Jump from the sky and land beneath the sea, without getting wet.
Having returned from Mozambique in July 1974 and staying on my parents’ farm near Warmbaths until my wife, my nine month old daughter and I flew to Europe, there was enough time to catch up on some skydiving from Wonderboom Airport, my nearest dropzone. It was also a good time to link up with old friends.
At four thousand, five hundred feet above sea level, there is a limit to how much altitude one can grab before the lack of oxygen makes one light headed, but it helps if there is a fast climbing kite. Wonderboom Club now had one such; a Pilatus Porter (ZS-IHB). With a climb rate of 5.1m/sec, it reached heaven in no time at all. Carrying ten jumpers, its acquisition enabled the formation of record-breaking link-ups, or stars.
Purchasing my dream parachute, a Para-Commander Mk1, commonly called a PC, I had just one jump with it before taking it with me to the UK. Back then, it was like abandoning a delivery van for a Ferrari.
“Actually, you won’t need this,” an airline official told me, “We have a good safety record.”
After four jumps over two weekends with the friendly Eagle Adventure Sports Centre at Ashford Airport, Lympne, Kent, with my PC, we were off to Holland to visit my wife’s Dutch family, and catch up with old friend, Lotte (nee Korndorffer) Lasche, again, at Nunspeet. A friend of hers was a skydiver who had just started a club at Lelystad, a brand new modern city on the Flevoland Polder.
He collected me early. We drove westwards to Hardewijk where we could cross the meer to the Polder, which is reclaimed land that lies below sea-level, surrounded by dykes. Dykes are made of basalt blocks, I was told, held together by a sort of reed matting that grows when it is submerged. Sand and silt is then pumped, from the bed of the meer and shipping channels, into the voids between the blocks. It was strange seeing vast open fields of corn and wheat with so little settlement, compared with the rest of Holland.
He and I jumped from a Cessna 206 into a wheat field, some fifteen km. from the airfield. I did a stand-up landing with the low-porosity C9 he had lent me, having been used to landing in the thinner air of altitude, but now landing below sea-level. He had to explain this to his students and warn them not to try it, but to do a correct parachutist roll!
Back in the UK, I spent a day and two nights at Grindale Field, near Bridlington, jumping my PC from a Reims Rocket (G-BAAS). The view as we climbed sky over Flamborough Head was stupendous. It was a small but serious jump school, with bedrooms for visitors, indoor packing tables and full-time instructors. I had three jumps, practicing my tracking skills to move accurately and safely across the sky towards other skydivers so as to link up with them.
After a few glorious days in the Highlands, I was headed south again, calling in at Half-penny Green Airfield near Wolverhampton, which was a buzzing parachute centre in those days, but there was no action as the weather was terrible.
Personally, I was not a keen team man; again perhaps afraid of letting my team mates down. However, back in South Africa in December, 1974/January 1975, I moved to the Eastern Cape as a farm manager and jumped at Port Alfred and King Williamstown, having my first three-way with Jim Patterson (D13) a Canadian, and R.D.Lipson (then C253).
From a thread by Jim Patterson to my post on the www.dropzone.com website, 35 years later, in February 2010:
|Forums: Skydiving: Skydiving History & Trivia:
From Rustenburg to Wonderboom
Old log books are wonderful. I don’t have it right here, this is what I remember when I looked at it last week:
29 Dec. 1974, first jump of the day
Cessna 182 ZS-CMY 8000 ft
Peter Earle’s first hook-up
Second jump; 3- way with Peter Earle, Lipson 3rd
We had a lot of fun on the coast that week, besides jumps at Port Alfred airfield, we landed on the beach at Kenton-on-Sea and on a sand bar in the Bushman River mouth at low tide. No squares yet, all PCs.
In February 1975, my son was born with touch-and-go medical difficulties which incurred expenses we could not handle without a little sacrifice. I sold my rag, my PC, and never jumped again.