A Partial Malfunction
By Greg Hoisington
In this group of professionals, my piddly hundred or so jumps isn't very impressive; but, I never had a military malfunction, hit the side of the aircraft, collided with another jumper, or got hurt. Sure, I crashed a few times, had a drop line break, and probably set a record for being drug the length of a DZ, but this was part of the game. It was just plain fun, and I always wondered what free fall would be like. Never could get a slot for HALO...
Soooo, Lancelot and I decided to go to a civilian sky diving school and find out. We drove at least two hours out into the CA desert to go through a two or three hour jump school run by a couple of ex-82nd guys. (Damn, it took the Army three weeks to teach how to jump...) Then we had to rent 'chutes and pay for fuel, and still had to make four static line jumps before a hop-and-pop. We made this trip and paid the costs on cop salaries. Got yelled at for having tight body positions.
On the jump before the hop-and-pop, I had a partial malfunction. On this civilian 'chute there was a pilot 'chute. Somehow, during inflation, the pilot 'chute got wrapped around several suspension lines, collapsing several gores. Big Dummy, the only jumper in the air at 4000 ft, looked up and saw a round 'chute with a bunch of crap hanging down, an orifice that was off to one side, and toggle lines that couldn't correct the corkscrewing due to the malfunction. Unable to judge my rate of descent, I had a choice; cut away and pull the reserve, or ride it in. Not knowing anything about who packed the reserve, and not wanting to find it containing someone's dirty laundry and tennis shoes, I chose to keep what I had and ride it in.
There was one other small problem; there was a concrete river, an aqueduct with a rapid current, directly below me. It's hard to steer when you're corkscrewing, and I was heading right down to it. Luckily, the ground wind carried me across it at the last minute and I didn't have to deal with desert water landing in a fast moving current.
I hit like three tons of bricks. No time for any kind of PL-poppycock-F... just a quick thud that jarred every bone in my body. But, I got up and staggered away. Some friends on the DZ filmed the jump. When I saw it, I was amazed by the dust cloud raised when I hit. And that was the first time that it dawned on me that I could really get hurt doing this. And, that was my last jump, some twenty-five years ago.
Would I jump at the 50th at Bragg? You betchur sweet ass, even if it meant putting up with four hours of harassment, or even hanging in the SLT (did I say that?). There's just something about jumping, about experiencing that moment of silence, when you feel that tug and look up to see that round canopy...one more time...Airborne!!!