Mar 12, 2012, 6:40 AM
Post #1 of 4
1961 Blimp Jump
On 6-28-61, for my 31st jump, I was treated to the thrill of exiting a Navy Blimp (ZPG-2) There were 10 of us enjoying that experience that day. (I will list their names in another post.)
The blimp was 403' long and 117' high. It did not turn on a dime, but it did climb like a snail. The thrill of this jump was not how fast we could get to and exit over the DZ, it was the hour it took to climb to 3000'. Normally when the Blimp was on duty, it carried a crew of 21 (7 on duty, 7 sleeping, and 7 in reserve). So with the small flight crew we had for that day, the 10 of us had plenty of room to move around the 2 story gondola. We were able to enjoy coffee in the galley, relax in a bunk, sight see from the cockpit, some of us (me included) were able to sit in the co-pilot's chair, and take control of the flight for five minutes each. What a thrill!
We made 4 separate passes over the DZ, so for fun, we tried different ways of exiting the aircraft. We all did exit out of the cargo doors in the aft of the Blimp.
I was jumpmaster for three of us on our run. This is how I did it: The aft section of the Blimp was on about a 45 degree angle, hence with the cargo doors open, the exit opening was on a 45 degree angle. I faced aft, placed my feet at the edge of the opening, leaned forward and placed my hands on each side of the door opening. I was leaning over the opening on a 45 degree angle with only 4 points of contact, The heals of my boots and my hands. I had to yell out course changes to one of the other jumpers, who radioed them to the pilot. Since I was facing backwards to the direction of flight, I had to see where I wanted the airship to go, but reverse the directions as I yelled them out. Oh ya, then wait for a year as the Blimp tried to turn to that direction. When we were over the exit point, I simply brought my hands together, and let gravity take over. That was too cool! The other 2 jumpers went out like diving off a high diving board.
The last pass saw 2 jumpers step lightly backwards out the aft station, rendering a mid-air salute to the great airship that we would never jump from again.
If you can visualize the size of the old type hydrogen blimps being scaled down to the size of a Greyhound Bus, then the helium blimp that I jumped out of would be the size of a VW Bug.
Now, if you compare the size of the ZPG-2 (helium blimp) to the size of the blimp at the Oshkosh Air Show, you need to do the following: The ZPG-2 is now the size of the Greyhound Bus, and the blimp at the air show is the size of a VW Bug.
My guess is that the blimp at the air show would not take an hour to get to 3000'. However, in a once in a life time experience -- savor the moment.