SKY DIVING

"THE GOOD OLD DAYS"

The only difference between a Jump Story and a Fairy Tale is: A Fairy Tale starts out.."Once upon a time" and a jump story starts out...", There I was at...".

Return now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. When parachutes were round the way God intended them to be. Back when you had to do a Parachute Landing Fall (PLF) or risk breaking every bone in your body. In the days when jump airplanes were flown with the door off and you froze to death in the winter time. The Old days when we used military surplus 28 foot 1.1 porosity canopies, when a hot modification was a 7 gore TU and you wore your reserve parachute in front where you could get to it. When hi-tech parachutes were the Pioneer Parachute company's 1.9 lo porosity (Lo-po's) material 28' flat circular parachutes and the Pioneer Parachute Company Para-Commanders (PC's).

From left to right above, an example of a 5 gore TU, a 7 gore TU both military surplus 28 Ft parachutes and a Paracommander. This particular Paracommander is a design called an "Aztec". This was a PC owned by your beloved author. (This picture was taken on one of the Drop Zones at Fort Bragg, North Carolina sometime during the summer of 1968).

I made my first skydiving jump in 1962. My initial training was with the Fort Ord Parachute Team. One of the requirements before I jumped was that I had to join the PCA (Parachute Club of America). This was the forerunner of the USPA (The United States Parachute Association). The training took a couple of weeks and included learning how to do a PLF, making exits from an airplane, getting into a good stable face to earth body position, canopy control and how to pack our parachutes.

My first jump was from a U6A Dehaviland OTTER single engine airplane. As I recall I had to slide across the floor of the airplane and then swing my legs outside the aircraft and sit on the floor with one hand on the door frame and the other on the floor. I remember thinking that the slip stream from the propeller was going to pull me out of the airplane. Of course it didn't and I had to voluntarily throw myself out of the airplane.

Jumpsuits were usually any type of coveralls you could lay your hands on. Skydivers wore everything from mechanics coveralls to military flight suits that had a zillion zippers. All of these involved some type of gymnastic ability to put on and take off. There were some ratty looking jumpers until the Pioneer Parachute Company came along with their double zipper jumpsuits. Really neat because you didn't have to jump up and down and all around to get into them. They came in your basic colors like, black, red, blue, white, yellow. Helmets were usually football helmets or military flight helmets. For a while the head covering of choice was the Bell motorcycle helmets. Footgear was old military high top boots or Paratrooper boots. If you really wanted to get fancy you bought yourself a pair of French jump boots. We called them "Frenchies". Let me tell they were expensive, cost something like $30.00. That was the most I had ever paid for footwear in those days. They were really neat, had these big old thick soles that were air cushioned. If you stepped on a nail you had a flat on one side and walked around with a list to starboard. Real skydivers did not shine their "frenchies". It was considered tacky to walk around wearing your jumpsuit after a jump. But of course if you were wearing your "frenchies" everyone knew you were a real skydiver.

Living at the time in the Monterey Bay area of California. The closest place to skydive was at the Hollister airport. Finding a place to jump usually involved going around knocking on farm house doors until we could find a farmer willing to let us use his farm field as a Drop Zone (DZ). (To be continued)

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Juan A. Fernandez
January 1999
E-Mail:juanf@olywa.net
Copyright © 1998, 1999 Juan Fernandez, all rights reserved