Club History: A compilation from various sources...
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Falling for a Sport: 50 Years of South Australian Skydiving
First published in 2011 by the South Australian Sport Parachute Club Inc and the South Australian Parachute Council.
Design: Kate Swann
Steve Swann, 2011
This work is copyright. The moral rights of the author have been asserted. all rights reserved. Without limiting the rights reserved under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or trasmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prioior written permission of the copyright owner.
Steve has kindly provided permission to view the book online at the following link, if you would like a hard copy of the book, it can be purchased from Adelaide Tandem Skydiving at the Lower Light Dropzone or SA Skydiving at Langhorne Creek.
You can also view extra entries at:
and some historical jump footage at Steve's Youtube channel:
Skydiving in South Australia - The Beginning
A History by Geoff Cooling
The idea of Sport Parachuting in South Australia arose when, in 1961, at a RSL type meeting of WW2 paratroopers held in Melbourne Street, North Adelaide. Ted Harrison met Joe Mutch and over a quite a few beers, the two of them discussed the possibility of establishing a parachute club.
Ted was a cadet journalist working for the Truth Newspaper at the time and contacted a friend journalist working for the Sunday Mail asking him possibly running a story about the formation of a parachute club. The first meeting was held at Parafield Airport using the premises of the Royal Aero Club of South Australia. Over 120 people showed up at the inaugural meeting and the beginning of the South Australian School of Parachuting was formed.
Although ground training started soon after in June/July, the actual jumping did not start until November 1961 because there was no equipment and no aircraft available. However, in a bid to keep people interested, the club organised a group of jumpers from Victoria to come over in October and jump into Virginia. Hans Magnussen, Claude Gillard, Bill Spark and Charlie Stewart jumped out of a Beaver from 23,800 feet to claim an Australian High Altitude Record and South Australia’s 1st recorded civilian parachute jump.
Although Ted was the Chief Instructor in practice, Stan Kruszewski (Polish) acted as official Chief Instructor because the Dept of Civil Aviation required a minimum of 50 jumps to act as CI. Stan had accomplished 400 jumps in the Polish army but had never done a freefall where as Ted had only 8 static-line jumps with the CMF, (Citizens Military Forces) all without the use of wearing a reserve.
Once the gear arrived from England, the 1st jumps were conducted at Aldinga starting on the 19th November 1961 using a fabric skinned twin-engine biplane, DeHaviland Dragon Rapide that required hand starting of the prop. Approximately 70 - 80 students went on to complete their first jumps but that number quickly diminished down to a core of about 30 who continued to see the next lot of students come through.
A list of some of the original jumpers who pioneered skydiving in South Australia were as follows…
Ted Harrison, Stan Kruszewski, Joe Mulch (never jumped), Charlie Horvath, Brian Brown, Trevor Burns, John Williamson, Cathy Williamson, Kathy Henderson, Susi Wright, Mary Summers Joseph Larkin, Max Chaplin, Jim Louth, Col Parsons, Graeme Barrington, Bob Palmer, Don West, Michael Soph, Phil Edwards, Dave Shearer and Sid Koronkevicius (Pilot), Noel Comley. Laurie Trotter and Noel Weckert came in after a year or two.
Ted Harrison was one of the first people who experimented with “freefalling” in SA because they had lined up some displays and in order to do so, had to quickly learn how. Because there was no one with any such experience, Ted taught himself by reading the Bud Sellick book and other correspondence. His first freefall was a delay between 7 and 10 seconds.
This introduction of freefalling now opened the door for experimenting with a totally new element within the sport called “baton passing” where one person would exit the aircraft holding a baton whilst another more experienced person would exit after and attempt to gain the baton in freefall. This game was only for the elite and according to recollections, a task easier said than done. Many attempts to achieve this were made before being successful and once so, attempts for a double pass and even a triple pass were contemplated.
It wasn’t long before politics reared its ugly head and the two strong personalities of Ted Harrison and Max Chaplin clashed. Max along with a few others formed a splinter group called South Coast Skydivers (non APF affiliated) and set up another DZ at Aldinga only 2-3 miles from the original school. Soon after that, another small group formed calling themselves Freelance Skydivers whose objective was not political, but to perform parachute displays. In Col Parsons words, we were just a few guys who were trying to become famous.
