Golden Knight Demonstrators united at our Headquarters in Ft. Bragg, NC to prepare for the first trip of the 2012 show season. After final inventories were completed, the bus was loaded and we headed to Pope field. Every jumpsuit, rig, brochure and piece of support equipment was loaded into our C-31 Troopship and strapped down. The assistant team leader called the advance representative to let him know we would be there in two hours. The twin-turbo prop jump aircraft roared to life and we were on the move. As we went wheels up, Black Team was en route to the first show of the 2012 demonstration season, New Smyrna Beach Balloon & Sky Fest, Florida. (more…)
The 2012 Demonstration season has finally begun for the newest members of the Golden Knights. While at our Winter Training site in Homestead, the “New Guys” performed their first parachute jump into the 4th Annual Biscayne/Everglades Greenway Bike Festival.
Black Team, in an effort to bring perfection to the demanding “Diamond Track,” decides to add to our growing training tool- The first person view. Attaching two small cameras to one of the jumpers, Black Team shows the sight picture as he performs the maneuver.
The Diamond Track is performed with two jumpers, demonstrating the incredible amount of lateral separation, possibly achieved while in free fall. The jumpers exit the aircraft and immediately snap into a rigid body position, resembling that of an olympic ski jumper. Their arms are at their sides, legs straight, knees locked, and toes pointed. The body position enables them to gain as much lift as humanly possible. In a sense, they become human airfoils, gaining lift as they streak across the sky at 180 miles per hour.
As the jumpers turn 180 degrees, they are nearly one and a half miles apart. Due to the tremendous amount of lateral separation, each jumper must first locate the thin trail of red smoke on the horizon and then trace it down to his partner, who appears like a guided missle streaking back towards them. The jumpers will cross within what appears to be inches from one another, with a combined closing speed of over 300 miles per hour.
The Diamond Track is designed to create an “illusion” from the ground. The maneuver works to make it appear as if the jumpers will actually collide with one another, to build excitement for the crowd. In reality, experienced demonstrators are required to maintain a minimum of 20 feet of lateral separation. At no time, do any of our demonstrators cross with less than 20 feet from each other. To create the “illusion” of colliding, the jumpers must also have a vertical separation as well.
The jumper streaking to the right will always fly at a slightly lower altitude than the jumper flying to the left. It is the job of the jumper on the right, who is designated as the “Angle Man,” to ensure the pair flies at a proper heading across the sky and to also stay below the jumper on the left. The person on the left, designated as the “Hit Man,” is in charge of maintaining the lateral separation and adjusting his flight path to create the crossing illusion, as they pass each other.
The Angle Man makes no corrections, whatsoever, as the two jumpers near the cross. This ensures the Hit Man may safely correct his trajectory without violating the 20 foot minimum distance.
When jumpers first learn the maneuver, they must maintain a 50 foot lateral distance for an additional safety margin. Only after they arrive at winter training and track with an experienced “Diamond Tracker,” are they allowed to reduce this separation.
Crossing at this high opposing speed, with only 20 feet between them, is an exciting experience for any demonstrator. Watch the video of the first person point of view, as Black Team’s SSG Cook and SGT O’Neal cross at about 25 feet, over Homestead AFB.