October 8, 1961:  My first flight in an air plane....  I was an Air Force Auxiliary Cadet (Civil Air Patrol) at Red Bank, New Jersey Airport,   sitting in a former USAAF L-4, SN9897, N94582.  (Note: It was built with a wooden spar in 1943 and had a 75hp engine.  It is still flying in Clarktson, Michigan) 

The pilot was Capt. Pierson, the Squadron Commander.  The flight lasted 21 minutes.  It was noisy, cold and I was hooked on air sports from that day on.

The CAP had almost a thousand Squadrons in those early cold war days.  Many of us went on to Air Force Careers and too many of us did not survive the Viet Nam war.  The next squadron south of us was the  Asbury Park Sqd. at Asbury Park Airport and farther south was the unit at Lakewood Airport, the Brick Township Sqd.. 

The Asbury Park Sqd. had a shaky existence.  It was started at Asbury Park Airport and then moved to Monmouth County Airport.  It was disbanded in late 1962.  Even though Red Bank was much farther away than Monmouth County Airport, I couldn't get there.  I could take a train to the Red Bank Airport but there was no public transportation to Asbury Park or Monmouth County Airports.  Monmouth County Airport had a large US Army Aviation Base there and my outfit would participate in what was called "airlifts" where the whole Squadron was moved at once for exercises.  The photo at the left shows me on Aug. 28, 1963 waiting for an AC-1 Caribou to do its thing.  I was a cadet NCO by then.  The base had L-19 Bird Dogs, L-20 Beavers, U-1 Otters, 2 Caribous and some Beechcraft or Piper twins that I can't remember the designation of.  There's one in the photo.  The Base supported Ft. Monmouth and another Army area called "The Hexagon".

The Asbury Park Sqd. had a single L-5 search aircraft and it disappeared when the unit broke up at Monmouth County.  Asbury Park Airport also had some jumpers though.  It was a small club and I had seen them jump a few times.  I flew the L-4 into Asbury Park Airport for the first time on Aug. 22, 1962 and they were jumping so we watched for a while and had lunch at the FBO office.  The DZ was in a field next to the runway.  Its the only place I have ever seen a "Double Blank Gore" modification actually being used.  The club eventually ended up as a pararescue (Parachute Rescue) team made of up doctors and today what we call EMT's.  They worked closely with the CAP and actually jumped into a couple of crash sites in my area.

Lakewood is a resort town in east central New Jersey and one of the few that didn't depend on the ocean as an attraction.  Instead it has several lakes for recreation.  At the edge of the area, in a heavy wooded area, was Lakewood Airport.  It had 2 small hangers, an office shack and a gravel runway.  The whole area was sand, mostly created from the great fires that devastated central New Jersey in the 30's.  Much of the sand in fact was beads of glass from the heat of the fires.

On various occasions, the units of the New Jersey Wing would hold joint exercises and in 1962 the Red Bank Sqd. spent a weekend at Lakewood (Photo left, in the 6x6 heading to the encampment).  We camped in the sandy woods (mostly pine trees) on the other side of the runway from the airport buildings.  It was cold but clear and I remember my turn at guard duty at night with a 30-06 M-1903 Springfield rifle, as.... shall we say, less than toasty!  Little did I know that less than four months later all the trees would be gone and much more interesting things would be happening at that very site!

Computer rebuilt photo of the old Lakewood Airport

In 1958, a 29 year old French skydiver name Jacques Andre Istel came to America with a French opening device called a "sleeve" that would create a  new sport in America, sport parachuting.  The sport wasn't new really.  As early as the late 40's, many ex-paratroopers were doing crude skydives using surplus Air Force and Army rigs, mostly Army T-7's (Twill 28' canopies) T-7A reserves (24' twill canopies) and some USAF B-4 harness and containers.  GQ in England was the first to produce a "sport parachute", a 29' block constructed nylon canopy.  A good example of a club from that era (1948 actually) still in continuous operation in Canada is at http://www.skydiving.com/main.html  Americas' first real DZ was probably at Hemet, California. 

The sleeve that Istel brought with him suddenly made the opening shock bearable and reduced it from very very painful to very very uncomfortable.  The French used the sleeve and the arch & spread exit and falling position used by French and German paratroopers in WW2 to develop the sport and improved on the arch & spread into what is called the "French Frog", which we still use today. 

Istel, the French techniques he brought and the sleeve made the sport available to almost anyone and it grew fast enough that Lyle Cameron put out the first addition of SKY DIVER magazine in 1958. It was a glossy, Black and White, 32 page magazine for 25 cents!