In July 1962, Cathy Williamson and Bill Molloy (Vic) achieved the first “lipstick” pass (freefall kiss) in the British Commonwealth at 5,000 feet over Aldinga. The media picked up on the story and the news travelled fast across the continent. Cathy, being a student teacher at university received a reprimand from the teaching profession for her lack of decorum.
Mid to late 1962, South Australians Don West, Kathy Henderson and Bill Molloy (Vic) made history when they became the first Australian representatives in the world parachuting championships held in Orange, Massachusetts USA.
In Easter 1963, South Australia held the 4th Australian Parachuting Championships at “Mallee Brae” Goolwa. Organised by Ted Harrison, the competition consisted of 2 events of Individual Accuracy, 2 jumps from 1,000 metres, 2 jumps from 1,500 meters and a style event. Although the style event was never completed because of poor weather, Brian Brown come 2nd in both accuracy events and Phil Edwards won overall accuracy based on best total for 3 out of 4 jumps.
Once the competition was called, the APF was holding its AGM in a tent nearby when they heard a thud.
Alf White aged 47 died whilst doing an exhibition jump in front of approximately 6,000 spectators. Exiting from 3,200 feet, Alf went in for reasons unknown without activating either parachute (Although it was suggested that Alf had been drinking very heavily on the nights previous). Because it was the first skydiving fatality in SA and authorities were unfamiliar with anything of the kind, the automatic response was to put blame on the organiser and consequently tried to pin Ted for criminal negligence. Although things got very nasty, Ted was never charged.
The Department of Civil Aviation eventually closed down the availability to conduct parachuting ops within the Aldinga area because of air space problems and Max with the South Coast Skydivers moved to Mallala. The South Australian School of Parachuting struggled to find a regular base and moved from one farmers paddock to another. With the combined effects of the split along with Alf’s death and the lack of a permanent DZ, the South Australian School of Parachuting gradually dwindled down to almost being nonexistent whilst South Coast Skydiversoperated at a more active level.
Although suffering a massive decline, the South Australian School of Parachuting recorded 2,300 descents being logged during the period of July 1962 to the end of June 1963. Most of them done in the latter half of 1962.
Mean while, Trevor Burns (with only 28 jumps) transferred up to Port Pirie and started Spencer Gulf Skydivers, operating most weekends at Pt Lowly, Whyalla but also at Port Pirie and other places nearby. One of Trevor’s first students was Noel Weckert, who progressed quickly and went on to become assistant chief instructor.
On July 11th 1963, the South Australian School of Parachuting changed its name to the South Australian Sport Parachute Club Inc. and it too started jumping more frequently at Mallala.
In early 1964, South Australian jumpers competed in the 5th Australian championships held at Portarlington, Victoria. Don West, having just returned from the United States won the men’s overall Australian Championship and Susi Wright and Kathy Williamson won 1st and 2nd place respectively in the woman’s championship.
8th March, 1964, South Australia suffered its 2nd skydiving fatality when Don West, renowned as one of Australia’s most elite skydivers and the current Australian Champion died at Mallala attempting a world record 9 man baton pass from a DeHaviland Dove exiting from 12,500 feet.
Cause of accident: Deliberate Over delay
Excerpts from a report tabled by Brian Brown and re-written as an Interim report by Claude Gillard
- Order of exit was Williamson, Harrison, Wright, Edwards, Trotter, Larkin, Jay, West and Brown.
- The order of passes achieved was Williamson to Harrison (above 10,000’), Harrison to Edwards (about 9,500’), Edwards to Brown (about 4,000’), Brown to West (about 3,500’) and West to Larkin (about 800’).
- Joe Larkin said that he waved Don off after a first run at 1,500’ and when Don did not open but went on with the attempt Joe went in for the pass, in attempting this pass Joe dropped below Don who then came down to Joe’s level where they completed the pass.
- Joe opened immediately after the pass (very low) and saw Don’s ‘chute stream.
- Brian Brown who was under open canopy at 2,500’ and directly above saw Don’s ‘chute stream too late, impact came before the ‘chute had inflated fully.
