Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kim Tucker

Maybe this is too much, too soon about skydiving, but from 1990 to 2003, except for my kids, it was my entire life. I taught it for ten years and even spent a little time as a tandem master. Boy, did I hate that!

I’ve been really lucky that some of my personal heroes have also been personal friends.

I posted earlier about my buddy Kim Tucker. He was the St. Louis Cardinals skydiving Fredbird. He would exit a small Cessna over Busch Stadium holding a giant bird’s head, putting it on after his canopy deployed. He’s been a photographer forever and has probably taken hundreds of pics of me over the years. I uploaded a video he took of a 9 way we did in Sparta, Il around 1991 or 1992. It’s great old school skydiving.

We had 2 groups meeting up in freefall from 2 different Cessna 182s. Nowadays you can carry 14 people and get to 12000 or 15000 feet in less than 10 minutes. More than 20 if you fly a tail gater. You can only squeeze 4 or 5 people into a 182 and it takes 30 minutes to get to 9500 feet. Needless to say, the lower altitude gives you a lot less time to do anything as a group. It was great discipline!

The really spectacular thing about this video to me was the fact that Kim climbed out of the trail plain, hung upside down from the plane’s strut, let go when the jumpers from the lead plane exited, and turned around in freefall. He never once let the formation drift from the center of the frame.

I was crouched in the back of the same plane and exited last. You see me coming in from the right to join last. I’m in a black jumpsuit with a gray rig.

Kim’s been in the sport a long time. Our licenses are issued in numeric order and his D license is in the 600s. I got my D license in 1991 and it’s D-13961. I just got a copy of Parachutist and the most recent one is D-31060.

Speaking of numbers, D-1, Lew Sanborn is good friend I’ll write about one of these days. He got his license D license on 16 March 1959.

D.B. Cooper has been in the news a lot lately. He made his famous night time escape from a hijacked 747. The plane was supposedly going 205mph.

Terminal velocity is 120mph. That’s as fast as your body can travel in freefall. You can make yourself fall as fast as 150mph.

At a World Freefall Convention in Quincy, IL in the late 90s, Kim, my buddy Tom Kuehnle and I jumped a 727 going 205mph to get a sense of what D.B. Cooper experienced.

There was a long set of steps that descended from the back. Only one person at a time could go down. Kim went first. He was wearing a sit suit so he could video in a sitting position, then Tom and I followed. I jumped off in a sitting position and stayed seated during the whole FF.

It was like being slammed into a wall. We never did slow down to terminal velocity. When I opened, I was slammed by my canopy opening so fast. I loved every second!

I was in a 4 way team that was based at a club in Greenville, IL. The club paid for their airplanes by doing a lot of demo jumps. We used to do the VP Fair under the Arch. Kim was an honorary club member for life. One year he circled the north leg of the Arch twice under canopy. He’s the only person who’s ever done that.

The only time I’ve ever been injured jumping was when I was training to be a tandem master. Kim was my passenger in one of my first tandems. As we were coming in for a landing, I told him to slide in on his butt. At the last minute I decided I could stand it up. He sat (as instructed) on my foot. It broke my ankle and earned me a Royal Order of the Crutch patch. I taught my classes that whole summer wearing a cast. I lied and told my students I was in a motorcycle accident.

Tom was my landlord and I’ll never forget hanging that cast out of the bathtub at his apartment.

Kim, Tom, and I were in the POPS (Parachutists Over Phorty) skydiving record together in Sullivan, Mo in 2005. That’s the picture over to the left of my blog. I believe the record still stands. That’s what the group photo was for.

I wish you could see Kim’s shirt better. There’s a photo he took of a tiny Busch Stadium underneath Fredbird’s spindly legs.

We jumped from the same plain that crashed, closing Quantum Leap (our DZ). A few of the casualties were in this group.

We consider ourselves Quantum Leap orphans.

I think it was around 2000 that I finally had to quit teaching at Quantum Leap. We closed the bar that night and I made it as far as Eureka before being pulled over. I’ve told this story before. Kim was my DWI lawyer. Since then, I’ve called him my mouthpiece.

Here’s the clip that Kim took in Sparta of us doing our Old School 9 way.

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