BY JACK SCHNEIDER – Last week, I had the privilege of observing a parachute drop from the belly of a C-17, part of the RIM PAC exercises here in the Pacific.
As a bit of background on myself, I was a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, and I always believed that there was absolutely no reason to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. It always fascinated me that some people would deliberately depart one that was running smoothly. I had to witness this.
Our rendezvous was scheduled at 0815 at the Nimitz Gate of Joint Base Pearl Harbor. From there, ENS Mari led us to the C-17 Ops Building, where we were bussed to a C-17 located on the flight line.
Our group, which consisted of three Japanese Naval personnel, two civilians, two USN and three USAF members, climbed on board.
My first move was to go up to the flight deck to check out the instrumentation. It was a far cry from the layout that we had back in the 60’s and 70’s.
The interior of the C-17 was impressive: Cavernous, clean, obviously well maintained and spacious enough carry a good bit of cargo.
After hearing the obligatory safety briefing, we launched for the short hop to Kaneohe MCAS; picked up the jumpers, and launched for the drop.
While setting up for the drop, we experienced an inadvertent rapid decompression. The aircraft immediately filled with condensation. It is an odd sensation to be in the middle of a cloud while inside an airplane.
The jumpers have an emergency device within their parachutes that will deploy their chutes if they become disabled during the jump. Due to the Rapid Decompression, these devices had to be reset on each chute, but to reset the device, we had to be on the ground.
So, back to KMCAB we went. The chute reset was accomplished rapidly, and once again we were airborne.
The rear of the C-17 was opened, the jumpers through the use of hand signals, assembled, walked to the rear, and simply walked off into nothingness.
We once again landed a KMCAB the door was opened and a few of the jumpers walked on for a short debriefing with the aircrew.
Once again, we were airborne for the short hop back to Hickam.
During my 40-year absence from the military, much has changed but much remains the same.
What has changed is the equipment that is currently being used, which is up to date, fully functional, and well maintained.
What has not changed is how well trained, knowledgeable and dedicated today’s service men and women are.
I was extremely proud of every military member that I came in contact with. They are an incredible resource, and should be treasured.
As a footnote, I admire what the jumpers do, but I still would not jump out of a perfectly good airplane…
Jack Schneider an ex Vietnam era USAF fighter pilot, who has lived in Hawaii for over 40 years, and is a recently retired serial entrepreneur.
He also is a columnist for Hawaii Reporter.