But along with the sleeve and the French techniques he also brought with him a great dream.  He would set up, not just another club, but an actual commercial company, fully equipped to train skydivers in a modern (for 1961 at least) and profitable manner.  With partners, Lew Sanborn (D-1), Wolgang Liesche and George Flynn, he developed a training method that they called the TELSANTM Method (TELSAN stood for "isTELSANborn").  Up till that time and for many years afterwards, civilian and military clubs took days or weeks to train first time jumpers.  They not only learned the basics but also things like packing parachutes and most made their first jump on a parachute they packed themselves.  The TELSAN Method took only three hours and trained the first timer only to make the first jump.  Each successive jump required new training.

The original "Parachutes Incorporated" drop zone was at Good Hill Farm in Conneticut using a 170B and later a 182.  Ready to expand Istel and his partners cut a deal with the Board of Selectmen of Orange, Mass. to use the airport for the project and moved their small operation from the Pond's Goodhill Farm to Orange.  They also took in other partners including Nate Pond, their pilot.   At the airport itself they built a new hanger, class- rooms, training areas, a parachute loft, an office and equipment sales area.  On the other side of the runways he dug a deep pit and filled it with pea gravel and soft sand.

For aircraft they acquired four Noorduyn Norseman 10 place aircraft (also known as UC-64a's in the US Army Air Force) from Canada and Alaska.  As part of the TELSAN Method the doors were removed and the door step modified so that students could properly exit the aircraft.  The seats were removed and replaced with benches and seat belts and a small control panel to direct the pilot for spotting.  The wings were metalized and a exit step added. 

(The top photo shows the Norseman in the UC-64 colors.  The photo below it shows the open door and seating configuration, that's me by the way fastening the helmet.  The AC is the "Blue Norseman" N1207 which would stay at Lakewood till it's demise in Oct 1970.  The last photo shows the special step)

The step was quite unique and well thought out.  It was double reinforced and the front was curved down to accommodate the angle of the boot sole on "launch".  It was wide enough for both boots.  You put your boots on the step, jammed to the back.  Your sat on the floor on the edge of the door with your left hand holding the door frame behind you and your right hand was on the floor in front of you.  On exit you stood up and arched with a slight push to the left and off the step.  Its still an excellent exit method.

With initial success of Orange SPC, PI opened a third DZ at Ryan Field in Hamet, California and flew one of the Norseman N69795 (nicknamed Red Lead) out there.  Hemet also had a Cessna 180 piloted by Bucky Walters.  Red Lead" returned to Orange for the 1962 World Meet and the DZ never reopened.

For World Meet the pea pit was vastly modified with a large rim for spectators and called "The Para-Bowl".  Though weather worn, a good deal of it was still there in 1980 when I was last there.

With the succes if the World Meet, Istel and Sanborn executed their plans for a forth drop zone built on the same principal though better.  (In the 70's their company  continued the process with DZ's at Lake Elsinor (taking over the DZ operation from Skylark Aviation) and Crawfordsville, Indiana.  In spring 1963, bull dozers cut a 600 yard diameter circle out of the pine forest that surrounded Lakewood Airport.  Next to the circle, a new 2500' paved runway and partial taxi way were built and the old runway was used as a flight line and a parking lot.  It was paved in front of the center to the runway but no where else.


Parachutes Incorporated built four buildings on the new site. (1) was a rest room block in the center of a non-student packing area including 3 tables (9).  Next to it was (2) an office/sales room.  Next to it was (4) a multi-purpose building with locker rooms, equipment rental office and classrooms.  The outdoor training area (3) had aircraft mock-ups for exit training and a platform for PLF training.  Finally on the end was probably the best civilian parachute loft in the country.  The back end of it had a full garage door and a loading dock.  Between the classroom/locker building and the loft was a small stand (10) where you manifested.  You geared up and got your gear check at (11).  The drawing below shows a detailed view of the main area.  The image can be viewed full screen by clicking on "view image" in Netscape.

The front end was most unique.  On the inside was a common looking set of cubby holes for the mains and reserves but the instructors/jumpmasters didn't have to go inside to get the gear.  Each vertical column of cubby holes had its own door and the front of the building had a small stage.  The gear could be accessed from the outside.

The jumpers area, except for the training area was covered in pea gravel (no mud in the winter snow or summer rains) and the entire area had a wood rail fence made from the pine trees cut down for the DZ.  Non-jumpers could not enter the main area.  This was for equipment security but also to give the students that they were someone special.  Nor could the lookie-loos go to the DZ alone. 

