Pictured is the cover page of my last logbook and a portion of my last Skydiving license. Skydivers log each jump. Careful logging is not only a good counting tool and learning tool. It is also a process to determine a skydiver’s licensing grade.
I stopped jumping with a C, advanced level license. My log book shows that my last jump was on May 12, 1984, in Bishopville, SC at 2pm, and was jump number 201. I am sure that I made a few more jumps than that, as some fun jumps I considered throwaways and I did not log.
Logbooks can be a bit like diaries. When you look back through them there is page after page of mundane entries. Certainly each jump is indeed different. Was I the spotter, or was I the first out on the wing, or the last out? Was I jump mastering a student jump, or part of a small team? But generally, many entries tend to be reparative. You read a few and then you start hoping you find something different. In a skydiver’s logbook, however, you are guaranteed to find something different or exciting, especially if the jumper kept good records. Skydiving is a wild, fun sport, and often full of surprises.
For example, flipping backwards just three jumps from my last jump is jump number 198, malfunction number 4. On April 7, 1984, during jump number 198, again in Bishopville, SC, I jumped from 8,000 feet out of Cessna 182. After a free fall sequential Four-Man with my diving friends Tim, Wally, and Mark, I broke apart from the group to pull my chute only to find that the left sets of lines of the square chute were knotted up. I had to cut away the main and go for my reserve chute. Bless all Riggers who pack reserve chutes. As I said, that was malfunction number four. First malfunction or last, it is always a spooky experience.
My first malfunction, which technically wasn’t a malfunction, was November 7, 1981. It was jump number 3. I was jumping in Lugoff, South Carolina. The rig I was using was called a LoPo or ChePo, a large, round parachute that looks something like a World War II military chute. In fact it was the exact same type of chute except it was red and white instead of drab green. I was jumping a static line. Again, like the military, there was a sixteen-foot line that was attached to the pull system of my rig, with that line attached to the plane itself. The jumper leaves the plane and sixteen feet later, the line draws tight and yanks the parachute out of the pack and then the line disconnects from the chute. This is how jumpers use to get their start, jumping several static line jumps until their jump masters felt they were ready to jump and pull on their own.
During that third jump, when the chute deployed, I looked up and saw all the lines coming together at a common point about five feet over my head. The chute was big and round, but all the lines were twisted together. In my mind, it was a knot. I immediately realized I was not going to be able to steer the chute to land in the right place. I made a quick decision, cut away the main and went to my reserve chute. It wasn’t until I got on the ground and explained to my jump master what happened that I learned that for all round chutes there is a low level malfunction called a line twist. If I had just waited about five or ten seconds longer, I would have spun around, like a pencil tied to a string, and the lines would have untwisted themselves. Fortunately, I handled the reserve pull well so I was able to live and learn.
My logbooks are full of surprises and fun experiences. My water jump, jumping into Lake Wateree right behind Cale Yarborough’s home. My night jump into the Bishopville airport. Several jumps from more than 15,000 feet, close to three miles up, from a DC-3 in Florida. My Stack jumps, where I flew relative to, and hooked up with other skydivers while under a canopy. My jumping years were a great experience. I hope someday I will be able to jump out of a perfectly good airplane again.