- Don West’s experience and Joe Larkin’s statement that he waved off at 1,500’ leave little doubt that the over delay was intentional.
- It is evident that working relative below 3,000’ must not be allowed and ASO’s and DZSO’s must take strong action against any offenders. (A new amendment to Op Regs, 5.52. covers this)
- Instructors should push the line that to do a pass below 3,000’ is cheating and cannot be claimed as a pass, if you cannot get the pass or passes in the space allotted you just aren’t good enough and are not prepared to admit it.
In mid 1964, Australia fielded its 1st complete team to represent itself at the 7th World Parachuting championships held in Leutkirch - Unterzeil, Germany. South Australians - Susi Wright, Cathy Williamson and Brian Brown along with Andy Keech, Bill Molloy, Bill Kenny, Col King, Peter Dawson, Barbara Lewis and Beryl Blakemore travelled by boat (the Ellinis) for two months via Ceylon and onto France for team training before competing in Germany. Joe Larkin joined the team on their travels when he met them in Ceylon.
In October 1964, the South Australian State Council divided the state into two safety area regions. A boundary line through Wallaroo, Bute, Clare, Burra and Cockburn was declared. The area north of this line and west of Spencer Gulf was known as Area 4:2 with K. Cicarella appointed as ASO. The area south of this line and including Yorke Peninsula was known as Area 4:1 with Laurie Trotter appointed as ASO.
On Boxing Day, 1965 the state suffered its third fatality when Helmut Stech, aged 34 died at Mallala on his forth jump. Little else is known at this point other than he was jumping with South Coast Skydivers.
The 6th Australian Parachute Championships were conducted at Port Pirie Airport between the 27th December 1965 and January 1st 1966. Organised by Trevor Burns, the championships attracted competitors from all over Australia, being the official selection for the Australian Team to compete at the next world championships. Hampered once again by weather, the last round in the accuracy was never completed causing some controversy on the end results and therefore, who represented Australia. The first recorded use of a DC3 Dakota in South Australia along with nights jumps being made were also a highlight of the meet. Unfortunately, a flare dropped on a DC3 mass jump caused a rather large fire wiping out approximately 300 acres around the airfield.
About the same time, Trevor Burns took on the roll of publishing what was then called the “Northern Star Digest”, a skydiving publication started by Queenslander, Reg Carsburg consisting already of about 10 issues to which then developed into the “Australian Skydiver”
Trevor continued to publish the “Australian Skydiver” magazine until the early 70’s when it was handed over to fellow South Australian’s, Steve Swann and Bernie Keenan.
Ted Harrison packed his bags and moved to Sydney where he continued learning to fly planes and eventually became a flying instructor and bought in with Rex Aviation.
In August 1966 the South Australian State Council moved to abolish the two safety areas and change back to just one ASO. The members also discussed an intended motion to impose a levee of 20 cents per jumper per jump day to help improve council finances.
Although the State Championships had been held previously at Aldinga and Mallala, the name was changed to the “Gulf Meet”
By now, the number of regular jumpers within the state had declined down to almost nothing. Because of rivalries and the few fatalities, skydiving within the state had lapsed into the doldrums.
In 1967, after now having two fatalities at Mallala, Max Chaplin and the South Coast Skydivers were asked to move on by the local farmer who owned the land they were using. Max then wandered over to a nearby area west of Mallala called Lower Light where he met another local farmer, George Quigley, who with open arms welcomed the skydivers. A new drop zone was established two km’s north of the township.
12th February 1968, South Australia bore its forth fatality when Max Chaplin, aged 45 and with around 340 jumps drowned off the coast at West Beach when he attempted a skydive/SCUBA display jump. It is unclear whether Max got knocked out and entangled with his parachute or he swam in the wrong direction. His intention was to jump into the water and swim back to shore.
September / October 1968, the remnants of South Coast Skydivers and the South Australian Sport Parachute Club amalgamated to briefly call themselves the South State Skydivers. Thanks to the work of Col Parsons and Phil Edwards who realised the conflict that existed between the two groups need be no longer. It wasn’t long before they reverted back to being called the South Australian Sport Parachute Club.