For safety and profit, drop zone tours were conducted for 25 cents!  A path in the trees (6) was for "Wuffs Tour" and a small bleacher (8) was erected at the edge of the trees.  The tour guide, was usually a high school student working for PI for the summer.  He would give the tour, basic information about the sport and what was happening as it happened, answering any questions.  All had made at least one jump and most worked there to get free jumps (and about a dollar an hour).  Usually around 8:30pm the manager let any unoccupied employees get a free jump in if there was any empty spots on the last load.

The gear truck and jumpers used another road in the trees (7).  The training areas had an 8 foot high wood fence around it.  Many great and wonderful things were going on behind those fences and not for the eyes of the great unwashed!

Besides the segregated areas, there was a uniformed pecking order of dress.  Instructors and jumpmasters wore yellow pants and official PI yellow jumpsuits. Students wore white and others like riggers (mostly US Navy riggers from Nearby Lakehurst Naval Air Station) and the kids who did the DZ tours wore pink pants.  All wore white PI tea shirts when weather permitted.  The photo here shows Condon (Connie) McDonough in the PI suit and the two photos below show a "DZ Rat" helping me with my gear on my 3rd jump.  I'm wearing my USAF flight suit.  He looks rather formal compared to today's' jumpmasters but I have seen photos of students and instructors in the 50's wearing ties!

Students were allowed their own suits and boots from the second jump on and their own helmets after their first freefall.  All gear was provided on the first jump but after that daily rental fees for cushioned boots, helmets and jumpsuits applied at $1 a day each.
The reason for the helmets was because they had a radio in them!  A two person ground team near the center of the DZ had a full manifest and guided the students to the ground by a one way radio.  Each student was addressed by formal name, in my case MR. LYONS.  "Mr. Lyons make a left turn.... stop right there" was a typical command.  The helmets were made by BELL and were introduced to PI first by XXX from Bell XXXX at the Governors Cup at Orange Sport Parachute Center in 1962.  He offered them for $40 each and PI equiped Lakewood with themPIand required till you got half decent at accuracy which was usually around your 15 second delays or sooner if you did well.  A minimum of accuracy training was given on the ground and you got the bulk of your training in the air.  The radio itself was contained in a funny looking strip on top of the helmet (see photo).  On jump run you were signaled to sit on the floor and then to sit in the door normally.  In the final seconds you assumed the exit position and the jump- master spotted the aircraft.  He cut the engine, turned on your radio and hit your shoulder for the go!

For the first jump you got cushioned boots, helmet and jumpsuit for the day so it paid you to make more than one jump that first day.  On the next jumps until you were off student status you paid $2 a jump for a half an hour of instruction and the jumpmaster, a buck a jump for the reserve and $5 for the main.  Lift tickets to 3000' were $3.  You bought a different colored ticket in the office for each function.  You gave the clothing tickets to the little guy in the booth for boots, jumpsuit and helmet, the instruction ticket to the instructor when you did your training and you put the equipment and lift tickets under the reserve bungie bands when you geared up.  They were collected when your gear and pin check was done.  You stood on a special plywood stand that had the exact jump order on it.  The instructors put you in order, students with the least jumps started at spot one which was at the far right of you if you were standing in line..  Where you stood was recorded and sent to the ground crew.

When you landed, one of the "Pinks" would help you off with your gear and put it in the truck.  This was as much a matter of protecting their gear as providing a service.  You carried your reserve to the truck or back to the airport.  Most of us thought it was cool to be seen walking on the service road through the trees talking with the "big kids", the reserve in hand.

Many "weestern" jumpers considered this type of operation overly regimented.  California jumpers for instance found Lakewood to be the best DZ ever built but didn't like the fact they had to make a check-out jump unless they had a C or D license but that was typical for the Eastern DZ Culture.

I discovered this place by accident.  In June 63 I was on a cross country flight in a J-3 cub and my instructor wanted me to make my first landing on a paved runway.  After we landed we wandered over to the new facility for lunch at the roach coach and accidentally met two members of the CAP Lakewood Sqd., Kip and Lee Zervos.  Both had made jumps and Kip worked there.  His sister Lee spent a lot of time at the airport on weekends.

I was fascinated with the place and what was happening but I figured these people were all totally nuts!  But I kept going back down to look and after 2 months and a lot of "coaxing" by Lee, I decided I had to find out what was happening. These people are doing weird and dangerous things, why are they all smiling!???l
The only way I could get the $35 for the first jump course was to sell my car, a 1950 Pontiac and I had to take the train down to Point Pleasant and then hitchhike the 7 miles to the DZ.  I missed the morning class and took the afternoon class.  I don't remember much of the class except the movie they showed called "A Sport is Born" which was made at the Orange DZ and the outside training in the aircraft mock-up and the PLF training.

