Mar 12, 2012, 6:40 AM
Post #1 of 7
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.
And I was there! Its interesting to come across this post as this is what got me started into skydiving. On the day of this blimp jump I was with my father, Cdr C.C Fogle, who was a blimp pilot at Lakehurst. WE stopped by a friend of his to give him a ride to the base and that's when I found out they were going to jump that day out of the blimp. I believe it was Lt. Cdr Tom Pugh that we picked up. At the time I was a 10 year old kid and we lived on the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in the house that the Hindenberg pilots use to use when they came over. When I saw those guys jump from the back of that blimp I knew then and there I was going to jump as soon as I could. Fast forward 7 years to my freshman year at Texas A&M and I found that had a jump club that was jumping out at Hearne airport. A few weeks later I started with some static line jumps from Lt. Ed Higbees Cessna. What great times with the A&M group, Gary Lewis and the twin beech. I'll write up a whole posting about the adventures of the twin beech at Millican, Seagoville, Caldwell, Hearne, and all those places we use to jump that are long gone. I would love to connect with some of the old crowd from the late 60's and early 70's from A&M. Last time I saw most of them was at Valley Mills in the mid 70's or so. I quit jumping in the 70's but have started again out at Skydive Dallas when I can. I still have some PC's, haha. Rick Fogle