It was a chilly Monday morning at the 2014 World Parachuting Championships in the Czech Republic. The 8-Way Formation Skydiving Team has completed their eighth and final practice jump out of the L-410 Turbolet aircraft. The L-410 is extremely different than the UV-18 Twin Otter aircraft that the Golden Knights primarily train from. The turbojet door is narrower and taller than the Golden Knights Twin Otter’s door. It’s also harder for us to maintain our grips on one another in the door and the exits don’t come off as clean as exits from the Otter. But after several practice jumps we feel confident enough moving forward. Tonight is the opening ceremonies and the draw. The official competition starts first thing Tuesday morning. The weather forecast is not looking very promising for the next couple of days. They are calling for a high chance of rain but all the teams are staying optimistic and hoping for favorable weather conditions.
Over the past weekend Gold Team participated in the Thunder in the Valley Air Show in Waterloo, IA conducting 3 shows. On Friday, the team did a mass formation with SSG Roman Grijalva, fresh out of Senior Leaders Course, jumping into the show first and then narrating for Children’s Appreciation Day. There were hundreds of students, which came from numerous schools in the area on field trips to attend the Thunder in the Valley Air Show. The Air Show had a social, where the members of the Gold Demonstration Team had the opportunity to get together and meet the sponsors and other performers.
Although Saturday started off with rain and low clouds, the skies quickly opened up to allow the team to do a full show. SGT Blake Gaynor was the first jumper in, and narrated the rest of the team as they came in for dead center landings. The team presented a baton to Reiley Gilbert, a 17 year old, who recently enlisted into the Army and is eagerly waiting to attend Basic Training. Sunday the team conducted another successful full show with SSG Jon Clevenger narrating. The team presented another baton to the Bob Molinaro family, which is a major sponsor of the show.
SSG Mike Koch, Photos by SFC Adrian Hill
The Black Demonstration Team received a warm welcome upon landing at the Willow Run Airport for the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show last week. We stepped off our C-31 aircraft and the impressions began with plane -side radio, television, and newspaper interviews. We kicked off the weekend with a mass formation performance (each jumper rapidly exiting both the left and right door to fly together using their arms, legs, and shoulders) above a reported 300,000 air-show spectators both days. We had the honor of presenting the Golden Knight’s baton, which was flown in freefall and then presented to CEO of Detroit Wayne Airport Mr. Thomas Naughton. After our performance we spent quality time with our local Army recruiters from the Great Lakes Recruiting Battalion as well as the American public. Sunday mirrored our performance from the previous day and the team once again had the honor of spending more time with the local Army recruiters and American public. We spent close to two hours signing autographs and posing for the ever-popular “Selfie” with our Golden Knight fans!
On Monday, the team packed up for our departure from Willow Run Airport into Atlantic City, NJ where we were scheduled for three mass formation performances with Dave Schutlz Air Shows for the Thunder over the Boardwalk Air Show. Prior to kicking off the air show Tuesday and Wednesday the team attended the event sponsored social Salute to Veterans held at the Borgata Resort. We were all introduced on stage by the one and only Mr. Tony Orlando (lead singer of Tony Orlando and Dawn) prior to his performance that evening.
We had the best view in the house from our C-31 jump aircraft on Wednesday above the Atlantic City skyline where we looked down and saw the beach filled with thousands of Military supporters and air show enthusiasts. Unfortunately the low ceiling for our first performance on Wednesday sent the team back to the airfield to wait for the clouds to lift. The skies above Atlantic City opened up for us that afternoon as our team leader SFC Kevin Presgraves gave a thumbs up signal of stand-by! We exited directly above the city and came together for another mass formation with our signature bomb burst break off creating one big Golden Knight firework in the sky with our red smoke trails. We could hear the roar of the crowd on the beach as our black and gold canopies hovered above several thousand spectators as SGT Travis Downing worked to get the crowd even more excited as he told them “ladies and gentlemen these jumpers can hear you very well at 1,000 feet”!
Each jumper safely made their way into the blocked off landing area and we were then face-to-face with several thousand supporters waiting for a wave from their favorite Golden Knight. The entire team was introduced to the crowd and then we all heard the famous last words of our narrator “May all of your days be prosperous and your knights golden”. The shift from thousands of people on the beach to the boardwalk became evident as the entire team stood in front of the Army recruiting tent to begin signing autographs for the anxious New Jersey crowd. It was an honor to work with Dave Schutlz Air Shows this past season as well as the USAF Thunderbirds. Black team continues their show season in Santa Maria, California and Cleveland, Ohio this next week.