Col Parsons became the Chief Instructor by default, now being the most experienced skydiver amongst a small group and with the help of people like Phil Edwards, Steve Swan, Bernie Keenan and Mike Tonks, worked hard together to start rebuilding what was left.
Lower Light Drop Zone started with a 30 metre Seaweed and Sawdust pit for the jumpers to land on. The first structure built was a packing shed (still in use today, after its use as a packing shed it was utilised for many years as sleeping quarters known as the “Gorilla Pit” and later revamped to be used at present as the student training room)
By the end of 1970, the SASPC were showing healthy signs of growth in all areas - regular jumping and membership, student retention, facilities and equipment. The club members along with students made 756 jumps at Lower Light that year and the club now owned assets to the value in excess of $1600
The growing facilities that were once considered just a pipe dream were now a reality with an established fenced off lawn area lined with trees, a packing shed and packing tables.
The most frequently used jump aircraft was a Cessna 172 (VH-UEV, without an in-flight door) and jump prices at the time were $5 to 7,000 feet (the standard highest exit height) for experienced jumpers. Student 1st jump courses went up to $40 to cover the recent rise of the APF membership, which was now $10 per annum. A fraction over 100 hours was flown for the year with a cost totalling $1,532. VH-UEV was based at Parafield and flown to and from the drop zone each weekend. George Palladij, a Czech refugee who escaped from Eastern European communism, piloted most loads throughout the era and should be recognised for his countless hours of service to the skydivers.
Although the club was showing signs of promise, the signs of frustration from Col and a few others were also evident with the lack of commitment from a several members unwilling to help out with the physical work required around the growing Drop Zone and the possible formation of another group operating in opposition to the club was now emerging.
April 1971 saw the first signs of work establishing the clubhouse when the trenches were dug for the foundations and the base laid using 5 tonnes of rubble donated from a local quarry. Form work and mesh went in a few weeks later with another working bee involving only 7 out of 30 members and finally the concrete slab was poured at a cost of $250.
Continued work on the clubhouse was put on the back burner when the owner of VH-UEV notified the club that he could no longer afford to maintain the aircraft and would possibly need to sell. Concern with the scarcity of aircraft available for jumping within the state, the club opted to take care of the maintenance costs in a bid to keep access of the jump ship.
Thursday 6th May, 1971 the state suffered its fifth fatality when Julie West, aged 20 died at Lower Light after experiencing difficulties in deploying her main parachute and then activated her chest mount reserve too low for inflation. Julie, a visiting jumper from Sydney with 35 jumps experience was attempting a 3 way relative work decent from 6,000 feet with fellow jumpers Walter and Donald Nielsen on her second jump of the day.
In 1971 Trevor Burns, ASO, makes his 500th jump, a 3 way star with Steve Swann and Bernie Keenan. The star was built in 18 seconds.
By the end of October, 1971 the club house had its walls up thanks to the hard work of then president Mike Tonks and Brian Hewett along with a few other dedicated members. Once again, the message went out that member contribution was inadequate. Continuing work on the roof, window and doorframes went on hold because of finances.
Steve Swann, Bernie Keenan, Mike Tonks and Col Parsons starred in South Australia’s first skydiving television commercial for Australian Motors. Steve features in the exit shot, Bernie stars in the canopy shots, Mike makes an approach into the pit and Col lands on the cameraman.
A review written by Trevor Burns on the SASPC based on 1970 and 1971 showed the club still slowly progressing. Club membership increased from 29 (19 being 1st jump students) up to 43 (30 being 1st jump students) Number of jumps per year went from 756 to 877 and hours flown increased from 103 up to 162. Although experiencing a gradual increase in all aspects, the clubs financial situation took a reverse role when its profit of $556 in 1970 declined to a loss of $65 in 1971. This loss was contributed by the expenditure of $748 in improving the facilities such as building the new clubhouse and also now the cost of running the aircraft. Jumps fees provided an income of $2,900 whilst the aircraft expenditure topped $3,482.
