The Bethpage Airshow held at Jones Beach New York has been a home for the Golden Knights since the show started nine years ago. Other than the Blue Angles the Golden Knights have been the only consistent act to perform there every year. The team was scheduled to jump all three days of the event but was cut short on Friday due to weather. This was the first time the Gold Demonstration Team had a jump cancelled on them but since it was only the practice/media day so the public did not miss out on the excitement. On Saturday the skies opened up and the sun warmed the beach making it a beautiful day to jump. The target area for this event is often one of the most challenging due to how close it is to the ocean. From the Air the drop zone is a small square of sand surrounded by over 200,000 people with no other place to land but in the water. It is a very intimidating area but one of the most exciting to jump into. As each jumper made his way to the target area the cheers of the people could be heard from as high as 2,000 feet making the jumpers even more excited to hit the target. Every time a pair of boots touched down the already pumped up audience became so loud that you couldn’t even hear the narrator. After the jump on Saturday the team gathered up their gear and moved through the people receiving handshakes and pats on the back from the gracious New York citizens. Sunday the team headed out to the airfield with dark grey clouds hovering low over them. The team geared up like normal while receiving on site weather reports that the weather was just as bad out at the Jones Beach area. After taking off the team was graced with good fortune when flying over show site because the clouds were lifting making it possible for the Gold Team to put on the planned full show.
At the conclusion of our demonstrations on Jones Beach, we packed our parachutes at the main entrance of the Airshow allowing each spectator in attendance to witness a pack demonstration and meet some of the jumpers. During this pack demonstration the jumpers displayed ultimate professionalism while packing in front of 50 anti-war Veterans for peace protestors. After the last performance of the weekend each demonstrator and recruiting liaison visited the Army recruiting booth from the New York City Recruiting Battalion and met with the Hofstra University ROTC cadets led by Captain Wilfred Massidas.
During this trip the team took advantage of the afternoons and went downtown to take a tour of the World Trade Center 911 memorial. The complex was more impressive to see in person than could ever be described on the internet. After leaving the remarkable memorial some of the team walked down to Wall Street to see the New York Stock Exchange and even had the privilege of getting to take a tour of the historic building. While inside the team had a chance to walk on the trading floor, see the upstairs boardrooms and also stand on the podium where the bell is that signals the start and stop of the trading day.
The Joint Service Open House Airshow held at Andrews Air Force Base is one of the highest visibility airshows of the season. There was several very impressive demonstration which included the Air Force F-22 Raptor, Stealth Bomber, Red Bull Air Force and of course the world famous Golden Knights. For all three days of the air show the Gold Demonstration Team accompanied by SFC Aaron Figel, SSG Jared Zell, SSG Reese Pendleton and SGT Jeshua Stahler performed spectacularly for the citizens of Maryland. There were a few bumps in the road along the way as the weather did not cooperate the whole time. For Friday and Saturdays shows the skies were blue allowing for the team to reach maximum altitude with no problem showing the audience some of the many formations possible to achieve while in free fall. Sunday was a different story because the clouds rolled in and the skies turned grey giving the team only a 4,000 ft. ceiling to work with. Even with the low clouds the Gold Team still came through for the show performing some canopy relative work and some of the jumpers wore smaller parachutes so they could show off their swooping skills for the last demonstration. Over all the Andrews Air Show was a great success.
The Gold Demonstration Team made a huge impression during the airshow when they paid a visit to the Army hangar which was supplied with 85 different Army vendors. Included in these vendors was the Army Cadet Corps of the National Capitol Region out of Ft. Meade, MD. Recruiting liaison SSG Shelby Bixler coordinated for seven Army Cadets to receive a plane side brief as well as an opportunity to assist the demonstrators in packing flags into their parachutes. Cadet SSG Nicholas Cutter is the leader of 17 cadets and plans a career in the Army and has already begun his skydiving career. Cadet Cutter stated that his Golden Knight experience from this weekend was “inspirational”. In addition to incorporating the Army Cadets into the Gold Teams pre-jump and post jump activities the Boy Scout troop #447 out of Fredericksburg, PA had the opportunity to meet and greet and discuss todays Army during the evening social on Andrews, AFB.
After each performance the team gathers up all their gear and walks through the crowd receiving high fives and pats on the back from the audience on their way to the packing area designated by the show sponsors and air show coordinators. While there, the jumpers receive help packing parachutes from anyone looking to lend a hand. The kids and young adults always get a kick out of helping the jumpers because for most this is the first time they have gotten to see a parachute up close and actually get to handle one. The best part about working with the young people is seeing the look of amazement in their eyes as they watch the large black and gold canopies become folded and disappear into the small containers.
The Gold Demonstration Team took a trip up north to perform at the 2012 Manassas Airshow in Virginia. The skies were blue and the winds were light allowing for a spectacular show over the weekend. The initial jump by the Gold Team was made on Friday just a few hours after landing at the show site. The team had just enough time to receive a detailed in brief grab a bite to eat and then take to the skies once again. Friday was a warm up day for the airshow acts as well as media day where local reporters get to travel behind the scenes and take a closer look at the airshow demonstrators. Due to the shortened timeline and lower altitude celling on Friday the Gold Team needed to make some on the fly adjustments to the previously planned mass formation. Instead of the 12,500 feet the team planned for the airshow coordinator only allowed 7,500 for the first jump. The Team Leader SFC JD Berentis and Assistant Team Leader SFC Dustin Peregrin came up with a new formation that would still allow for maximum visibility for the audience below. The narrator jump and the mass formation were done successfully and even caught the eye of locals traveling around the area. It was mentioned by some airshow attendees the next day that they decided to come because they saw the team jump the day before.
The next day during the show the team was greeted with more media personnel wishing to take a ride up with the Gold Team aboard Golden Knight Air. One of the great advantages to being a member of the Golden Knights is that they have the privilege to see the excitement on the faces of the reporters as they sit just inches from an open door of an aircraft traveling 120 miles per hour two and a half miles above the ground. The experience is described as a once in a life time thrill ride by most passengers as well as a very humbling event as they know this is our everyday office.
The Gold Demonstration Team also assisted the Manassas, VA Army recruiters led by station commander SFC David Williams during the Manassas Airshow. The Gold Team provided a tour of the C-31 to four future soldiers. In addition to the plane side briefs, the demonstrators laid out their parachutes and repacked them in front of approximately 350 spectators to include Vietnam Veterans, future soldiers and the remainder of our proud military supporters. Demonstrators visited with The Virginia Airborne Search and Rescue Squad as well as CEO and Baton Recipient Kevin Rychlik from American Helicopters Incorporated in order to maintain rapport with sponsors for any future airshows.