnets and came up with an offset 12-way diamond plus stinger. Suddenly everything started getting serious. Frank Bender was no longer his cheerful, happy-go-lucky self, Steve Petto became quiet and withdrawn.
We began the process of pairing off with our respective wingman; Steve Petto had the good fortune to acquire me! The wingman principle was new to some of us and some of the requirements seemed a little strange, particularly the bathroom visits. Now more emphasis was placed on maintaining echelon and communication up and down the formation. Just in case we were getting too relaxed, a cameraman from a local news station appeared to get footage during the dirt dive. A classic "before" shot.
The Casa fires up and we nonchalantly stroll out.
This time the "safety briefing" is followed by an earnest prayer;
"Please Lord! Don't let me f*ck this up!"
We exit and start flying our echelons. Chuck and Roger prepare to base and pin and add a little
interest by rapidly rotating. They try again and settle it down then the formation begins to slowly
build (too slowly for Frank!). I follow Steve as he docks onto row three wing. I am to lockup him
and Thomas on row four. For the first time, I feel it all fall into place as I make my approach. A
little back riser;
I place the left-hand cell at Thomas then Steve takes the right. I release and look down and around for Becky and Brian.
"Break it down! Break it down!" announces the end of the attempt.
"Drop me! Drop me!" I bank right, watching the other canopies peel off and make for the DZ.
Here endeth the attempt on the Ohio State record at Greene County.
When we landed there were mixed feelings of not completing the formation but I was elated at closing seventh. The feelings amongst the novices were also that we had a safe, fun, successful camp.
In good old-fashioned Oscar style, I would like to thank Diamond Quest and their representatives Brian and Becky Welch, Ted Cheung and Chuck Strong. Thanks also to Frank Bender, Steve Petto, Jim Jette and Heidi Emick for sharing their expertise. Thanks also to Thomas Kerler for arranging everything and to Jim and Lee West for their help behind the scenes and big Jerry for being big Jerry.
And as always thanks to my parents for that night;
"Late December back in '63.
What a very special time for me!"
See you in Cleveland
by Jim Jette
I took the day off work to drive down to Xenia. I was to meet Heidi when she flew in with Ted. Not much was happening at the DZ when I arrived in the early afternoon. It was very hot and a little hazy. I sat around and chatted with CReW Dog Frank (who I just met) before killing some time on a 3-way freefall with some Xenia locals. I kept scanning the sky for small planes and was surprised when Ted, Heidi, and Chuck climbed out of a white mini-van. Turns out they landed at a different airport. A few hours later we got going on the camp. It started to rain - make that pour - as all camp attendees assembled in the hanger where Ted had to speak up to be heard over the rain drumming on the corrugated metal roof. Since this was my second camp, I felt like a weaned CReW pup as I sat through the video and lecture. Becky and Brian arrived with the canopies and I helped a few folks with their first CReW pack jobs. It was real fun seeing the horrified looks on the faces of jumpers with 5 times my jump count as they saw fabric and risers sticking out of their containers. I got back to the DZ after dinner about 11pm, six pack in hand, and found nobody awake to drink with! This sure wasn't the Parkman crowd. Oh well, tomorrow would be a busy day. Stars were visible in clear black skies suggesting good weather in the morning.
The camp participants assembled at 8am for the one-on-one training jumps out of the Casa. I was asked to sit out this load since I already had CReW training. The load went up before 9am and all went well as far as I could tell. On lift two, I did a one-on-one with Thomas Kerler. Base pin sure is hard for two novices. We only got one dock in. The load landed and counted jumpers - two missing. Had anyone seen Heidi and Becky, who did a two-way together? No - and no one had any idea where they may have landed. Ted and I went on a driving excursion to find them. We checked 3 directions and had no luck. We returned to the DZ and still no sign of them. We set off again, equipped with the most modern of CReW conveniences -- Ted's cell phone. We found them this time, rigs packed, walking toward the DZ. Ted made a wisecrack about the sport of parahiking and we all returned to the DZ in time for a thunderstorm delay. We spent the middle part of the day watching Ted's videotapes of "World's Scariest Wraps and Entanglements" in the clubhouse. About 4pm, the skies started to clear and Brian went looking for a pilot. Brian planned an offset formation; this was to be my first attempt at flying a wing. Jim West took us up in the Beech 18 and announced at 4,000 that due to weather, we would be getting out at 5,000. The offset was killed and we went for speed stacks. Heidi docked on Brian and I ended up too high to get down to them. We packed and scrambled for another low load in the refreshing damp air. This time stuff got built. I docked fifth in Brian's stack just before break off. We were really starting to have fun and were amazed how productive we could be from only 5 grand. We did another quick load from 5K and got 2 stacks going. I flailed on exit, lost orientation, and flew toward the closest formation. Turns out it was the wrong one! I thought the DQ T-shirt said "any diamond, any slot, anytime"). I really got ribbed for that one on the ground. Overall, it was a productive day. I think we found a new motto: "We get more done from 5 than other CReW Dogs do from 13".
Clear blue skies returned and CReW continued from the Casa. Some of the novice participants were worn out already and decided to put their free-fall canopies back on. I was to dock 5th in stack. The number four dock got out of position so I swooped the slot. The 4-stack felt nice and solid and life was good again. The next formation was a 6-way kite, my slot being a stinger on the tail. Both stingers made the mistake of getting too far behind (they weren't kidding when they said that diamonds fly fast!) and we were unable to dock. We repeated the same jump with Brian as pilot again. Learning from our mistakes we had the whole thing built at about 5,000. I was later told that it sure looked great from the ground. A TV camera even showed up and interviewed Ted after the formation. That formation was awesome and I was starting to get hooked on CReW. Unfortunately, it was early afternoon and I had a 4-hour drive in front of me. The weekend had been a good one with no reserve rides or major off landings. I said my good-byes and took off with my sights set on next month's camp in Parkman.