Sunday 23rd January 1972, The Golden Arrows Parachute Display Team, originally formed back in the late 60’s to promote skydiving at displays within the state and donate the profits back into the clubs and local teams. Formed by members of both the South Australian Sport Parachute Club and Spencer Gulf Skydivers, the team on this jump, composed of Trevor Burns, Steve Swann, Bernie Keenan and Col Parsons again made history when they were the first parachutists to jump into the Adelaide Metropolitan Area. The jump was into the West Lakes display Village and was coincided the catalyst for allowing other future displays into areas such as football grounds and parks around Adelaide.
On the 12th March 1972 South Australia experienced its 6th fatality when student jumper, Stephen Palmer died at Lower Light after exiting from 3,200 feet on an attempted 3-second delay. The 25-year-old student jumper from Sydney had done 33 jumps total, 29 being static line descents prior to being passed onto freefall delays. Stephen immediately went unstable on exit and remained that way throughout the decent. Although he had been wearing the clubs newly owned Sentinel/Sentry AAD on his reserve, it did not fire until approximately 200 - 250 feet. The canopy deployed, but it did not get to line stretch. Both main and reserve handles had not been pulled.
By the end of March 1972, the clubhouse had its roof thanks to a good attendance of voluntary workers leaving just the windows, doors and the interior. A new accuracy pit made of seaweed was established now only 100 yards from the clubhouse. The old one being 200 yards away was considered too far for walking now that the general standard of accuracy was much better with the use of high performance round canopies being the norm.
The precedent of packing lawn landings at the club has now been set. Dave Tap from Victoria was the first person in followed by Phil Edwards, Gene Bermingham (NSW?), and Trevor Burns.
By October 1972, Trevor Burns, founder of Spencer Gulf Skydivers and regular jumper with the South Australian Sport Parachute Club moved to Sydney seeing the end of Spencer Gulf Skydivers located at Port Pirie/Whyalla. Publishing of the “Australian Skydiver” magazine was handed over to Steve Swann and Bernie Keenan.
At the same time, the club was again struggling financially due now to several months of poor weather and the aircraft overheads of $132 per month. The call went out for the need of members to start jumping on a more regular basis or be prepared to sell their gear because of the possible foreclosure that loomed. Jump prices from 3,000 feet were around $2.00
By June 1973, the club was slowly picking up once again, possibly by the introduction of the Dornier 27, a 10 place aircraft hired in from time to time. But was still struggling with the instructor/student ratio.
Col Parsons achieved his 800th jump, a Dead Centre accuracy landing with the use of his brand new Para-Plane and marking the 1st owned/use of a Ram Air canopy in SA.
At about the same time, another drop zone had developed at Sanderston, approximately 25km east of Mount Pleasant. Founded by ex military Englishman Les Morris with about 200 jumps. Apparently, Les was not particularly happy with the operations at Lower Light DZ and decided to start another utilizing his own army surplus equipment. In came the start of the East Coast Skydiving Club. Steve Blanch, aged 19 and in his 2nd year studying medicine, was one of his students.
On the 13th July 1974 the state fell victim to its 7th fatality. Terry Daniels aged 24 and with 63 jumps died at Sanderston after experiencing a malfunction on borrowed gear. Jumping a new state of the art “Paradactyl” main with only a few jumps on it, cutaway using the capewell release system and deployed the throw out reserve too low for inflation. Cutting away from a malfunctioning main (round) canopy back then was not a standard procedure. However, the Paradactyl was considered a super high performance canopy, which required ejecting before the reserve being deployed.
Shortly there after, the East Coast Skydivers folded and the state went back to just one drop zone.
The term ‘Relative Work’ was now becoming a common word around Lower Light and having 4 or 5 people linking up in freefall was now a reality. Thanks mostly to people such as Phil Edwards.
August 1976, Col Parsons forwarded an application letter to the Mallala council requesting permission to construct the long awaited toilet block (discussions about this project through the club committee’s go back to the early 70’s)
About the same time, the club acquires the use of a super fast Cessna 182. VH-DON at a very attractive charter rate and believe it or not, the jump costs go down!
By December 1976, the club had again achieved another record or at least matched it when it completed 15 sorties in one day between 10am and 6pm. Apparently it would have done 20 had not the stiff sea breeze played its part. There was also talk of the club purchasing its’ own aircraft.
