by Steven M. Petto
Thirteen canopy formation flyers converged on Whitewright even though weather reports were less than optimistic. The usual "TEXAS CRWd" bunch was joined by Sergeo from Argentina, and Wendy from Austin Texas. All hands were eager for a last chance to polish their skills in preparation for the world record .
Saturday morning dawned with low overcast, high winds and a weather hold. We got off the ground at 10:45 to do a diamond with row fours wings and lock-ups. The transponder in the Twin Otter died so we exited at 9,000 feet. New faces, with new gear, in new slots slowed the pace a bit and we built to nine. Everyone agreed it was a good wake-up dive.
One additional canopy flyer showed up and the Twin Otter went home for avionics repair. The DZ got busy so it took a while to get load #2 . At 14:30 we took the Cessna Caravan to 12,500 feet and put out a 3x4 box with two row four lockups. Peter spotted perfectly and threaded us through the cloud like he had done many times before. The last grip was nearly in hand when it got bumpy at 5000 feet. Breakdown was called, and executed without a problem.
Jumping stopped for the thunderstorm that passed through. Dive #3 got off at 16:30 and was a repeat of #2. Results were about the same. We had a steady flow to the formation, smooth approaches, soft docks and one coming on at breakdown. Decreased lift capacity, a busy DZ and the onset of evening reduced our last load to an eight-way. It built high, built as planned, transitioned to a second point and looked great from the ground.
The weather on Sunday was still schizophrenic. It rained hard at dawn from a low overcast but the killer thunderstorms stayed off to the west. The overcast eventually started breaking up. We planned a thirteen-way, got back into the air by 10:30 and exited at 9,500 feet. The base quad and row three built quickly. The nine-way call was timely. Row four wings and their lockups practiced two approaches each but the formation was completed with time to spare. We turned 180 degrees back to the DZ. The starburst was uneventful.
The clouds returned and put load #2 on hold. We sat on the ground for three hours enjoying the warm sauna that is TEXAS in the summer. Finally four intrepid DQ dogs manifested on the Cessna 182 and went all the way to 3000 feet for what looked like the last CReW dive of the weekend. Jeff, Lee, Brian and Eric turned three and one-half points for an appreciative audience of "flat-liners" who had never seen the pilot of a diamond rotate off the top.
Weather conditions deteriorated further after the four-way and we officially called it quits at 14:45. Normally this would be the end of our journal but this was the schizophrenic weather pattern from hell. So here is the rest of the story.
Nine CReW dogs hung out an extra forty-five minutes discussing the coming weekend and making plans. While we werent looking the approaching rain squall evaporated, and the overcast lifted. Cass (Richardo Castillo) came into the hanger, turned down a game of "one-bounce" but said he would be glad to do a couple more nine-ways if anyone was interested.
The last two dives of our 96-97 DQ Practice Season were completed diamonds that built fast, flew rock solid and were transitioning to a second point when it was time to "break-it-down". It was a good weekend, no wraps, no equipment damaged, no people damaged. Everyone left feeling good about their flying and with a CAN-DO attitude for next week.
Blue Skies/Big Diamonds