My jump, at around 5pm, Aug. 3, 1963, scared the shit out of me and even though I did a perfect arch and spread my eyes were squeezed shut!!  I was number 3 and the number 2 jumper was the Mayor of Lakewood!  My instructor and Jumpmaster was a big name then, Dusty B. Smith (C-172).  I jumped and yelled out "one thousand!" as trained but that's it and when I felt the tug of the chute I yelled "six thousand!". 

I looked up to check the chute but couldn't get my head up, I had bad line twists and could not steer till I got untwisted and was running down wind.  The ground crew was yelling at me through the radio to twist and swing my arms and legs.  When I finally got normal there was no way to get back.  I overshot the disk by 100 yards but that was well within the giant DZ circle and I did a good and soft PLF.  The second I hit the ground (after that perfect PLF I mentioned of course) I became the third youngest active jumper in America!  That didn't last long though, a week maybe.  PI put out at least a dozen 16 and 17 year olds before the end of the month. (photo above of Jim Holston, age 16, jumping the standard Parachutes Incoporated student Gary-Gore modification)

N69795, the Norseman I made my first jump from.  Photo shows it after it's repainting to the PI standard blue scheme.  When I first jumped it, it had the red/white scheme and was nick named "Red Lead".  Red Lead crashed and burned taking off from runway 19 at the Orange DZ in July 1979.  It had a full load of jumpers, mostly students and its' sturdy construction protected the passengers and only the pilot and a 19 year old lady needed any treatment for minor injuries.  Both were back in the air that afternoon.  Click for newspaper clippings.

These were hard days of jumping compared to now.  On my 11th and 12th jumps the winds were bad and I got dragged a couple of times.  I also got pinned against the door once and had a hard exit.  I don't remember if I didn't get a cut or they didn't cut it very much. 

Winter hit hard and fast that year and on my first freefall it was -1F/-19C degrees at jump run.  I was bundled to the hilt including a US Navy knitted hood.  Over the next 9 months I got in what jumps I could.  New Jersey winters and lack of money being a problem but I was very lucky being there. 

The Lakewood DZ was placed where it was for 2 main reasons.  A remote area, good landing sand but most importantly it was an equal distance between Philadelphia and New York City.  The hand outs had local numbers in both cities.

The place drew big names!  The manager was Lee Guilfoyle (C-8 & D-50, who also invented the Static Line Assist System) and his younger brother Pete (C-172) also worked and jumped there.  Lee did a lot to help me advance in the sport.  I was young but good at it.  The 1962 World Overall Champion, Jim Errander, gave me my first style and accuracy lessons and was a good, if not great influence.  I jumped with or had as jumpmasters other good people of the day.  Condon (Connie) MacDonovan (who with his eventual wife Kay, had one of the great skydiving romances of the day), Bob Spatola of Philie, Art Markhoff (D-102) and Nick Paitanita (D-778).

Nick died 2 years later attempting to break the worlds' high altitude free fall record of 93,000 feet then held by the Russians.  Riding a balloon, his first attempt failed when his O2 system was frozen to the gondola and he couldn't get out.  On his second attempt his face plate  failed at 50,000 feet and died in the hospital 3 days later.

I also met my first Australian there too, Don West.  Don looked more like the typical blonde superstud lifeguard than a skydiver.   Don represented Australia at the (Orange) World Meet in 1962 along with Kathy Henderson and Bill Molloy.   It was the first team to represent Australia at a world meet.  Kathy went on to be one of Australia's first female airline pilots and Bill was lost in an auto accident driving home from the DZ here in Victoria.

Don stayed on in the USA to further his parachuting career at Orange and Lakewood.  He came back to Australia to compete in the 1964 Nationals.  Before he could though, Don and a team from South Australia were out to beat the World Baton Passing Record.  Don and Joe Larkin went low to try and make the last and record setting pass.  Don let the other jumper open so they wouldn't entangle and his reserve didn't fully open in time.  He is buried in Adelaide next to his girl friend who was killed in an auto accident.  Kip and Lee both met his sister when she came to the States after his death.  Don was Kips' FJC instructor.

Claude Gillard (who also jumped at Lakewood and Orange and is the current Australia Parachute Federation, president) kept Don's Pioneer LoPo which was black and white candy stripes with a red lobster tail and his memory was kept alive when Claude had all of the Labatouche Centres "Gilstars" (also called the  Argosy) made in the same color pattern.

