Jul 25, 2007

My one and only parachute experience

In a conversation with Johnny Yen, I remarked that I had made one jump in my life. While I was digging around for pictures of Skylers Halloween costumes, I found a couple of pics of the day's event:

This was when I was stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. There was a program where they would take you up to experience a parachute jump over a weekend called Jump Hawaii. At the entrance of the place, there was a piece of canvas stretched tightly over a frame, with a sign that said free jump if you can put your fingers through this canvas. More on this later!

On Saturday, you would practice hopping off of a picnic table and rolling, then you hung by the harness in a tree and practiced releasing your main chute and pulling the cord on the reserve. When they thought you had drilled enough, you went home and then came back Sunday to go up in the plane.

This was what is called a static line jump, they don't trust you to freefall and pull your own ripcord the first jump. So think of those WWII movies with all of the paratroopers hooking up and jumping out of the plane. The line pulls your chute out for you.

So we go up and I am #2 out the door. You have the main chute on your back, the reserve on your belly, and a radio on top of the reserve. My chute deploys normally and it is very odd how quiet it is while you drift down. The radio comes to life and they are telling me pull left, pull right, and guiding me to the drop zone.

The wind is much stronger than they thought, and jumper #1 is in the water just off of the drop zone. I am coming down really close to the bushes that are between the water and drop zone, and just graze them as I come in. See bottom photo.

Turns out Jumper #1 almost drowned, because the don't think to teach you how to disconnect from the chute and swim out underneath it! Lucky for him a wave boarder came over and pulled him out.

Back to the canvas sheet... We all asked WTF is this thing? They said they would tell us over beers after the jump. Turns out a couple of years ago, the had a guy jump that had a double malfunction. His main chute streamered (didn't fill with air)so he had his shit together and got rid of it, then pulled the ripcord out of the reserve.

It came out in his hand and the chute didn't come out of the canvas sack.

He was dropping like a rock and somehow, stuck his fingers through the side of the canvas bag, pulled the chute out and deployed it himself. When he landed, bone was sticking out the ends of 3 fingers on that hand.

Pretty amazing what you can do when you are about to die, isn't it?


  1. Great story. Believe it or not, you one-upped me. I've never jumped out of a perfectly good plane before.

  2. Can't believe there is something that I have done that you haven't!

  3. Anonymous1:28 PM

    Nice picture of you before the jump!

  4. Great pictures! I've mentioned before that at least one parachute jump is in my life plan.

  5. I was with the 71st Airborne Battalion, a National Guard unit. I hated the anticipation before the jump but, once you were outside the plane and you could see your chute was open, the view and the silence were fantastic. You just wanted to float up there all day.