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Bob1Dog
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We both probably made good decisions. Smile
What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about? Smile

My neighbor rang my doorbell at 2:30 a.m. this morning, can you believe that, 2:30 a.m.!? Lucky for him I was still up playing my drums.
slowkneenuh
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Bob, that's quite a family lineage. It's too bad that carrying that lineage into recent politicians might open a can of worms with the polarization of politics in this country.

Maybe we can use your genealogy skills to find out about Arthur on our own.
John

"A poor workman always blames his tools"
Bob1Dog
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Arthur! Arthur! Where is Arthur? Smile
What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about? Smile

My neighbor rang my doorbell at 2:30 a.m. this morning, can you believe that, 2:30 a.m.!? Lucky for him I was still up playing my drums.
arthur stead
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Hey Guys ... fantastic stories! Loved 'em all. Thanks for this excellent thread.

Here. at long last, is my plane crash story. But first, please read this:

http://www.nbcnews.com/entertainment/pet......C9593893

That is quite a story. But it is by no means the WHOLE story. There's a lot of background missing. I'm going to fill you in on the details. But I must warn you, there's rather a lot to tell. So take the phone off the hook, sit back, relax, and I'll try to make this long story as brief as possible.

In 1980, I toured South America with Peter Frampton, performing on keyboards, guitar and background vocals. Played to amazing crowds averaging about 100,000 per night. The adrenaline rush, and flow of energy back and forth from such a massive amount of fans is indescribable!

Our first 3 shows were in Buenos Aires (3 consecutive nights). From the moment we arrived at the airport, and all through customs clearance, we noticed a strong police and army presence. And in the limousines, while being driven into the city, we kept passing official looking buildings, guarded by armed soldiers. There were signs outside these buildings with Spanish writing. Each of the signs had a silhouette of a helmeted soldier holding a rifle. We asked our driver to translate what the signs said. He told us, "The sign says, if you stop your car here, the guard will shoot you." Quite a welcome!

Once we checked into the hotel, we realized we were constantly being watched by plain-clothed cops with sunglasses and walkie-talkies. They kept hovering around, day and night, casually trying to eavesdrop on our conversations. It was quite unnerving ... but that's the way things were in South American dictatorships back then. You'd get a phone call in the middle of the night ... supposedly from the porter or hotel operator, attempting to be friendly, but subtly steering the conversation to drug use, etc. You really has to watch your step! Luckily, none of the band or crew members were tricked into entrapment.

Anyway, our shows went terrifically well. Especially in Brazil, where we played in huge soccer stadiums to crowds of over 120,000 fans per show (6 nights in Rio de Janeiro and 3 in Sao Paulo). Quick story about Brazil: I've been an American citizen since 1985. But in 1980 I was still traveling on a South African passport. That didn't go over well with the Brazilian customs agents. They insisted that I see a doctor to get a proper medical document, supposedly required to validate my work visa. So instead being taken to our hotel, like the rest of the band, I was driven from the airport to one of those official looking government buildings. It could have been a hospital, or a mental asylum (don't know for sure because we entered through a side door).

I must tell you, being escorted through a series of hallways (with spotless floors and none one else in sight) got me worried! It made me think of a scene from one of those movies where people get kidnapped in South America and are never heard from again! With me were an armed guard and the Brazilian concert promoter. Nobody communicated anything ... until we finally arrived at an office. Inside, I was introduced to a gruff-looking, overweight, cigar-smoking gent with unkempt hair, dressed in a wrinkled black suit, who claimed to be the doctor.

What did I have to do for my medical checkup, you ask? I'll tell you! The "doctor" never even examined me! Instead, he just asked me to cough. I coughed, then he mumbled something in Spanish, and then I watched a big wad of money exchanging hands (from the promoter to the doc). Next, he signed a certificate, handed it to the promoter, and away we went, now "officially" permitted to perform!

