It’s 1982 and a group of Australian’s are frothing over the sport of skydiving. What a blast from the past this is. The Chief Instructor and Co-Owner of Skydive Jurien Bay, Pete Lonnon, had just began learning to skydive in 1982! Enjoy this classic video.
Voiceover: When I first started, I had this terror. It was more than a fear, and I thought “I can’t last in this sport, I know it’s gonna kill me.” I’d just say to myself “One more. Just one more.” And sometimes you look down from the airplane and you see your car.
And I said “If I make this jump, I’m gonna get in that car, and I’m going home, and I’m never coming back to this place.” I just kept that up, and finally the terror dropped down to a nice quiet little fear. And then you start to enjoy it. You really enjoy it.
Speaker 2: Three! Two! Go!
Voiceover: The ram-air parachute is designed the same as an airplane’s wing. It’s got forward drive that was unheard of, in round canopies. And it made the sport just so much more fun. And now, instead of just descending, we can fly.
You become virtually a pilot, you’ve got to land this thing, and land it as softly as possible.
Speaker 3: We got out about 10,000 feet then, and that gave us approximately I’d say about 45 seconds of free fall, before we had to put a parachute out. And you can do a hell of a lot of things in 45 seconds. After a jump I’m usually full of adrenaline, and I shake like this. Well I am cold, but the shake comes from … I just had a big rush. And it’ll take me a little while to calm down.
Voiceover: The drop zone is more than just a place where you jump out of airplanes. It’s somewhere where you mix with people with a common interest. Nothing else seems to exist for two days of your life.
Speaker 3: That was top dollar, real good. But I’m bloody cold!
Voiceover: I think it’s the friendliest thing I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve been in a lot of other sporting clubs, and they really didn’t care what happened. But in jumping, people care, they really care.
Speaker 3: Yeah, a screamer.
Voiceover: Jumping is such an incredible experience, and for as little as $100, anyone can do it. It doesn’t matter how big or how small you are, if you want to do it, you can do it. It just involves one weekend of your time. You’re up there on the Saturday, you do your ground training, and on the Sunday you’re a skydiver.
Speaker 4: That feels nice, solid grip on the step, put that hand out. There’s a lot of wind out there, something like 60 miles an hour, so you’ve gotta make sure you get a good grip there. [inaudible 00:06:23] with that hand, and this leads out here.
Don’t be frightened of the wind, it’s not gonna hurt you. It’s just blowing nice and hard. Like I said, like on a motorbike. And from there, it’s just a gentle hop. Okay? Nothing difficult. You let go, bam. You fall away, and as you do your count, this tightens up.
As that tightens up, that happens. So, as you’re falling away, and this stays inflated, all the line’s coming out. You can actually see that they’re full of elastic bands there. And as you pull away, all those lines come undone. Just like that.
Now that’s what you call line stretch. Locking flap opens, then the actual parachute starts to come out of the bag. And the whole thing opens from the top down. See how big it is? See all the gores, all the panels that make it up? You got the apex, you’ve got the bag and the pilot chute there. And you’ve got all these big panels here, called modifications.
Voiceover: Packing parachutes isn’t such a great big of a deal, it’s really just like folding a handkerchief. When you’ve packed your own, you really know what you’ve got on your back.
Speaker 3: I always pack my own parachute. It’s something you’ve got in this sport, otherwise you wouldn’t jump. Jumpers are basically a lazy lot, and they hate packing. I really don’t think you’d get anyone to pack it for you.
This particular parachute cost me $900, 18 months ago. And you’re looking at about $500 for the container, and anything up to $700 you can pay, for a reserve parachute. So they’re expensive, but they do last a long time, if you look after them.
Speaker 5: I went into a fence not too long ago, and I’ve got a few good tears in here. So I’m just putting this rip stop on it, sort of gives it a bit of strength, stops the tear from becoming any bigger. Personally, if I get a hole in this thing, I like to make sure it’s patched up, you know?
