rothstein-arthur-1942-instructor-explaining-the-operation-of-a-parachute-to-student-pilots-meacham-field-fort-worth-tex-locI have been asked many times to describe the sensations one gets when jumping.  The first one was a real thrill, but the confidence aroused by the perfect functioning of the chute made any future thrill hard to raise, as one has nothing but anticipation of a pleasant glide to earth before him when he knows his chute and its safety factor.  The life of a parachute instructor, with its schedule of jumps with each class, becomes dull, and we often were forced to think up some new stunt that would drive away the ennui of the routine.

We made our mascot — Bing — the most famous dog in the world by taking him up for a jump in a chute fitted to the needs of the canine aviator.  He lay on the wing beside me and when we were over a spot that would land him on the field I released his chute.  He only registered great surprise when he saw me departing aboard the plane while he was hanging in something, he knew not what, up among the birds who  flew over to see how that lowly animal of the earth came to be among them.  I jumped after him and, due to greater weight, soon caught up with him in descent.  We were nearing the ground and I heard him bark at several jack-rabbits which he spied from his advantageous observation post.  Upon landing he made use of the knowledge so gained by an immediate rabbit hunt.

The question of whether one’s body would blow back into the tail surfaces when leaping from the cockpit of the plane was a weighty one before our first jump.  Many contended that this would happen, but the experience is much like that of leaving any fast moving object — your body carries the same speed as the object just left for the first few seconds and then gradually falls back.  In other words, you do not drop like a plummet, but describe a large arc.  Leaving the plane while in spin was deferred for a long time, but we found it good sport, as the force of the spinning plane throws your body in a straight line away from the fuselage and gives you quite a kick.

Questions often asked and their answers are:…

What do you think about while coming down? — Only the usual things which might be on your mind at the time, such as the date for the evening, etc., except as happened once on a 7,000-foot jump.  I was carried past the field and was drifting over a swamp, to land in which might be serious.  By side-slipping the chute, which is the way we guide ourselves to the place we wish to land, I found that I might miss the swamp, but it looked as if the last trees might not be cleared, so the thought uppermost was, will it be a broken leg, arm, neck, or what?  I skidded down through the last tree with arms about my head to protect my eyes from the branches and drew up my knees to help cover.  Luck was with me, for I broke through without spilling the air from the chute and landed safely.

What would you do if it did not open? — Seems foolish, but we never worry, as in practice we wear two chutes.  If the first fails we have a reserve.  This saved a captain’s life some time ago.  He had taken our course and returned to his station and decided to show his new stunt.  He leaped from 3,000 feet (there is a rule which prohibits jumps from a lesser altitude than 1,500 feet), but his first chute came out in a  tangle, through some fault in folding.  He fell about 2,000 feet before he reached for his second chute, which opened properly and brought him down safely except for a a few bruises sustained when the harness tightened on him after his long fall.

Through this mishap we found that a person ordinarily does not lose consciousness, not matter how far the fall.  We have to watch our jumpers now to keep them from making a practice of “holding their rip cords,” which they do to get more kick out of the jump by experiencing the long fall.

 

 

Source:  Sgt. Gilbert A.  Shoemaker, A. S., “Parachute Jumping,” Recruiting News, January 1, 1925, p. 11.

Image source:  Arthur Rothstein, “Instructor explaining the operation of a parachute to student pilots, Meacham Field, Fort Worth, Tex,” 1942, Library of Congress.

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