I got onto freefall status on Jan 11th 1964.  Pete Guilfoyle was the jump master and we were the last two in the plane.  I had never seen all the jumpers go before me and had never sat in the co-pilots seat before.  I remember the jump well.  The previous jump I was actually quite calm but on this jump I was more scared than the first jump!  I also remember that I wanted to grab the yoke, turn the Norseman on its left side and dump all the jumpers out!  Funny the things that go through your mind during stress.  As a pilot, I never would have done it of course.  I kept my mind busy watching the pilot proceedures for the other jumpers and was very tempted to ask for some yoke time but I didn't and that's cool.  The pilot later told me on the ground I was one of the few people who sat in the right seat that used his head when they got up.  I got up and backed out rather than turning and hitting the pilot in the head with my gear or worst brushing against a control.  Again I was thinking like a pilot rather than a jumper.

Probably what I remember most is that I saw the whole aircraft!  On a static line, you jump, fall 10 or 15 feet and then as the drag of the deploying canopy pulls you upright you lose sight of the Norseman.  This time it was 3 seconds before the pilot chute left the container and I was 140 feet below the aircraft which was now 700 feet in front of me by the time I'm in the saddle!  I never lost sight of the Norseman the whole time and just as I was about to look up and do the canopy check I saw Pete bomb out of the aircraft!  He did a 5-6 second delay and opened.

I was amazed!  I saw the whole aircraft (N1207) for the first time plus I saw another jumper in the air with me and open right in front of me (or below me actually) for the first time.  I enjoyed that more than making the jump. I forgot that I had just added a new meaning to the word "brown-stain" and that it was colder than hell! 

I may have done the canopy check but I don't remember it.  I got a good landing 26 feet from the target which was very normal for me by then .  They learned quickly that I could steer myself better than being controlled from the ground.  The 3 previous jumps I had gotten 22ft, 20ft and 20ft from the disk.  The next jump I got 19ft.  I credit my accuracy to the training I had as a pilot and landing the J-3 cub and by the way, the day I made my first jump I gave up flying lessons for 11 years.  My first free fall was my last radio helmet jump.

My first Free Fall was recorded by the pilot with my camera.  This is also a good shot of the Bell Radio Helmet.  I brought my 1959 Aires Viscount 35mm camera up for the first time and did my first ever aerial photo (of the DZ) and then the pilot grabbed this shot me me.  The film was the original ASA 10 Kodachrome!  You can see from both shots how late in the day it was.  It was just about sundown when I jumped.  That big double road in the background is the Garden State Parkway.
My first 5 second delay was in warmer weather and in a borrowed helmet and jumpsuit.  The double line in the background is the Garden State Parkway and the pond is the reason we wore floatation gear.  What's odd is that until I scanned the photo I never noticed that I didn't have one.  I don't know if they forgot it or it fell off???  It's usually under the bungie bands on top of the reserve.  Also notice the bubble goggles.  I jumped that type till the "porche" types came out in the middle 70's.
Word of my jumping got out at my CAP Squadron and at my high school.  I got a certain amount of respect from the class mates with brains and became a target of the resident bullies who didn't have the courage to jump themselves.  What was sadly lacking in my opinion, though, was the hordes of admiring females showering me with admiration and sexual favors!  I was also sadly lacking in the mandatory ration of groupies.  John Lennon had them, so why not me?  He didn't even jump???  :-)

What was really funny was my high school gym teacher.  He was an X-Marine and had the neck to prove it.  He went ballistic when he found out!  He couldn't understand why I wouldn't play any of the high school bouncy ball sports or be on his football team yet do a macho trip like jumping, something he couldn't do.  His last attempt to coral me was to try and put me on the wrestling team.  I beat two of the current team members in try outs and then wouldn't join.  To make a long story short and for the record... American put the first neckless gym teacher in space! 

I made my last 5 second delay on May 2nd (you had to make four then) and cleared for 10 second delays but I was grounded till after graduation exams were over by family.  The fact I was nearly broke sealed it and I left for the Air Force 5 weeks later and didn't see Lakewood again for 8 months.

Accuracy on my first dozen jumps
Jump Master
 92.31 Dusty B. Smith
Lee Guilfoyle
2 mph
Robert A. Spatola
Pete Guilfoyle
Pete Guilfoyle
5 mph
Pete Guilfoyle
Condon McDonough
5 mph
Pete Guilfoyle
8 mph
Condon McDonough
Condon McDonough
Art Markhoff
Pete Guilfoyle


There were only two sport parachute manufacturers in the USA at the time and gear preference seemed to have been divided at the Mississippi river.  As mentioned before there was also an Eastern Skydiving Culture and a Western Skydiving Culture.  Jumpers in the East tended to have a higher educational level and were more inter- ested in style, accuracy and competition than the west culture was.  Early relitive work and baton passing was more previlant there.

