I can only describe it in two words: "Adult Disneyland"
1) Did several high-altitude jumps from 21,000 feet (we wore oxygen masks from 10 thou' onwards) with *each* freefall lasting 1min. 50 seconds from the infamous "Mullins King Air". Mike would 'test' the seatbelts with negative-G maneuvers on some of the climb-outs as long as we promised not to fart.
2) Jumped out of a hot-air balloon (my first) from 4,500' at 5am in the morning. (I did still-camera work on that one -- setting myself up with my feet on the top of the basket facing in, my arm on the bar overhead -- gave the count and then fell backwards into oblivion taking snappos of jumpers falling 'after me'. By 3 thou' we were at terminal --- tracked away, dumped and landed in someone's front yard (since everywhere else was covered with ripening corn). A nice lady picked all 8 of us up in her Ford F-150 and brought us back to the DZ. --- Thanx Missus !
3) Did several jumps out of a Bell 412 helicopter -- piloted by two fantastic 'chopper pilots.
Let's reminisce shall we...
You're sitting on the edge of the doorless cabin, seatbelt around your midsection, feet dangling out the door just above the skids, everything's shaking with the blade vibration and the noise from the twin turbines overhead is deafening --- Your pulse is racing, your adrenalin is pumping, you're feeling good coz you know you're in for a helluva blast. We lift off and literally skim the tips of the corn at speed, then he pulls a right 75deg. banked turn, then a left 75deg. banked turn, then drops down FURTHER BELOW tree level and flies **in between** the trees, hauls it up to 700 feet in a vertical climb, then, at the apex, just drops the nose as we head back down towards the ground picking up speed that's to be dissipated in skimming the shrubbery bordering said corn fields.
We climb vertically at a terrific rate (negative ground rush!) to 5,000 feet and await for the "1 minute warning", at which point we unbuckle our seatbelts, and, symmetrically, for weight and balance purposes -- just fall out, at the same time, from each side.
Da Vinci did good !!!!
Three of us, holding each other's wrists, just leapt forward and did 4 front-loops COUNTING ALOUD IN FREEFALL as we did so... ---- ground, horizon, blue sky, chopper, --- "ONE" --- ground, horizon, blue sky, chopper, -- "TWO"........
We reached terminal by 3,500', let go, tracked, dumped and landed.
My first chopper jump, I'll admit, frightened the living daylights out of me. AS SCARY, believe me, as my first static-line jump from a Cessna 182 back in 1991. However, as the week progressed, we all DESIRED and partook of this "sensory overload and guaranteed emotional upset" at least once if not twice a day ! Yeah, I know ...nut-jobs !
4) Jumped out of the back of the Boeing 727 jet (a la "D.B. Cooper!") doing 150kts. I just dove out the back and ***tried*** to turn around (yeah right!).
The wake turbulence was phenomenal! Goggles went flying, velcro came apart --- It felt like an invisible hand had just picked me up and flailed me around the sky like a rag doll refusing to let go! I managed to (eventually) turn around and take photos of others tumbling out as it roared away. An awesome sight to behold !
5) Jumped out of the Lockheed Super Constellation ("The Connie") doing 138mph. The wake turbulence and prop wash was as exhilarating as that of the the 727. An absolutely beautiful, majestic plane. Looking out the windows, as we climbed, at the straight wing, two props churning at the air, made me feel like I had stepped thru' time back fourty or so years, in one instant. The two frail white-haired pilots, in their starched shirts and early TWA uniforms, standing proudly just outside the cabin door, greeted each and every one of us as we ascended the old aluminum staircase -- a ritual of bygone years now only seen in Movietone B+W. Managed to take photos of 'tumbling bodies' leaving (both sides) of the aircraft as I slowly stabilized in freefall, those infamous "three fins" an absolutely beautiful sight to behold as the sun glistened off the red and white paint scheme.
6) Photographed a 12-way from a DH-6 Twin Otter: I got out first, fighting the airstream, out onto the camera step beside the rear horizontal stabilizer, then left a split second early to take photos of the base leaving the door (+ plane in background) with the rest of the group diving after them. Then I made myself "big" and floated "above and around" the formation as they turned points.
(I have a new-found respect for camera-men, BTW).
7) I got on a "Scotty Cabone organized" -- "twelve-way-tube" to be captured on film for "Norm Kent Productions". We left the back of the CASA (tailgate plane seen recently on TV in "Xtreme Games" ) holding onto each other's harnesses and dropped at a fantastic speed. Both the g- and wind-forces were phenomenal. The head-down camera man described it as a 'human homesick bowling ball' ! He may have seen it -- but I *felt* it and I concur.
8) Jumped out of the old WW2 Douglas DC-3 (Dakota). My old Chevy's oil leak is nothing compared to what was pouring out of this baby's engines! Big plumes of smoke on start-up -- just like the Connie engines.
Between U, me and the lamp-post ...looks like there was plenty of "room" for the couples who manifested for the "mile-high" flight.
Every other jump was gravy from the 'regular' planes (Beech King Airs, Otters, etc.)
Our (Johnny, me, Gary) daily routine (we stayed at the Super 8) consisted of:
Up at dawn (or earlier), watch the CMT (Country Music Station) or the hip-pop aerobics station, shower, go down to the "Village Inn" and inhale a repast of; Eggs Benedict, Omlettes, Pancakes, large glasses of OJ, java, hash-browns, toast, bacon, sausages, etc. The waitresses (Cathy -- the blonde one with the black mascara --- and Michelle) were very friendly ! Go back to the hotel and pack our 'chutes in the hall-way. (The area beside the emergency stairs was poifect!) Drive to the local Hy-Vee and stock up on ice, gallons of Snapple and milky-way bars.
Then go and jump our brains out.
Many jumpers had come with their female non-jumping counterparts, their dental-floss swimsuits making for, shall we say, a colorful welcome change from seeing just canopy fabric in the sky. We had perma-grins as we repacked plus the guys with the video cams buzzing around the joint in their golf carts must be very popular on rainy days!
At dusk, go down to the marquee and avail of the free beer, good cameraderie and conversation. (And yes we were scoping for babes too.) Refill our beer mugs and either attend one of the seminars on AAD's or Base Jumping, Sit flying etc. --- or trip the light fantastic.
Drive back into town and partake of yet another repast at the local Italian restaurant (Razoli's), "Steak n' Shake", or (Johnny's favourite) Taco Bell. (Yes, Johnny has to get out more!)
Drive back to the hotel, set the A/C, shower, watch Beavis and Butthead for a while, talk about the day before and what we're gonna do in the next, fill out our log-books, set the TV to shut itself off after 30 mins, then hit the sack.
I never, ever stayed awake, long enuff, to catch the TV switch itself off ---- ZONKED!
The infamous "Wet T-shirt contest" was a pisser. I can still hear Scotty's voice (like he's been chewing on old ashtrays for years) spewing:
"All right --- I wanna see a dollah in every one of you fuckers' hands right now, HOLD 'EM UP, ya miserable shits !!!"
Helluva week !!!!
I still have perma-grin and, from now on, the WWF is PERMANENTLY in my yearly calendar for vaykay time.
___ :-) ___