|By Leo Cachat|
I also had the privilege of riding along with the Golden Knights on Friday evening as they performed an evening jump in Cape Girardeau, MO. The Aero Experience was the only media outlet on board as we headed into the evening sky. Before the jump, I was briefed on what would be happening as the soldiers got ready to board the aircraft. It starts on the ground as they act out the whole jump - in the air communication is tough, it's really loud and screaming is the only way to be heard. So after the "dirt dive" as they label it, it's into the C-31A Troopship for the real deal.
The jumpers get ready and the engines are started. Soon the jumpers are suited up, and we head out to the runway. We then climb to 2000 feet for the streamer drop. The streamers are used to calculate wind speed and direction. They are watched intently as they fall. When they reach the ground, the climb continues to 12,500 feet begins through numerous banking turns. When we left the ground the temperature was around 60 degrees; at 12,500 feet - about 3 degrees. There is also a 120mph wind whipping through the two open doors. I thought I was back in Cleveland in January!
As we climbed, the jumpers rotated their positions in the plane to allow me to talk with them, which unfortunately was kind of a lost cause because I could hardly hear them. Fortunately, I have attended many of their airshow performances and I knew everything that was happening. It was very cool to see how friendly and laid back they were. I was encouraged several times to put my hand out the door, which I did. It took a little while to get to altitude, but once there, everything happened in a hurry.
First out was the narrator. His descent was carefully monitored, since he was to start the narration for their show after landing. The others left quickly afterward. This was to be one mass jump with pyro and smoke.
At this point, the light was getting dim and photographing the jump was going to be tough, I was shivering by this point, as we had been up somewhere around 30 minutes by this time. I had never done anything close to this before, and I really only had two more opportunities to get anything good. I love the challenge of something as tricky as this, and it makes me look forward to the next time I can ride along with them. I think I managed to get some good images - you be the judge. Many thanks to the Golden Knights, Mark Seesing and Mike Battise for this great opportunity and privilege.