In the east, Pioneer Parachute Company in Hartford, Connecticut dominated the east and Security in San Leandro, CA. held the west.

PI was the national Pioneer distributor so Lakewood was 100% Pioneer gear.  It was also the testing ground for a lot of Pioneers' gear over the years. 

Sport harnesses and 3-pin containers were the norm. The static lines were guided through a chrome plated steel ring and there was no static line assist system at the time.  This device was invented by Lee Guilfoyle after PI had put out over 25,000 students and had the first bounce on any of their DZ's.  As I remember it the student rolled when he exited and for some reason grabbed the pilot chute when it came out and rode a horse shoe into the ground.  The static line assist attached the static line to the top of the sleeve and pilot chute with velcro and that student would never have been able to hold on to it.

Mains were 28' and 32' 1.6oz low porosity canopies but reserves (in sport containers) were 1.1oz high porosity 24' T-10's.  Pioneer didn't make any LoPo reserves at the time.  Reserves used for the heavier jumpers using the 32' LoPo's were standard USAF surplus 28' 1.1oz HiPo C-9's in nylon USAF containers.  The main colors were orange and white alternating every gore, the same as the military USAF C-9 color pattern of the day.   Because there were two lakes nearby, inflation devices were put under the two top bungie straps of the reserve.

The Pioneer containers had a very interesting feature.  In the reserve (Above) there was a plastic window on the pin flap so you didn't have to open the flap to do a pin/seal check.  The main container also had the same type of window so the jumpmaster didn't have to unlash the static line to open the flap and do a pin check.  You can just see the window in the photos top and right.  In the photo below you can see the whole rig below.  The Pioneer harness I'm wearing was also shaped like a vest and quite comfortable.  My B-4 felt like an instrument of torture compared to it.
.On the west coast, the gear was different.  The parachute design genius, Dan Abbott, was turning out outstanding products.  The main sport harness/container system was called "The Tracker".  It was all nylon as opposed to canvas being the norm and nylon an option for the Pioneer systems.  The Tracker was available in several colors and in 3 or 4 pin containers.

Dan produced the first LoPo reserve.  Up till then the best reserve you could get was the 1.1oz HiPo 26' Navy Conical.  In a surplus contain- er they cost $35 ready to jump from places like the Chute Shop in Flemington, New Jersey.  A surplus 24' 1.1 HiPo in a T-10A container was $24.95 and a 24' twill canopy in a cloth T-7A container was $19.95.

Using a new 1.1oz LoPo ripstop nylon, Dan designed a 26', 24 gore (as opposed to the 26' Navy which had 22 gores) conical reserve with a 36% T-Gore modification.   Unmodified 24' and 28' surplus reserves tended oscillate a lot, but this canopy was stable, steerable and had a forward speed of 8mph!  It was also available in several 2 color patterns, one of the colors had to be white.

Dan had previously used the 1.1oz LoPo ripstop material to make the 28' and 32' tracker canopies.  They landed like feathers compared to the military surplus canopies and had 22% less weight than the Pioneer 1.6oz LoPos.

Both the Pioneer and Security harnesses were super comfortable compared to the surplus B-4's (that were available with D-Rings attached for sport jumping at $14.95).  The B-4 was also known as the "Ball Grabber" or "Ball Buster", a correct name for the beast if not adjusted perfectly before jumping.  The B-12 harnesses ($19.95 with D-Rings) were much better but without pads attached to the leg and chest straps both were far from perfect.  Both the B-4 and B-12 containers had to be extended so they could take a 28' canopy with sleeve.


The top two lines are prices for complete rigs in 1965.  The bottom is for canopies.

These two cuts started it all.  Its unknown (to me at least) if this was discovered by someone who blew a panel or someone sat down with fluid dynamics charts and designed them.  The first modification was the "DERRY SLOTS" which was a set of slits at about the 10pm and 2am positions with steering lines.  It was invented in the 1930's by a US Forest Service Smoke Jumper name John Derry.  It gave you only a few miles per hour forward speed if that, but you could turn the canopy.  I saw Derry Slots once at Asbury Park DZ and they were installed with a Double Blank Gore.  The Double Blank Gore was also called the "Twin Gore".  I have also seen a triple-blank gore and a blank-gore with derry slots in photos from 1961.

The Double-L was the most common student chute modification in the sport.  The turns were OK but it was a 7-8mph canopy at 15-16fps decent rate.  (Note: all the figures I am giving here are for 28' Surplus Military canopies.  LoPo commercial canopies had a slower decent rate in all cases and higher forward speeds in some instances)  I have been told that the Dbl-L was patented by the Capital Parachute Company and I'm looking into it.

