Thursday, October 21, 2021


Back-Tracking —A Parachutist Anniversary Series

Back-Tracking —A Parachutist Anniversary Series

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

“As we rose into position for the streamer drop the planes with advertising banners trailing began to head for more distant skies. Until now the planes had circled the field selling their messages to all that would look skyward, but the instructions from the National tower were heeded and they suddenly seemed to vanish.

Taking our cue by recognizing formations of the halftime entertainers on the field below and a word from the barely audible walkie talkie, we moved to the exit point. From here the panorama of Washington was spectacular. The great white dome of our nation’s capital was only a little over a mile away to the west, and the Washington Monument stood erect behind it. The lazy Potomac curved around the Pentagon and National Airport on the left. Beyond Union Station on the right, the National Cathedral rose from the heights of northwest Washington.

Any one of thousands of jumpers would give their right eyeball and probably other valuable parts to be in my boots at that moment.

I opened just off the wind line but in good shape except for the cussed fine nylon beard. Getting it out of my zippered coat was a problem in that it snagged on the zipper and hooks and wanted to go every which way.

Our timing was to the second, and the crowd went wild to see Santa Claus sit down on the 49 yard line.”

Gil Wieland | D-2395
From Parachutist, June 1971

“Dear Editor,

Show jumps are a lot of fun, as you well know. Sometimes things go just a little bit wrong. Pictured (or not quite pictured) is Gold Winger Dennis Ake, D-4746, of the Akron Sky Divers. The landing area is shown at the bottom of the picture.

Club Associate Gerda Kmentt was in the right place at the right time to immortalize Mr. Ake, who is five feet short and seven feet deep.

I guess it’s true: In the battle of life, some days the dragon wins.

P.S. Since the jump was made near water, all participants did have flotation gear.”

John Semple | D-7614
President, Akron Sky Divers

Photo by Gerda Kmentt.


After having trouble getting tickets to the Oregon State Beavers football game, Drew Holmes (pictured) and Tim McMahen decide instead to jump the fence.

Photo by Tim McMahen.


“There were four of us jumping into the Tulsa Stadium in Oklahoma for halftime entertainment during a soccer game. It was a bet from Mike McCaffery with a car dealer he knew that if all four could land in the truck bed, Mike would get the truck. Only two of us did.”

Greg Ouren (pictured, landing) | D-6880

Photo by Mike McCaffery.

(Clockwise from top) Chester Bennett, Bill Edwards, Mary Wolfrank and Glen Racich make a demo jump over Lake Tahoe in the early 1980s.

Photo by Tom Sanders.

A demo load’s spotter looks down past an empty Arrowhead Stadium before jumping into a Kansas City Royals game in Kauffman Stadium.


Back-Tracking Feedback



How fun that I found myself reading “Back-Tracking” in the new (June) issue that showed up in my mailbox today, May 29, 2021. “Fun” because today just happens to be the 56th anniversary of my first jump way back in 1965. And the best way to celebrate? Why, jump out of an airplane for the 1,200th time, of course!

I owe a great deal of thanks to the guy shown behind the 16-year old photo of me . That’s Dr. Gerald Owens, C-2321. Gerry was my instructor and jumpmaster on my first several jumps (and who I found out later was dating my then single mom!)

Clear skies!

Patrick Wiggins | D-35192 and USPA #444
Salt Lake City, Utah


Regarding the photo with the anvil: That’s my husband, Ron Gates, who had the idea. We’ve been married for 32 years, and skydiving is how I met him. He was my jumpmaster, and he kicked me out of a plane and I fell for him. He’ll be 84 on August 23rd, and remembers his skydiving days with much happiness.

Rose Gates
Pawtucket, Rhode Island


Hi Parachutist,

I have not been an active jumper for a couple of years, but I still enjoy reading the magazine each month. I was surprised to see someone I knew in your “Back-Tracking” feature in the June 2021 issue.

In the top left photo on page 45 are Ron Gates, D-8671, and Dan Smith, D-10419 diving with an “anvil” that I recall they made from Styrofoam. Ron was one of my static line instructors and the DZ’s S&TA. Dan was also an instructor at the Woodstock Airport DZ in Connecticut back in the 1980s. This was a small but fun single C-182 operation. The photo shows the edge of Ron’s Racer pop-top, which was a big yellow smiley face. Both were great guys that I have not seen in many years.

Thanks for the photo and memories!

John Iler | C-33347
Burlington, Massachusetts


Hi Parachutist,

Regarding the photo on page 45 of your June 2021 issue of a chap riding a “chopper” bike out of the back of a Skyvan: I believe it is Terry (sorry, cannot remember his surname) during the early 1970s when Raleigh made their first “chopper” bike and Terry was the first person to do that jump.

Les Cooper | D-25864
Herefordshire, United Kingdom

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