The following pictures are part of a collection from a series of high altitude skydives over Skydance Skydiving at Davis, California.
First you have to show up very early the morning of the jump. Be ready with your gear and what you will wear to altitude. This period can be quite busy of getting everyone outfitted. However, there is a possibility of a "hurry up and wait" as seen in this photo. Although this is not the time to leave for coffee because they may start boarding!
Filling of the bailout bottles. These provide 5 to 10 minutes of oxygen for jumpers leaving the aircraft. Its important that only Aviator Oxygen (in green bottles) be used for high altitude flights. It is very dry to prevent ice buildup in oxygen systems.
A closeup of a bailout bottle (wow!)
A closeup of a bailout bottle on the left leg strap. The "green apple," seen here on the right of this photo, is what you pull to activate the bottle. It only needs a tug, don't yank it with all your strength (one jumper did that and tore the handle right off). Also don't fall wearing a full bottle. These are pressurized to about 1800 psi and the bottle can become an unguilded missile if the stem is accidently broke off.
Bottle "regulator stem" is a brass piece about a one-half inch long, the one on the left is a spent stem, the one on right is ready to be inserted. This is the item that you break to start the flow of oxygen from the bailout bottle.
A bailout bottle being strapped to the harness. Notice the fixture on the chest strap that connects the mask hose, bottle hose, and hose to the aircraft oxygen console.
Gear checks are essential as on all skydives but because of the nature of this type of jump, Skydance staff are going to make sure everyone get gear checks. Its also important to keep your pilot chute snug in its pocket and your reserve pins are adequately seated. Having a canopy dump at 30,000 feet is not only tacky, its dangerous. The opening force will be really high, enough to tear your canopy (and maybe you) to shreds. Also the bailout bottle does not have sufficient capacity to sustain you with oxygen for the long ride down.
Our life support system: Oxygen console with A14 regulators and flow indicators (blinkers).
Here is the oxygen console that holds the regulators mounted behind the pilots seat of the King Air (yes these planes have the power to get to 30K).
Traditional group photo.
Chuted up and ready for a high one. Well not quite, we first have to prebreath 100% oxygen to flush the nitrogen from our bloodstream. Air pressure is a third of sea level at 30,000 feet, which can cause the bends like a SCUBA diver who ascends too fast.
Most of these jumpers here came from Japan to do this jump.
What to do during the one hour pre-breath? As seen here, you can read the paper or grade school papers.
Climb time can be long, typically 40 minutes. Could be longer depending if ATC wants us to hold at a particular FL (flight level). Conversations are difficult while everyone is wearing a mask, but you don't have to smell everyone's "out-gassing."
Here is a photo of one of the first high altitude jumps to 24,000 feet. We are wearing continuous breathing masks, the same type provided to commercial airlines passengers in case of cabin pressure loss. These days everyone will use the full mask for both 24K and 30K jumps. The limit of the continuous breathing mask is about 24,000 feet so they could still be used but they really are not that great.
Exiting at 24,000 feet. Some of the jumpers exit at 24K.
These are marshmallows brought along to investigate the effects of lower air pressure. The Kraft "Jet Puffed" marshmallows were photographed at each 5,000 foot increments. The specimens were mounted on a board with one inch squares for photometric analysis back on earth. This photo shows the specimens at 25,000 feet. The total expansion was about 50%. The specimens returned to their original size after landing but had wrinkles (and also looked gross).
Other experiments included taking small plastic bottles, sealing the tops with lids at 30K, and then examining them back on the ground to see the amount of compression at lower altitudes. In addition on one flight, two vending machine size potato chip bags were taken to determine at what altitude they rupture. One popped at 12.5K and the other at 13.5K. However, the pilot was not happy with the outcome because the torn bags were not stowed so when the door was opened at 30,000 feet, potato chips were scattered about the aircraft cabin. Potato chips are now banned from all HALO flights.
Another experiment was taking an empty Evian water bottle to altitude and capping it before exit at 30K. Here it is back on the ground.
Coming up on jump run, Tad moves to the rear and checks the spot. He has continuous intercom with the pilot. Notice the door is partway open and covered with frost. It is very cold at the same elevation as Mt. Everest.
Exit! What is remarkable is that the sky is darker blue than what is seen from 12,000 feet. (Yeah I know the picture is lousy. Who do you think I am, Michael McGowan? It was my first 30K air-to-air photo. A point-n-shoot camera was used).
Here is another exit shot by Mike "Zip." This is the only other one I know of. He managed to get it as tumbing from the plane. "I was going around and around and right when I saw the plane, snap! Got the photo." (camera position is not the same as stable exit position).
Here comes John Lewis (taken somewhere between 30K and 20K). The San Francisco Bay Area, fogged in, can be seen in the background. Also, you can look down on the Sierra Nevada mountain range from this altitude (with peaks at 10K to 13K).
This photo of Jim McCormick shows the profile of the bailout bottle and hose in freefall. Proper routing of the hoses keeps them free from the handles.
Mike "Zip" got this photo of Yolo County airport through some "industrial haze."
This is a picture of me at the same heights where the airliners fly (taken somewhere between 30K and 20K).
Post jump photo. Later on, we returned to enter a "3" followed with lots of zeros in the logbook (I used a yellow highlighter) and swap jump stories.
Top civilian HALO jumpers (from left to right): John Lewis, Miklos Talyak, and me holding the marshmallow experiment package. "HALO" means "High Altitude Low Opening," the military term for skydiving. John is Tad Smith's sidekick who attends all 30K loads and helps Tad with the oxygen equipment. His goal is to log more 30K jumps than anybody else. His webpage is at http://www.lewistotle.net/.
Want to know what the chamber ride looks like? Click here for Chamber Ride Photos
Now if you want to jump at 60,000 feet or higher, you will need one of these, click here for Spacesuit Photos.
Parachuting is a high risk activity and can result in serious injury or death.
This website is for noncommercial, informational purposes only. This is not an instructional guide.
The purpose is to provide information on skydiving from high altitudes. I am not an instructor and I am not claiming to be one. For those interested in learning to skydive or participating in a high altitude jump, you must obtain training from competent and rated instructors.
Michael Wright, D13106