|By Carmelo Turdo|
Flying in the Golden Knights' Troopship is a unique experience, and one that The Aero Experience Founder Carmelo Turdo could not pass up (our colleague, Leo Cachat, flew with the team on Friday). Previously, he had flown with the Golden Knights at the last Whiteman AFB airshow, but the high winds prevented the team from jumping that day. As the aircraft rose over the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport in a series of left climbing turns, the team gave directions to help the flight crew maintain position in relation to the target area on the ground. As the aircraft steadily climbed to about 13,000 feet, the temperature quickly dropped, the oxygen saturation level decreased, and the wind increased through the doorways. Winter coat, hat and gloves are recommended, even during the summer months. The team members were wearing their insulated jump suites, gloves and helmets as standard uniform. As we climbed to jump altitude, each team member rotated around the cabin, sitting down to chat briefly with the media members in between making position checks looking over the edge of the doorway untethered. The return to the airport was another matter, with a series of left spirals that made for dramatic effect when seen through the cockpit windows from the position in the tail section!
Dramatic photos were be taken through each door as the jumpers left the aircraft, smoke canisters on their feet and cameras on their helmets. Thankfully, there were several opportunities to get the photos as they exited, some saluting as they left the aircraft. They dropped out of sight surprisingly fast, so a burst setting is necessary to catch them before they disappear from view. The rear doors were closed for the second approach back at the airport.
It was a humbling experience to participate in the two Golden Knights sorties that day and to be a witness to the excellence demonstrated by members of the U.S. military services. The team remained focused on preparing for a successful demonstration, yet they were attentive to the media visitors and looked out for our welfare as their own. The Aero Experience is thankful for these opportunities to accompany the Golden Knights at Cape Girardeau, and we wish them safe travels throughout the coming year.