Late January, 1977 Steve Swann (Chief Instructor) and Bernie Keenan plan to set up a commercial student operation within the club. They were promptly removed from the committee as Chief Instructor/Treasurer and committee member (respectively) within two weeks of being elected as such by a SASPC special general meeting. Col Parsons once again was elected as Chief Instructor.
On 10th July 1978, Starlift Pty Ltd is formed to purchase the current aircraft in use, Cessna 182 VH-DON. A contract is signed for purchase of VH-DON by Starlift Pty Ltd on 14th August 1978. Ten dedicated club members helped with the purchase of the clubs 1st owned aircraft. Each contributed around $2200 for the total cost of $22,000. The ten members were; Col Parsons, Neil Davis, Vic Balfour, Herb Kaiserseder, Jean Turner, Steve Smith, Norm Smith, Dr Steve Henderson, Mike Hughes and Mike Goodwin.
About this same time saw the start of Skysport, another student operation originated by Col Parsons but still within the SASPC. Also, work initiated on the long discussed toilet block.
By March 1979 the SASPC committee opted to purchase DON as members of Starlift Pty Ltd sold their shares to the club. By May, the committee elected to apply for a $12,000 loan from the National Bank to complete the purchase in full.
July 1979 another club display team formed, calling themselves the Light River Skydiving Team.
October 13th 1979. Neil Davis along with Michael Hughes (Kimbies) and Andy Weir (Weirdo) make another 1st when they jumped into Neil and Renee’s wedding ceremony held at Veale Gardens, South Park Lands.
Around the same time, CRW (Canopy Relative Work) was becoming more common amongst the more experienced adventurous members. Michael Hughes, Andy Weir, Ray Currie and Neil Davis were a few of our pioneers in this new discipline. Bi-planes and Tri-planes were now a reality above the skies in South Australia.
10th December 1979, Skysport, run by Col Parsons and Steve Boldog (Woofa) put forward that they wish to go out on their own venture away from the SASPC. Giving reasonable notice for the club to organise suitable instructing staff and to change over phone numbers etc, the new Skysport opening date was planned to start on Saturday 26th January 1980 next door (eastern side) to the SASPC facilities at Lower Light.
Other correspondence regarding history
Just happened to come across the website of the SASP and found it very interesting, seeing all the names of the first members brought back a lot of memories. Don West and I being best mates joined on the same day holding I think logbooks No. 5 & 6, I still have mine somewhere and while he continued on in the sport I only did around 6 jumps and was working in Sydney when I heard of his accident. While he was away in the USA his girlfriend was killed in Adelaide driving my car and I escaped with minor injuries.
I lost my SASP cloth badge many years ago and would love to be able to purchase one, Karoly (Charlie) Horvath had the first sample one made but he had the initials of the South Australian Parachute School which came out as SAPS and of course we didn't like that so it was changed to SASP.
Another little snippet of information for you, as you know we didn't get any Chutes for a long time,so Don and I drove to Melbourne hoping to get a jump there, but I think the only person to get one was Charlie, and as it was too windy for us learners to jump we missed out. But it was worthwhile to see he who shall remain nameless land on his bum.
I was never going to be an expert like Don but I don't know if any of the original members remember I had 2 unofficial records in my first jump, landing furthest from the DZ, (A guy on a motor cycle had to come out to bring me back) and the other was landing closest to water without getting wet, I landed in a creek bed with just a trickle of water a yard away.
Enjoyed the website.
Bernie Keenan and Steve Swann sent notes regarding this history;
Lawrence Morris contacted us recently to discuss Geoff Coolings History. I met Mr Morris at Rundle Mall on May 18th.
"At about the same time, another drop zone had developed at Sanderston, approximately 25km east of Mount Pleasant. Founded by ex military Englishman Les Morris with about 200 jumps. Apparently, Les was not particularly happy with the operations at Lower Light DZ and decided to start another utilizing his own army surplus equipment".
