By Erin Delmore
If you think the window seat of a 747 is a hot ticket, try this. I’m headed up — but sadly, not down — with the U.S. Army Golden Knights as they skydive over the Borgata Hotel at the Atlantic City Airshow.
“The Golden Knights were started in 1959 at Fort Bragg, N.C. which is the home of the Airborne. In 1961, we were designated the Army’s official aerial demonstration unit and then one year later, we adopted our nickname, the Golden Knights,” said Specialist Ethan Tamez.
Tamez is in his first year with the Golden Knights. He’s kicking off this year’s “Thunder Over the Boardwalk”.
“There’s nothing better than jumping off on a beach in front of thousands of people,” he said.
First, a briefing on the ground, then “dirt dives” — the Golden Knights practice their aerial routine on the tarmac before the jump.
“Then we’re going to go up to about 13,500 feet and do a mass formation jump. I’ll be the first person out today. I’m going to jump in the American flag and kick off the ‘Thunder Over the Boardwalk’ in Atlantic City,” Tamez said.
We threw out wind direction indicators at 2,000 feet and hovered there just long enough to update our viewers on the ground through our Facebook page.
With a salute, Tamez is out the door. Airshow performer Rob Holland is close behind.
“Basically when the flag jumper jumps out, I circle them down, and then I circle the flag down to about 1,000 feet and then I pull off, and once they’re on the ground I come in and do a little show and head back to the airport,” Holland said.
The rest of the Golden Knights wait for cloud cover to clear. The sun’s burning the beach, but it’s only 28 degrees — with the doors open. But these men and women are used to tough conditions.
“Well, skydiving was just a small part of my life. I was an attack helicopter, avionics and armament specialist. So I worked with a lot of cavalry units doing deployments in Afghanistan in support of OEF and OIF,” said Sgt. Dusty Gebhardt.
They create a formation and pull their parachutes at 3,000 feet. You’ve got to wonder, after all the jumps they’ve done, is the thrill still there?
“I remember that first jump that I had, 7,500 jumps ago, 18 years ago, the adrenaline, the excitement that came along with that. Well now that it’s my job, it’s still fun, but I don’t quite get that rush. But being a tandem instructor and taking someone else for a jump, strapping them to me and throwing them out of an airplane, I get to be a part of that for somebody else and it’s fun to relive that excitement every day. It’s new every time I take someone new,” said Golden Knights Tandem Instructor Joe Jones.
That’s it for the U.S. Army Golden Knights for today. Hope to see them back here next year for the 15th annual Atlantic City Airshow, and with any luck, I’ll be back here myself.