OK, bear with me, I WILL get to the REAL story. Just needed to "set the stage" for you, to describe the political climate prevalent in South America at that time. (Actually, I'm willing to bet nothing much has changed - but that's a different story).

The trouble started when we got to Caracas, Venezuela, where we were scheduled to play 2 nights in a big enclosed arena. There, a bit of snag ensued because the promoter insisted that the local police do security inside the stadium. Up until then, we had always done our own security. But as it turns out, the promoter for these 2 concerts was a top general in the Venezuelan army. So we couldn't very well refuse.

The night of the first show started off great. Packed house, people sitting on bleachers on the sides and back, and the entire floor in front of us filled to capacity with standing-room-only fans. In those days, whenever we played Peter's ballad "I'm In You", our drummer and bass player would leave the stage. Peter would take off his guitar, and stand right up front, singing into his mike, accompanied only by my piano playing. When he sang the words "I'm In You", he'd point out to the audience, and hundreds of girls would scream hysterically, with tears running down their cheeks!

Only this time, pandemonium erupted. To our horror, Peter and I could see the helmeted police going berserk. They rushed into the crowd and started beating people with their clubs and machetes. In a matter of seconds, they had pushed all the standing fans away from the stage, back against the bleachers. People were getting trampled. We could see groups of cops mercilessly beating people who had fallen on the ground. And then Peter and I both saw a girl being held by several police, while another cop stabbed her in the stomach with a machete. It was totally surreal and utterly shocking.

Suddenly, I watched Peter smashing down his mike, and storming offstage in disgust. I sheepishly stood up from my piano bench and followed suit. Backstage, emotions were running high. Lots of shouting and arguing between concert organizers, police officials and our guys. But we never finished that show. And Peter absolutely refused to play the next night ... unless we handled our own security. Eventually, it was agreed that we WOULD perform the next night, with uniformed Venezuelan cops patrolling only OUTSIDE the venue. Our guys would handle security INSIDE arena.

At that time, I had a friend who played percussion with the Caracas Symphony Orchestra. He and I had been in touch since our arrival. The next morning, he came to our hotel and translated the local newspaper headlines for me. They claimed that several people had been arrested by police for drug offenses. (False). Nothing was said about the massacre we had witnessed.

Sorry this is taking so long, but I can't tell the story any shorter. The next night's performance went fine; no trouble at all. But what we DIDN'T know is that the Venezuelan authorities were on the warpath about us "showing them up" by keeping things peaceful without a police presence inside the arena. In fact, the air was thick with feelings of animosity. So much so, that Peter decided we (the band) should leave Caracas on an earlier, unscheduled flight.

So that's what happened. Our road crew got all our gear packed on the plane that was scheduled to take us to Panama City the next day. Then all four band members, along with our tour manager and his assistant, plus most of our crew (including stage manager, sound techs, lighting techs, keyboard, drum & guitar roadies) flew out of Caracas on an earlier flight.

Now just imagine this scenario. After our arrival, we're sitting in a hotel bar in Panama City, chatting with the pilot's wife, when someone runs in and announces, "The plane has crashed!" Ha ha, big joke. But it was true! The plane, with all our equipment on board, had risen 1,000 feet up into the air, and then blown up. Pilot, along with 4 crew members, all dead. Pilot's wife obviously inconsolable.

We, the band, were still alive. But we had lost all our equipment: lighting rigs, sound systems, microphones, all Peter's priceless guitars, amps, drum sets, all my keyboards and guitars ... everything. We had been scheduled to play one night in Panama City. But that was now obviously out of the question. Or so we thought! If you remember your history, a certain Mr. Noriega was then a prominent figure in Panama. The eventual dictator was known for his rampant corruption, drug trafficking, racketeering, money laundering, etc. And during our 1980 tour, he also assumed the role of concert promoter! He told us in no uncertain terms that we would stay in Panama until we played a concert. (We found out later that Noriega had pre-sold all the tickets for our concert, and didn't want to give any of the money back!)

