Paratenting at the NZ International Airshow
Paratenting at the NZ International Airshow 2013
What great fun it was to be involved as an aerial performer at the NZ International Airshow at North Shore Airfield in January 2013. This show was an interesting mix of aerobatic aircraft displays, skydiving stunts & of course Yves Rossy, the Jetman flying his 4 engined jet powered carbon wing. Performing with old friends is a special treat at an event like this, Mellissa Pemberton had a great routine flying aerobatics around husband Rex flying his wingsuit. The Flying Squirrels from the USA did some fine wingsuit formation flying as well as wingsuiting with high speed canopies.
My stunt was quite different. I was doing static line jumps from a helicopter with a modified Red Bull Wigwam event tent from a lower altitude that also meant that a low cloud base wouldn't hinder my show. It's funny how this jump took me back to my first days of skydiving. I hadn't done a static line jump since the 80's, or jumped a round parachute for that matter either & this one had no forward speed nor steering of any kind, just to add to the fun.
Conditions during the three days of the show were quite windy so I used another tool from the good old days, a drifter. This is a rolled up newspaper with a crepe paper streamer to show how much canopy drift to expect during the jump with the tent.
Jumping a tent made from heavy nylon is quite an experience, this was made easier by having a good crew. Roy Crane flew the heli while Rob Pine was my jump master on board. To make this jump possible & safe, I wore two parachute harnesses, one attached to the tent which could be released, over the top of this was my usual skydive rig.
The jump went like this. Climb to 2000 feet, release the drifter upwind of my landing spot & watch to see where it lands. Climb higher to 3000', step outside onto the heli skid, position the deployment bag, check the spot... & step backwards into the thin air, falling away & watch the tent come out of the bag, flap in the wind & fill with air. Wahoo, it works. The noise of the heli is replaced with a gentle breeze from below as the tent drifts with the wind. Now for the bit that get the crowd going. I hold onto one of the two risers that attach the tent to my harness & pull the release handle. One side flails away, spilling air while I accelerate toward the ground. After three seconds of this, it's time to let go completely, free fall away, open my usual square parachute & land in front of the commentators stage.
The looks I got from the crowd were pleasing to me indeed. Wide eyed, mouths open. I think I touched them on the inside, gave them a wee fright then let them off the hook. Just what I intended. This was not your usual airshow performance.
It was a thrill to be involved with such a talented team at the show. Amazing things happen when amazing people get together. Wahooooo.