The T-GORE was invented and patented by Curt Hughes (C-33) and Loy Brydon (D-12).  It was installed on C-8 and C-9 canopies sold by the Original Capitol Parachute Company and had a 6-7mph forward speed. 

There was also an "Extended T-gore" which was just like a standrd T except rather than a single square cut of the gore next to the blank gore, it had two.  It had the disadvantage of not being upgradeable to anything else. 

The Double-T was a common upgrade of the Dbl-L or single T-Gore and it died out by 1965.  It had better drive than the Dbl-L but for some unknown reason gave unstable turns.  It had all the bad habits of the TU and none of the advantages.  It is amazing that just cutting the angled cuts in the T to make it a HUSTLER (Also called a Double-Rocket), made it as fast as a TU, with very stable turns (especially with double control lines) and 16fps decent rate and 12mph forward speed.  The vast majority of Double-T's, however, ended their careers as TU's.

The final work on the T was a Triple-T which was designed by Philip Miller.  It died quickly because though it had very excellent forward speed it also had a 22fps decent rate! .

For many years these two cuts were the most common high perform- ance modification, especially the 7-TU.  They had 11-12mph forward speed, but a high 20 to 21 feet per second decent rate.  The TU also had fast unstable turns.  The TU was also patented by Curt Hughes (C 33) and Loy Brydon (D-12) of the Capitol Parachute Co..  It was the subject of a series of lawsuits brought by Capital against companies and riggers using the design without paying royalties.. Capital won them all but riggers continued to cut surplus military canopies into TU's anyway.  Pioneer then concentrated on the Gary Gore and Hustler but would also sell you a licensed TU.  Security then produced their own "Hooked Hodifications".

Pioneer Factory cuts

Pioneer offered its 1.6oz LoPo canopies in all the popular cuts but also in its own proprietary "Gary Gore" amd "Hustler" modifications.  These two modifications were the first designed on a computer.  The Gary Gore had slightly better forward speed than a Double-L despite its smaller cut and the turns were 100% flat and stable.  The name, by the way, came from "Gary Pond" D-6969 who at the time was a toddler.  He is Nate and (national champinion) Nona Pond's son and the grand son of Batch Pond, one of the first PI Norseman pilots.  The Hustler, which was always with a 5-gore separation was as fast as the 7-TU with the decent rate of a Double-L or about 16 feet per second vs the 21 feet per second for the 7-TU and 19-20 feet per second for the 5-TU.  The Hustler had a 12-13mph forward speed, vs 11mph for the 5-TU and 12 for the 7-TU.

Security Factory Cuts

Security seems to have favored cuts based on the H-Modification. You could of course order the 1.1oz LoPo Tracker in any of the common cuts except the Pioneer designs.  I have to admit that its been so long since I looked at the tracker data that I may be mistaken here.  I know there was the H and what I'm calling a Hooked-H but there was also the Hooked-J modification and I hope I have the name right.  Anyone out there than get assure me I'm right or wrong please feel free to e-mail me and we'll get it right if I'm wrong.  I have never seen the Hooked-J nor a Double-J and don't even know if there was a Double-J.

Modification Heirachy

Modifying a surplus canopy or even buying a new one with a low performance cut in it required some forward planning.  First you had to decide between a 5 or 7 gore separation.  Few people in the early 60's got less than a Double-L but there were some Blank gores around.  If you went for a 5-gore your path was to a Hustler, H or Hooked H or a 5-TU.  If you went the 7-gore route you ended up with a 7-TU or Hooked mod.  The 7-Gore Hustler didn't work as well as the 5-Gore.  The 7-gore Double-L was also a poor performer.

If you started with a single blank gore, Single-T or a Gary Gore you had to rotate the canopy on the connector links to put in the Hustler.  Many PI students or Pioneer Customers had the factory put the canopy off center and when the second rocket was cut in the canopy was rotated to center norm and the 28th gore was in the proper place.

Blank Gore
Blank Gore
Blank Gore
Blank Gore
Double Blank Gore
Double Blank Gore
Double Blank Gore
Gary Gore (Rocket)
Double - L
Double - L
Hustler (Dbl Rocket)
There is also a path I don't include here.  The U-GORE.  This was cut from a Double Blank Gore and the next step was a TU.  I have never seen one of these cuts personally and it probably was dead by 63 when I started jumping, people going right to the TU.