It won’t really cause any trouble with the flying features of the canopy. But you tend to forget about them after a while. There’s so much area here, and if I find one hole and leave it, and sort of think “I’ll fix that next week,” well the next week I might have to spend an hour or two trying to find the one hole in amongst all this material.
Speaker 4: Okay. Power. Out you get. Go! One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, five thousand, six thousand. Okay, you’ve got to be aggressive, you’ve got to put a lot into it, okay? There’s no use going up and going one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, it’s very wishy-washy.
You go out, just go “One thousand! Two thousand! Three thousand!” It’s going to be that much harder, isn’t it? Because you put a lot into it, and that’s what we want to see. Really military like.
Speaker 6: Five four three two one, three thousand! Okay on the rear risers, watch your height, watch your alts. On your toggles, give it a pump. Approaching two thousand feet, you’d like to cut away.
Speaker 7: If you have an accidental deployment in the aircraft, remember, try and smother it as quick as you can. If it does get out one of the holes, make sure you go out the same hole with it. If at any stage you’re sitting beside someone who has this, make sure to get out of his way and give the wearer every opportunity to get out.
Voiceover: Jumping as we know it now, as sport parachuting, was really started in the army. They really pioneered the whole thing. They have contributed a lot of jumping. Sports clubs started with army surplus gear.
Army jumpers today are a hell of a lot different band of people than they were, say 20, 30 years ago, when they were doing it for obvious reasons. Not only are they doing it for a sport, they’re doing it for a job. And jumping is their whole life, not just their weekend thing.
Speaker 8: Determined to have its airborne operations and para-drops top-ten perfection, the Department of Defense stages continuing tests at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. And here an advanced party hits the ground, to prepare the way for the main body being disgorged on transport planes of the 18th air force.
2,000 paratroopers of the famed 82nd Airborne Division are engaged in the maneuver. The most spectacular mass jump since World War II. A sky full of fighting men, ready, willing, and able, for any emergency.
Speaker 9: Parachuting has come a long way since the Chinese first started jumping off towers, way back in the 12th century. Even Leonardo Da Vinci had a go at designing them. Fortunately for us, he never tried. Since the Second World War, the sport of parachuting has caught the public eye, with aerial barnstormers performing spectacular stunts like this.
Voiceover: Parachuting in the early 70s was a real gung-ho sport. I think this is where people got the idea that parachuters are daredevils, and they’re crazy and I think, from some of the films I’ve seen, I agree with them.
Speaker 9: Geronimo! And now, to mark the beginning of the 70s, last weekend, a group of skydivers got together in the sky over a New South Wales drop zone, or DZ as they call it, south of Sydney, Australia. To prove that men can indeed fly.
Photographed in free fall by daredevil cameraman Brian Quinn. And this is the Australian record. 14 skydivers linked together. Truly, a space age sport.
Voiceover: Prometheus. I really wondered where they got the name. It didn’t seem much of a name for a team that was gonna represent Australia, and I thought “A guy sitting on a rock with an eagle eating his liver?” That’s just not on.
And then you check it out in the dictionary, and it says “A Promethean, one creative, boldly original. One who dares to exceed the bounds which others accept.”
Speaker 10: Ready! Set! Go!
Voiceover: I think, in the amount of time that I’ve been in the sport, and the people that I’ve jumped with, they’re really really brilliant. I’ve never seen anything in the sky like it. They’re just poetry, they’re beautiful to watch.
Speaker 11: Eight Way Sequential is really a fantastic picture of eight symbols, moving around together, doing the same thing together, connections from back to front. To do it well, as well as Prometheus does, it’s really flying, there’s no others to describe it. They have a lot of different ideas of how to go about it. But everybody on that team knows exactly which end is which.
Voiceover: The average skydiver couldn’t reach that degree of excellence just jumping weekends, with different people. They are very good skydivers anyway, to start with, and they just do so many training jumps together. They all learn, they sit on the ground and talk after every jump.
