Jumping Without a Parachute

  • Published
  • By Col. "Tip" Stinnette
  • 39th Air Base Wing commander
Ivan, an experienced parachutist with 800 jumps under his belt, was videotaping a private lesson given by an instructor to a first time jumper. Ivan had attached the video camera to his helmet and the supporting power supply and recorder were in a heavy satchel slung on his back. He was intent on capturing the entire day of instruction. The group went up in the plane, and the instructor led the enthusiastic beginner through the preparations for the jump. Ivan carefully documented the lesson, which needed to be perfect for the sake of posterity.

When the aircraft was over the jump site, Ivan jumped from the back of the plane and filmed the student and instructor jumping from the front of the plane. A few heartbeats later, with the tape still running, Ivan realized he had been so focused on filming the jump he had forgotten to strap on his own parachute. An FAA spokesperson said Ivan may have mistaken the video equipment strapped on his back for his parachute.

In the footage salvaged from the camera and spliced together, the student and instructor are shown in freefall before they pulled their ripcords and receded rapidly from the camera field of view. Then the cameraman's hands reached for his own ripcord. When Ivan realized he had no ripcord or chute; his hands are seen flailing about wildly, then the camera pans down toward the approaching earth.

Target fixation comes to mind when considering this story. Have you ever been so fixated on an objective that everything else seems to disappear? Sure you have, we all have. I've heard of people walking toward a spinning prop on the handsome, high-performance, Lockheed Martin, mighty C-130 Hercules because they were so fixated on getting to the crew entrance door. We all get fixated on objectives that seem to make the other things disappear. How about your family, have you seen them lately? What about the fire-bottle in front of the jet? What about the DBRITE cueing in the tower, how about the Airman in need of someone to talk to, or the power-line next to the worksite ... do you see them?

Here's my point: we're all running around at the speed of heat, counting myself; sometimes we just need to stop, breathe, and wind our watches while trying to bring into focus all the other things around us. Clearly we are fixated on the up-coming inspection as we should, but we must be careful to not lose sight of the other things around us like the mission, safety, our co-workers, and families. Without them it's a lot like jumping without a parachute and makes it a whole lot harder to ensure freedom's future.