Scheduled to descend upon D-M in spectacular fashion, the Air Force Academyâ€™s parachute team, Wings of Blue, will perform at the 2012 D-M â€œThunder and Lightning over Arizonaâ€ open house this weekend.
The â€œWings of Blueâ€ has been called one of the most outstanding parachute units in the country for the past two decades. Since 1967, cadets have dominated national intercollegiate parachuting championships, typically winning decisively over the other 40 schools. The team has won 21 of the last 27 national championships. Additionally, they perform about 50 demonstrations each year including the Copper Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Pro Bowl. The team travels locally, nationally, and now internationally to perform in these varied air shows.
Before a cadet can do any jumps, they go through ground school for more than 33 hours where they learn proper parachuting procedures.
â€œMy sophomore year I made the Wings of Green, which is the predecessor to the Wings of Blue,â€ said Cadet 1st Class Benjamin Arneberg, Air Force Academy demonstration team jumper. â€œDuring that time we work on our flying skills and get ready for demonstrations. In junior and senior year, I have been performing demonstrations across the country.â€
The team is eager to come to D-M and perform said Arneberg. He describes Arizona as having perfect conditions for parachuting. In fact, weeks before the team came to the open house, they were at Luke AFB near Phoenix, Ariz. training for the event.
â€œWeâ€™re very excited to come to Arizona and participate in the open house,â€ Arneberg said. â€œI think about a sixth of my jumps have been in Arizona. Coming here to jump is awesome because weather conditions are perfect.â€
Besides getting to jump with the AFA parachute team, Arneberg enjoys being a visible representative of the Air Force for the on-looking crowd.
â€œI really like the opportunity to represent not only the Air Force Academy, but also the Air Force as a whole,â€ Arneberg said. â€œWe like to consider ourselves the Air Force parachute team. Itâ€™s awesome to go to football games or air shows and wearing the flag of our country, perform and be a positive ambassador for the Air Force.â€
About the Wings of Blue, U.S. Air Force Academy
The Wings of Blue is the parachuting unit at the United States Air Force Academy, near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The team operates as the 98th Flying Training Squadron, 306th Flying Training Group, Air Education and Training Command.
Their stated mission is to: â€œDevelop Airmen through flight in its purest form–STAND IN THE DOOR!â€
During a normal Wings of Blue demonstration, 8 parachutists exit the jump aircraft in four separate maneuvers at altitudes ranging from 4,500 to 11,000 feet above ground level.Â The team uses colored smoke to aid spectators in seeing the demonstration.
On the first pass, wind drift indicators are dropped from the jump aircraft. These weighted pieces of crepe paper are designed to fall at the same rate as an open canopy. The jumpmaster drops the indicators just as the aircraft passes directly over the target at an altitude of 3,000 feet. The jumpmaster watches to see where the indicators land and uses this information to determine the exact point at which the jumper should exit the aircraft to land in the target area.
The second pass is the canopy show, where four parachutists exit the jump aircraft from 4,500 feet above the ground. They free-fall for about 10 seconds before deploying their parachutes. The team uses the high performance square parachute, which has a vertical descent rate of 2-16 feet per second and can reach forward speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.Â Shaped like an airfoil, it exhibits some of the same flight characteristics as the wing of an airplane.
BARBER POLE SHOWÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
The third pass is the barber pole show, where two parachutists exit the aircraft from 7,000 feet. The jumpers come together in mid-air and begin to spin, by a slight movement of one arm or leg, or by dipping one shoulder. As they spin, the colored smoke they are carrying forms the barber pole. At 4,000 feet, they begin moving apart, and at 2,500 feet, they deploy their parachutes.
HIGH-LOW SHOWÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
The fourth pass is the high-low show, where two parachutists exit the plane from 9,000 feet. One assumes the basic spread-eagle position, which allows him or her to fall as slowly as 85 miles per hour. The second jumper streamlines his or her body and pitches over into a head-first dive, allowing the parachutist to reach speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour. Both deploy their parachutes at 2,500 feet. Each second of delay in opening between the first and second parachutists represents approximately 150 feet of vertical separation between the two jumpers.
BOMB BURST SHOWÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
The final pass is the bomb burst show, where four jumpers exit the aircraft from 11,000 feet. They maneuver their bodies in freefall to join into a four-man star, holding this position until 5,000 feet. At this altitude they break the star, turn and track away from each other.Â The smoke they carry creates the spectacular bomb burst effect.Â They deploy their parachutes at 2,500 feet.