They improve on their last performance. If they can see a mistake in one of their team members, they tell them. It just grows. And over a few hundred practice jump, this thing just becomes a team.
Well the world meet is what it’s all about. All the practice, all the money, you’re finally there. And you’ve gotta do it. It’s not a fun jump anymore, this is serious. And this is why you’re there, this is why you spend years and years of training.
Speaker 10: Ready! Set! Go!
Voiceover: In one dive, they scored nine formations. And that would have been enough to win the world meet. But there was a missed grip on the third formation. So they didn’t score, after the third formation. There was only three people in Prometheus actually knew that that grip wasn’t taken.
The other five people thought they won. It was only on the replay, with the video, that it was picked up. It’s not just up to a judge’s eye anymore. They have cameras, and they can play them and play them. And they don’t lie.
Speaker 12: After the jump, everybody’s under the canopy going “Yahoo!” And we’re all landing really close together, everybody’s going “Yo!” You know how we can get this vibe which is that you’ve just done it, the one that you need, pulled it out of the hat.
And the girls are running over and knocking us down, saying “Yeah, you go boys!”
Speaker 13: Ladies and Gentlemen, the results in the Eight Way Sequential event are as follows. In third place, Prometheus Australia with 79 points. In second place, [phonetic 00:18:36] Auspex Canada with 81 points, and in first place, eight golds to Mirror Image, United States of America, with 83 points.
Speaker 12: It was nice to receive a medal. Not as good as what we wanted. We felt really good. We all looked at each other and said “Ah, we’ll see you around next year, probably.”
Voiceover: When it was all over, and the guy said “Third place,” of course they were disappointed. They never went over there for any red ribbons, these guys wanted to win. But I suppose there’s hard luck stories in every team. I suppose if we spoke to the Americans and the Canadians, they had made mistakes too. You always say “If…”
To get a team like this together, it’s gotta be a total commitment. They’ve gotta say “Well right, we’re gonna spend a great deal of dollars.” And their life’s just not gonna be their own for the period of time that they’re training, anyway, for a meet as important as this.
None of them got any money today. They’re broke. They’ve spent everything to go to the world meet. You go to training camp and you’re paying something like $12 a jump. And these guys have done hundreds of jumps, to train.
I think they’d do it again. They really loved it. They were dedicated skydivers, and they had a purpose. They wanted to do something, and they bloody near did it.
Dido, I think everything that she could do, she won the New Zealand national, she’s a really good style and accuracy jumper. She’s been to world meets. But she’s a very friendly person, she’s a good person to jump with, always got a smile. She’s a great girl.
Di: Go when we’re ready?
Speaker 14: Yeah.
Di: 20 seconds.
Speaker 14: Yeah, pull away for 20 seconds, and then just go into your style.
Speaker 14: Yeah.
Di: Your practice is basically learning to do exactly a 360 degree turn, stop it, do another one, stop it. Do it backward, stop it. And still end up facing the same direction. It’s hard work. It’s not fun. But if I do a good jump, I just love it.
If I do nine jumps in a weekend, and the ninth is the only good one, I go home feeling so happy.
Voiceover: The sunset land, on any drop zone, has gotta be the greatest jump of the day. It’s just got so much atmosphere. There is a certain feeling of unwinding. You’ve been tense all day, you’ve been packing, jumping. And the sunset land just tells you that it’s all over for the day, and you just feel so totally relaxed.
Speaker 17: Go! One thousand! Two thousand! Three thousand! Four thousand! Five thousand! Six thousand!
Speaker 4: [inaudible 00:22:26] function turn to the right.
Speaker 17: Legs together, hold.
Speaker 18: You want me to throw it?
Speaker 4: Yes.
Speaker 18: Throw!
Voiceover: Drop zones tend to be one big happy family. Everybody knows everyone else. The amazing thing about jumpers is that they’re people first, and jumpers second. They definitely don’t have suicidal tendencies, despite what a lot of people think.