Mr Morris said that he did not establish the dropzone at Sanderson but took it over from another operator. Also that they used surplus Air Force gear, not Army gear. Mr Morris also said that he was happy with the operation at Lower Light except in the way they ignored injured jumpers.
Mr Morris came to South Australia from Sydney in June 1973.
We are very interested in the history of skydiving in South Australia and hope others contribute to what is written.
I read with great interest,Geoff Cooling's history of the SASPC.I was gratified to see several mentions of my name..and as far as I can remember,everything there is accurate.
However...I cannot recall getting kicked off the club committee...neither can Steve Swann.Certainly there were many matters relating to safety which we were obliged to enforce.This generated considerable heat. We were both delegates to the APF Board at the time and I was the Area Safety Officer.
Geoff may have some documentation which suggests a committee schism...but I feel sure that I would remember such an event.
I'm not staying awake at night worrying about it..but I do think a correction might be appropriate.
By the way,it's an excellent website and the club has obviously become something special. A far cry from the hot,dusty and windy days in the Seventies.
Bernie copied me the email he sent you today. We were reminiscing on a via email (he lives in Sydney) after I posted a couple of films on YouTube this week from the old days at Lower Light.
I told him I’d seen the history on the web site, which he obviously took a look at.
I reckon the bit about us being chucked off is probably half right.
When we set up Parachute & Skydiving Centre of SA (taking VH-DON with us for hire and fly with the owner Craig Spiel’s blessing, as I recall) we obviously couldn’t continue as club officials and resigned. I expect the minutes show that we were chucked out.
Like I said it’s interesting that what was considered a sin then (crass commercialism within the club) was OK a year later when Col set up Skysport and has been emulated by everyone else since.
Anyway, who cares. Col and I are still the best of mates.
Great web site and it’s good to see jumping thriving in SA.'
I came across your site while searching for listed parachute packers and found the early history fascinating. I joined the SASP late 1961 or early 1962 after reading an article in the Sunday Mail entitled "You will see them fall" or similar.
I made 18 jumps through 1962 at Aldinga and formed a friendship with Michael Soph, who appears on your list. I recall Ted Harrison and Cathy Henderson (who became something of an item) and also Charlie Horvath. The School was still waiting for equipment when I joined, but it came soon after. There was a lot of practicing landing technique.
You also had to do six static line jumps before the first freefall. Unfortunately, I never got a logbook, but I did dig out my original sewn SASP badge recently, with a view to sewing it on to my flight overalls. It has the old-fashioned round canopy of the 'chutes of the day. I still have the braided fishing line with which we had to tie up the static 'chute with rather singular knots guaranteed to break in the correct order!
I found the first freefall much more scary than the first jump - very much a case of the "buck stops here"! I was also not a good jumper - the only time I can recall being really stable during freefall was when I relaxed my spine into my normal slouch and came down facing backwards. Perhaps not a good practice when relying on the altimeter and clock which I had picked up from disposals! They were displayed on a small box fastened to the reserve in front.
My last jump was from about 7000 ft which, I recall, gave about 40 seconds of freefall. I had a strong tendency to spin and remember losing vision through blackout or 'red-out' once and pulling high so as to not lose consciousness. All those cords would unwind above me and then, as I was still turning, slowly wind up again the other way! One of the minor problems we had was that Ted and Charlie (Horvath) could never agree on where to place the ripcord pull on the club chute. One day you would find it low down in the conventional position across the stomach, but on the next occasion it would be up under the right armpit!
I recall Alf White's accident - he had borrowed my helmet and I never saw that again - nor did I want to! The story I heard was he was hyperventilating while waiting to jump - too much ram air in the system. I also had it in mind that Ted Harrison was killed jumping in Victoria whilst taking photographs until too low - but your history has him living on happily. Maybe it was Charlie Horvath.
While I was never overly scared during the actual jumping, I started getting bad dreams and disturbed sleep around Thursdays (Saturday was jump day) and decided to give it up in favour of skindiving, where one mistake was usually not fatal. All those times climbing up to altitude at Aldinga, I would watch the people on the beach and think " I should be down there!". I was not a natural parachutist, but I value the experience of those days.
If you have Mike Soph's address, I would appreciate you passing this on.
Regards, Carl Nilsson