ROD PACK'S CHUTELESS JUMP
by Lyle Cameron
SKYDIVER JUMPS WITHOUT CHUTE the headlines blared and the television screamed.
When I found out Rod Pack had made the jump, I gave it no further thought. This was a fine example to prove to the average citizen that skydivers have maneuverability. Hundreds of people who didn't know Rod or the facts started phoning and writing.
Rod is a cool natural at everything he does. He has race drag boats, was a trampoline champion and had owned a trampoline center prior to his skydiving. He began skydiving and was a master relative worker in some 30 jumps (as is usual for anyone who has a gymnastic, high-diving, etc., background).
I've jumped with Rod at Taft and know him to be a good air worker. (If he had been an excellent one, only I would have been left hanging at 8,000). I hired Rod to jump with us in Ripcord and got him into the Screen Actors' Guild. He was cool, nerveless, efficient and did things right the first time.
Rod has remained active in stunting and appeared in many pictures. If you have seen the television series, " The Greatest Show on Earth, " starring Jack Palance, you have seen Rod. He is always working out on the trampoline in the background when not doing something more important.
For the present, the idea for jumping without a chute is not a new one. Cliff Winters was thinking about it before any of us could do relative work. It was done several times in the "Ripcord Series" with a concealed 26-foot conical. There never was any doubt that it could be done . It was a simple baton pass, just more serious.
Why now? Well, Wolper Productions has started a new series to be released March 13. Bill Friedkin is producing; Van Heflin is narrating. It is entitled,"Bold Men" and covers all kinds of stunts ... wrestling sharks, plane crashes, blowing out oil well fires, etc.
Rod is one of the episodes with this stunt. It was practiced many times with Bob Allen passing Rod a reserve.
The harness was especially made to take a load on either side by Harry Schmoll of Para-Systems. The "D" rings were made to stand out. An additional snap was added to a riser so a hookup could be made to one of the cameramen in case Allen got lost!
The actual stunt was done at Arvin from Schaefer's 206, flown by Harry Hanes. The loading and landing were covered by about 20 cameras. There were stills and movie cameras on the struts. The actual jump was photographed by Doyle Fields and Bob Buquor with 16 and 35 mm stills.
Life Magazine had the exclusive, as you have probably seen by this time. Saga had the first byline. Wolper Productions paid the tab. Rod's total take will exceed $10, 000.
The only thing that bothers Rod is the opening of a reserve. He had never aired a reserve before. Helpful friends advised him if he wanted to get the feel of one to try a head down opening on a Para-Commander with a loose harness.
Rod wore skindiving weights to compensate for the loss of parachute weight.
Everyone got out at 14,600. Once out, Rod knew he had it made when he felt how easily he could maneuver. Bob Allen easily brought in the reserve (a 24 twill T-7A). Rod took it at 10, 000. He spent about four thousand more hooking it on. He grasped the handle just to locate it, but when he looked at it, the handle was in his hand and nylon was streaming out at around 3,500. The news of the stunt was not to be released until the 13th of March. Some newspaperman got itchy feet and blabbed it to every paper and TV news. When it was suggested he do it again for better pictures, Rod said, "I've done it once and that is enough, no more."
It is less dangerous than the old plane changes or wing walking. Rod's stunt took personal skill and cool nerves. Rod has an abundance of both. It should be remembered that although Rod is a sport jumper and competitor on week ends, he is a stunt man during the week, just as other sport jumpers are steeplejacks, bridge painters, line men, pilots, and other more hazardous occupations. We all know we've lost more skydivers driving to work than from jumping, and yet the average citizen thinks skydiving is dangerous.
You must realize and point out to the public that sky diving is not limited only to "sports." There is not only competition and recreational jumping, but all kinds of professional jumping which includes combat, rescue, test, fire fighting, research, exhibition, demonstration, photographic and stunt, to name a few. Though sport and recreational jumpers have become more numerous and receive all of the benefits, you should remember that the PCA is a club which was founded by and for riggers and professional jumpers.
Legally, the PCA, of course, cannot touch Rod, nor can the State Aeronautics Board. As the FAA does not issue licenses to parachutists, they can only fine Rod. I am sure the studio will pay the tab. The FAA can lift Harry's license and fine him. This might not even stand up if taken to court. Want to try it? It has been done so no one would pay you for it. Although you wouldn't be able to read them, you might get a few headlines if you were the first to miss. I am available to film it and lead the chorus when they sing, " Sorry About That, " over you!
From Skydiver 1/1965
Republished with permission from Lyle Cameron Jr.