They’re no different to anybody else. All they want to do is jump out of airplanes, mix with people with a common interest.
Speaker 19: We had a beautiful little eleven-man going.
Di: Athol’s always there, he’s just really good to have around. Everyone likes to see him here, and jump with him. And he loves jumping, just loves it.
Speaker 19: And when I come in under reserve, it was all twisted and I couldn’t get my head up. No!
Di: Athol’s always encouraging, he always goes out and helps people if they’re getting a bit down. He’s the one who goes and cheers them up. At the nationals, he’d come to you and he’d say “Go Di, you can beat them, come on you can do it!”
And I’d say “Oh Athol I can’t! I’m doing quite well but I can’t keep it up.” And he’d say “Yes you can, you go out and you do it.” And so I did, I went out and did it.
Voiceover: After a day’s jumping, you sit around a fire with a can of beer. People just talk, they talk about the sport, they talk about themselves. And you learn so much about people. And jumpers really are a unique bunch of people.
Jumpers will rage all night. And they really enjoy one another’s company, and feel really upset when its over. This party should go on forever.
Speaker 19: Look down here, this nice big paddock, this is cool, this is great. Fence there, fence there, great open country. And this tree went “Woo!” Whack, straight into this tree. I couldn’t believe it.
Speaker 4: Okay you know what you’re gonna do on your first jump don’t you? Okay, power off, climb out on the strut, out you get, you’ll be out there. Set yourself up, what do you do when you’re ready? Ready to go?
Speaker 20: Look at you.
Speaker 4: Look at me, that’s right. And I will yell out “Go!” Then what are you gonna do?
Speaker 20: Jump and spread eagle.
Speaker 4: How does that feel?
Speaker 22: How do you feel? Alright, happy?
Speaker 20: Nervous, yeah. Apprehensive, uh-huh. But overwhelmed, excited.
Speaker 4: Feel happy? Know what you’re gonna do? You’ll be right.
After somebody goes through the training program, and they realize how the equipment works, how to handle malfunctions, generally their fears tend to disappear. Because they know the gear’s gonna work. They’re confident with their instructions, what they know.
The only thing they’re a little bit worried about maybe is if they stuff up. And there’s no way of them knowing that until they’re actually out of the airplane, and doing it.
Happy? Turn around and back in. Slowly, take your time. Okay, watch that reserve handle back there please.
Voiceover: I always remember my first jump. I think most people who jump do. It’s something that really sticks in your mind. I remember on mine, I was very very frightened. And the instructor was giving a few corrections, a left here and a right there, to bring us in over the spot.
And I remember him looking over my shoulder, giving all his corrections to the pilot, and I was thinking “It’s gotta be soon” and “It’s gotta be soon,” and I was very agitated. Then you just hear this very loud voice: “Power off!” And it’s “Well, this is it, here I go.”
Speaker 4: Power off! Out you get.
Voiceover: I had this feeling that I really didn’t want to do it. And I remember moving, but very very slowly. I really don’t think I was in any hurry at all to get out of that airplane.
Speaker 4: Go!
Voiceover: It was just so much tremendous drama. The noise of the airplane, the wind, and then total silence. From one world into another in a split second. It’s a feeling that I’ll never ever forget.
Speaker 20: It ain’t gonna stop. Incredible. That was amazing. While I was up there [inaudible 00:28:16] he said “Now make sure you watch me. Just keep watching, no matter what you do. Get a good arch, and look at me.”
So when I went, I was just … the instruction come through, but I was just looking at the guy, and he just had one big smile on his face. I saw the plane go away, it was just amazing. Coming down it was incredible. Ahh. It’s got me hooked. Got me hooked.
Speaker 23: Ready! Set! Go!
Voiceover: Demonstration jumps are really our link with the public, where people do get their first glimpse of parachuting. If you have a demonstration jump, you’re going into a sports ground, or whatever, a football field, and you getting out over a town, and it’s just so different.
