CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – From a distance, they don’t look real. Glistening in the sky, the U.S. Army Golden Knights gracefully parachute through the air, performing amazing stunts- sometimes in formation- all in just 60 seconds.
On the ground and in the air, these eight men and one woman make it look easy, but unimaginable. What is it that pushes a person from teetering on the edge of an open cargo plane to free-falling through the great blue sky?
I hoped to be enlightened through my trip on a C-31, an aircraft that SSG Roman Grijalva explained for 22News. “It was an old cargo plane for shipments, back in the day, and the team purchased them in 1986, and modified them to have two large doors we could exit out of,” he said.
Large is an understatement for the nervous passenger, like myself, who got the prime seat next to the open door to get the best action shots.
I had to wear a winter jacket, hood, and gloves, because it was only 10 degrees when we reached the highest altitude. I lost feeling in my feet, and even some of the Golden Knights had blue lips from the cold.
“Typically throughout the season, we’ll jump in any conditions, as long as we’re able to land safely,” Grijalva said.
All of us on the media flight were strapped onto the side of the plane. I had to wear two seatbelts due to my seat being at the edge. My camera and phone had to be tied to the plane using bungee cords.
But the Golden Knights casually walked around the plane, some even kneeling on the edge.
Grijalva, a native of Scituate, Massachusetts, wasn’t nervous about the jump at all.
“That’s pretty standard. It’s what we do. It’s the jump itself. What are we doing on that specific jump or what are we jumping into? The area we’re going to land? That’s the exciting part,” Grijalva said.
We were told at the highest altitude of 12,500 feet, a lack of oxygen in our blood could make us feel drunk or tired. That’s when the first jumper gave the signal to his partner, the small blue plane that flew alongside us.
As he jumped, the plane circled its way down around him. Moments later, a final handshake from the team, and it was everyone else’s turn.
As they disappeared from view, I was enlightened.
The Golden Knights jump out of passion: a passion to show you the bravery, skill and humanity of our U.S. Army.