th (1)    The second time I flew in an airplane, I jumped out. There were quite a few other flights after that, before I actually stayed in the plane until it had landed. Believe me, sometimes landings cause more butterflies in my stomach than I ever had jumping out of a plane.


The Old Hand:

Army Glasses

The story on the news about a smartphone dropping 13000 feet and still working, reminds me of a similar thing that happened to me in paratrooper jump school. After three weeks of hell, we had to jump at l800 feet, three times one day, two times the next day to qualify for our wings. When we hit the ground, we had to bundle up our chutes and run to the closest deuce and a half truck for the ride back.

I had civilian glasses but the Army issued me a pair of bare-boned glasses which I had to wear in jump school. In jumping with glasses in those days, you tied a piece of cord to the bows, just long enough to fit around the back of your head and secured the ties with tape. On one of the jumps, the wind ripped off my glasses as soon as I exited the plane. Other than losing my glasses, the jump went well.

I climbed in the back of the truck and as we drove away, a trooper-to-be, with a distinct hillbilly accent, loudly proclaimed that it was really his lucky day. He had found a pair of glasses on the drop zone. Never had a pair before and now he had one. I hated to bust his bubble but I suggested he put them on and see if he see anything with them. Naturally he couldn’t.  I told him that they were probably mine, the ones that flew off my face when I left the plane. I asked to try them on and see if I could see anything. I could. There was no question they were mine. And they were in perfect condition. The fall hadn’t hurt them at all. He allowed me to keep them seeing as how ‘they don’t work’ when he wears them.

There was about three hundred of us on that jump. There was probably a dozen trucks to pick us up. And I just happened to climb in a truck with the guy who thought he was so lucky because he found a pair of glasses. I always wore my civilian glasses for everything except when I jumped. I used those army issued glasses. They weren’t much to look at but they survived a fall of 1800 feet without breaking the lenses or the frame. They were as tough as Army steak.

Published  07/27/2011,SPPP, Bulletin Board


The Old Hand:

Up in the air, up in the air. 

Quite a few of us in the 82nd Signal Battalion and our equipment were being transported across the mountains from Fort Bragg, NC to Fort Campbell KY to set up communications for the umpires in a war exercise, Operation Eagle Wing.

While we were still on the ground, one of the men, Sgt. Ford, blew up his air mattress. And while the rest of us sat on hard benches, Ford laid on his air mattress and kept crowing how comfortable it felt. We were happy when he shut his mouth and dozed off.

Suddenly there was an explosion and we saw Ford flying to the ceiling of the plane. Bam! He hit the roof. Bam! He fell down and hit the floor. A lot of us, including the pilot, ran to him. Outside of several bruises and a great deal embarrassment he was okay.

When the pilot found out about the air mattress and how Ford blew it up on the ground, he further embarrassed Ford by explaining how air pressure changes the higher up you fly. The air Ford blew into the mattress on the ground had greater pressure than that in the plane once a certain altitude was reached, causing the mattress to explode.

It was a hands-on lesson in physics that none of us ever forgot, especially Ford.

PS: Ford also got written up and the Old Man saw to it that Ford got a little extra duty once we got back to Bragg.

Published SPPP Bulletin Board  7/22/ 13


The Old Hand:



Cute story about the little guy declaring ‘that was awesome’ on the plane’s bumpy landing reminded me of a plane ride I took with a coworker.

It was his very first plane ride. To say it was a white-knuckle flight for the guy would be an understatement. I’ve seen less fear in paratroopers making their first jump. I tried to talk to him about how to go about the work that he was going to have to do in the next few days, but the blank stare in his eyes proved to me he really wasn’t listening. He didn’t have a rosary, but I realized he was using his fingers in lieu of beads.

About twenty minutes from landing, the plane hit an air pocket and quickly fell a little. He turned to me and between gasps, managed to ask if what happened was normal. I told him no. Then he began to cry, big tears, loud sobs. And I began to laugh – very loud. Between the two of us, we had the attention of the rest of the passengers and flight attendants. When one attendant came to ask if anything was wrong, between his crying and my laughing, neither of us could answer.

Afterwards I felt bad about laughing at him. I tried to apologize, but he wouldn’t accept it. We were never close friends; but after that incident, we aren’t even distant friends. That happened over thirty years ago and I don’t think he has ever forgotten or forgiven. I realize I never should have laughed at his fear; but darn it, I just couldn’t help myself.

Published 7/15/13, SPPP, Bulletin Board







5 thoughts on “UP, UP IN THE AIR

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