All the houses down there, and the roofs. It just looks a lot closer than it is. It’s not as free as a normal jump. People expect you to land on this cross. And they expect you to get in. They don’t want you landing two miles away from the football field, when you’re supposed to get in there and entertain the public.
But if you’re good enough to go on a demonstration jump, well you’re good enough to land on that cross. And if you’re gonna stuff it up, well you’re just not gonna go on any more.
Speaker 24: [inaudible 00:29:52] the red white and blue canopy, she’s the former New Zealand champ and represented at the world championships. Who said chivalry’s dead? Look at Di, she’s getting a very cushy landing as the fellas catch her, landing right on target.
And finally it’s Tony’s turn, and as the rest of the team pull him in for another successful accuracy jump.
Voiceover: I know there’s not a lot of things in my life that I really look forward to. I know from Monday to Friday now it’s just sort of an existence until the weekend comes, and then you feel happy again, there’s no pressure.
When we’ve got a DC-3, everyone’s really got an adrenaline rush when they walk on to the place. It’s different than normal jumping, like say out of five-place aircraft or whatever. You’re going in to do really big jumps.
Personally, I start to feel excited around about the Wednesday. Yeah, the butterflies are really big. The public look at you and they say “Well this guy does that, this guy does this, he’s some kind of superman, he’s so very very brave.”
I think I’ve met some of the most delicate people I’ve ever met in my life that jump out of airplanes. They’re just normal people from all walks of life. I don’t think you can put it into any category. I mean, I know people, doctors, lawyers, tradesmen, truck drivers, whatever.
There’s just nothing that says “Right, now this guy’s gonna be a skydiver,” on his background. It’s something that the individual’s got.
Speaker 25: I’ve tried this before, it doesn’t work.
Voiceover: A dirt dive is really essential to any skydive. It’s like a little dance. What you want to do in the air, you’ve gotta do on the ground first. And you practice it, and practice it, and practice it.
Speaker 25: Why don’t we go from that principle 14-handed four-man cat, and then opposing, then like suddenly go to a donut, spread out to a donut. [inaudible 00:32:18] and do that one hand, just turn on one hand. Don’t take your other grip up until we get it straight.
Voiceover: You can work out something real elaborate on the ground and it works really good in the dirt dive. And you get in the air, and you only need one person just out of position, or high or low on the formation, and it just doesn’t work.
But I think in fun jumping, more than competition, the dirt dives are like that anyway. You always have a plan B, and say “Well, if this doesn’t work, we’ll do this.”
Speaker 26: We’ve got a cameraman on this load just in case.
Voiceover: I’ve been in countless funnels. Things just go out of control in the sky, someone takes your air, and everyone seems to get a big laugh about this. I’ve been taken out so many times.
And you get on the ground and nobody’s ever done. You’ll say “Who blew that? Who bombed the stack?” Nobody. So there’s a phantom jumper up there somewhere. And he’s just blowing formations out everywhere.
Speaker 2: How’s everything in Central Queensland, Skip? [inaudible 00:33:44]
Voiceover: You really really get to know people when you’ve jumped with them. You can drink beer with a guy, and you don’t really know that guy. But when you jump with him, you know him. He’s himself, he’s not acting anymore. There’s no pretense. It’s real, it’s happening, you really know what that guy’s all about in the air.
When you’re sitting in the plane, you just watch the different reactions of different people. You see some people asleep, other people looking out the window. You see other people that are really agitated, and they’re checking their gear.
Of course, that sets off a chain reaction. Anybody that’s watching hims tarts to check their own gear. Some people show fear more than others. Some people try to act super cool but it’s there. It’s there with everybody.
Speaker 19: But it’s all over when you get out. Don’t follow it all out the door, you’d have a big problem. I think everybody’s mostly feeling the same. A little bit apprehensive in the airplane. I think basically these people love to be scared. And that’s why they do it. I don’t think you’d do it if you didn’t get a rush.