Even to this date there are only three basic modifications for reserve canopies used in America:

The US Air Force "Four-Line Release"
The T-Gore
The Tri-Vent

Modified reserves came out early in the game with the introduction of the Security 26' LoPo.  It had/has a 36% single T-Gore modification in it from day one.  Its the only place where the T-GORE even was any good.  On 28' and 32' canopies it was less than a GARY GORE and only slightly better than a Double-Blank Gore.  Put in a LoPo reserve though, it came into its own.  It was the perfect cut for the smaller sized reserve.  I have one ride on a 26' with a T-Gore and found it to be responsive with enough drive to get me into a safe area.  I have seen the T-Gore in 22', 23', 24' and 26' reserves both factory and surplus military.  I have never seen one in a 28' C-8/9 reserve.

Pioneer came out with a copy of the Security LoPo as did Strong and  one other no longer in business.  When John Maggie sold Security to England's GQ (who changed the name to GQ Security), Dan Abbott made some 26'ers at FXC/Guardian for a short time.  Only Strong still makes the canopy but with a tri-vent modification.

There were also mesh versions that came out in the 70's.  On rare occasions round canopies had a nasty habit of inverting on opening.  I had a main do it on me once.  For reasons unknown, inversions on the T-modified reserves would occur through the T-Gore itself.  Its was extremely rare for a reserve to invert but it did happen so the various people making reserves with T's put a white mesh material over the modification and it stopped the problem.  It also made packing them easier but it did increase weight and bulk.  Security started the trend by putting a netting like material over the T but that was too bulky and they went to fine mesh.

There was also a problem when one of the mills making the fine mesh screwed up and chemical in the mesh was damaging main material.  Many riggers first noticed a stain and found the material teared easily.

The "4-Line Release" started with the Air Force.  They wanted some kind of controllability on their C-9 canopy for pilots..  They marked the four most back lines with red coloring and put a riser knife on the risers. (there's a shot of one on the ALTUS page.  I carried one on my reserve for years).  You opened, cursed the opening shock and the bastard that just shot you down, and took the knife and cut the red lines.  This put a funny lobster-tail on the canopy but it gave it drive and it would turn fairly nicely by pulling down the back riser.

The sport world caught on fairly quickly.  They put the 4-line on all kinds of reserves, but instead of cutting lines there was a slip-knot arrangement, plus steering toggles were installed.  There were usually a loop in the steering lines but some had wood toggles and a few hand the type we use today.  My 28' C-9 reserve had a 4-line as did a 26' Navy I had to ride down once (see Littleton Page).  Para-Gear sold a metal release device and still may.

The TRI-VENT came out in the mid-70's and was most common on the factory 22', 23' and some 26' LoPo canopies.  They were also put into some surplus Army 24' T-10A's, 26' Navy canopies and on rare occassions on 28' C-9's.  It worked very well on all.  The cut consisted of 3 perfect squares, the center one being in the last gore and the other two spaced by another gore.  It was the last reserve modification developed.  The commercial canopies had mesh in the three holes.  Strongs' 26' LoPo (photo below) uses the tr-vent.

The majority of canopies used in the sport in the 60's were surplus military and surplus military harness/container rigs (mostly B-12's and some B-4"s) were the most common till the 70's.  Given the prices in the ads above you can see why!

28' surplus twill mains were pretty well gone by 1960 though some 28' twill reserves were still around.  Twill 24' reserves were around till the late 60's when ripstop 24's and 26' Navy Conicals (which by the way were used as main canopies by the Navy and were always ripstop) became cheap and easy to aquire.

The Navy always made their canopies white and the Air Force had some camo colors but for the most part started with the "candy stripe" pattern, then to the "quarter panel" and finally the "4-color" design.  The canopy was to be torn up to be used for survivle purposes after the pilot landed and the brown and green was for camoflague.  The white and orange for signaling.

Quite a few factories produced military canopies including:

Alamo Manufacturing
American Lady Corset Company
Brugemann & Brand KG, E.F.A. (Fr.)
Cole of California
Sigmund Eisner
Fashion Frocks
Granny's Girdle Company
Guardian (FXC)*
Guardian of Great Britain
Hightstown Rug Co.
Irving Great Britain
Jayval Manufacturing*
Jayval of  New Mexico
Richard Khronke Fallschirmwerke
Mead Aviation
J.G. Menihan Corp.
I Miller Parachute Corp.
Mills Manufacturing*
National Automotive Fibers
Naval Air Factory
Pioneer of Canada
Security Parachute Co.*
Standard Manufacturing
Standard Parachute Company
M. Steinthal*
Vanity Fair Mills
Victory Parachutes

* indicates that I have owned or jumper gear from these companies

Jumping in the US Air Force
This page last revised on 19 April 2001

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