Speaker 27: If you worry about it, it tends to sort of accumulate, and you blow it for the rest of the people. You want to make it a good jump for everybody else as well.
Speaker 18: Every time you go through the door, you wonder how is the jump gonna go, what’s gonna happen. No matter what you plan, they never really work out according to plan.
Voiceover: When you get out of the door of an airplane, you’re committed to what’s on your back. And all the yelling and screaming in the world is just not gonna make it any different. That’s there, you’re committed with that.
And I think once you get this idea in your head, stop worrying about the gear, it’s gonna work, you feel confident with it. You do a hell of a lot more in the sky.
Speaker 28: The feeling you get is a bit like riding a motorbike at high speed. You’re right there, you’re living yesterday, you’re not living tomorrow, you’re not living outside it, you’re all right there. And it’s all happening very fast.
Speaker 10: Ten seconds! Ready! Set! Go!
Voiceover: A guy once said to me “Whenever you get doubts in jumping, and you say “Why do you do it?”, always answer yourself in free fall. Never answer in the airplane or on the ground. In free fall, that’s where you answer all your questions. And you get a true answer.”
Free fall. That’s total happiness. I feel happier doing that than I think anything I’ve ever done. But there’s no sensation of speed, I don’t get a sensation of speed. I don’t get a sensation of falling. It’s just a freedom thing. You actually feel like a bird.
If you want to be in a certain place, you can be there. You can fly there. And you do it with people you like, it’s just so much better.
The free fall part of the jump is the most relaxed part of the jump. But when you gotta put that parachute out, that’s – I’ve spoken to a lot of jumpers about this – this is when it happens. You’re watching every move it makes, and you just want a little bit of a start on it.
If anything does happen to go wrong, you’re on the ball. Malfunctions are something that the jumpers don’t really want. I know a few jumpers who’ve gone through 1000, 1200 jumps, never had a mal. And they become a little bit paranoid about this.
It happened to me on my 81st jump, and it really surprised me. “What the hell have I got here?” I was jumping old gear. But on the old gear it was cables, and you’ve got to pull these covers down, pull rings, to cut away the main parachute.
And the gear I had was pretty antiquated. And I put out this 24-foot float. And it opened beautiful, you know. And it was worth a million bucks that parachute. At the time, you’re glad it’s happened, because it’s “Now I can do that.” And that’s great, and I feel happy. But then again, 19 jumps later, I had another one. And yeah I screamed like a girl.
Like everything these days, I guess you reach a point where you feel you can do something well. Then you want to do something different. For skydivers, it’s what they call canopy relative work.
Canopy relative work hasn’t been around for a long time. It’s only the last few years. I think that people believe that they can do more in jumping than what they’ve been doing previously. And so they started putting one and two parachutes together. And then said “Well why can’t we do three? And four?” And now the sky’s just the limit with canopy relative work.
Speaker 29: Controls. [inaudble 00:47:56]
Voiceover: If you want to go snow skiing or you want to ride a motorcycle, or whatever, it’s no good saying “I wish I could do that.” You go and do it. And you mightn’t be very good, but at least you do it. And I think that’s what life’s all about, is doing what you really want to do in life.
Saying “I’d love to do that but I’m too scared,” how do you know you’re too scared if you don’t try?
Speaker 28: Every time you get on a plane, you know why you do it. There’s just nothing like it. There’s no feeling on Earth like it. That I know of.
Speaker 30: You’re flying. You’re flying with these guys, just floating around. It’s amazing.
Speaker 10: One minute. Clip in. Clip in.
Voiceover: If I ever do live to be an old man, I want to sit in a rocking chair with a smile on my face, and say “Well, I’ve done that.” Instead of saying “I wish I’d’ve done that.” And I think that sums it up in a nutshell.
Speaker 10: Ten seconds!
Ready! Set! Go!