What could we do? We were being held hostage. And, in fact, a short while later, armed soldiers arrived and stationed themselves in and around our hotel. We didn't even have our passports! (In all our South American travels, as soon as we entered a country, we had to surrender our passports. They were then handed back to us when we left that country).

So Peter sent our roadies out to scour the city, to buy, rent, or borrow any musical equipment they could find, so that we could perform a show. But there was nothing of any consequence available. Meanwhile, I remember being in Peter's hotel room, along with our tour manager, making a frantic phone call to the American Embassy. Peter was on the phone, describing our predicament. But the only response he got was, "Sorry. You're there, we're here. Nothing we can do."

Meanwhile, that evening our tour manager was taken to night court. He was a Texan named Rodney Eckerman. Don't ask me how, but somehow Rodney convinced a Panamanian judge (through interpreters) that he would make up Noriega's expenses. He handed them whatever cash he had (approximately $3,000), and assured them that if they let him go, he would go to a bank in the morning and pay them the balance. They believed him, and took him back to the hotel.

Needless to say, a lot of alcohol was consumed that night by both band and crew members, and eventually we all went to bed ... all very unsure of our fate. Then, unbelievably, Rodney came up with an escape plan. In the early hours of the morning, he secretly hired several taxis. Everyone escaped quietly out of the back of the hotel, and were driven to the airport! Everyone, that is, except for me! At the airport, as they looked around at each other, someone suddenly asked, "Where's Arthur?" For some reason, I had changed rooms earlier that night (because of a broken air conditioner, I think). And so no one had woken me up!

One roadie was sent back to the hotel at top speed. He ran up and down the halls of each floor, banging on every door, until he found me! "You've got 30 seconds to pack your suitcase and get the h*ll out of here!" he yelled, and we hightailed it, straight into a waiting taxi, and back to the airport. Meanwhile, Rodney had been holding up a Pan Am flight, desperately describing our predicament to the astonished staff. (Remember, none of us had passports). When I arrived, the Pan Am folks finally relented, bent the rules, and stamped our boarding passes!

On board the plane, when we were on the runway waiting to take off, we could actually see a row of army trucks speeding down the hill towards the airport. Again, just like in the movies! Luckily our plane took to the air without incident. But I can tell you, I actually fell to my knees and kissed the tarmac when we disembarked in Miami! Had I been left in Panama, they could have locked me up and thrown away the key! To say nothing of having money extorted from my family to make my life in a Panamanian jail somewhat more tolerable.

So that's my story. Someone told us later that Noriega had laughed out loud when he was told of our escape. But all our equipment had been presumed lost. Insurance reimbursed us for some of it, but certain items - such as Peter's vintage guitars - could never be replaced. It's absolutely amazing that his favorite actually survived, and that he's been reunited with it after all these years.
Arthur Stead
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slowkneenuh
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I knew there was a good reason to stay up late tonight. As expected, a fantastic story Arthur. Will re-digest it over again after awakening and probably have a few comments. Thanks for all the effort spent in posting the story.
John

"A poor workman always blames his tools"
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What a great read Arthur. Absolutely fascinating. Thankyou!
What do we want?
A cure for tourettes!
When do we want it?
C*nt!
landmark
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Great stories, all. A very enjoyable thread. Thanks for taking the time to write about your experiences!
Devious
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@Arthur, WOW, I read every word having been a Frampton fan.
He was here in San Diego not too long ago.

I'm so glad that you made it and I'll bet that you were grinning
when Noriega got picked up in Panama currently in a Paris Prison
after serving time in Florida.
Devious Deceptions
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L'Chaim!
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Excellent stories by all.
Good reading.

Tom
"Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week"--Lori Greiner

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arthur stead
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Who remembers the 1980's? Remember the bands? Duran Duran, Flock of Seagulls, The Cars? Remember John Waite? "I Ain't Missing You At All?" Well, I spent 2 years touring & recording with John Waite in the mid-80's.

One time, we had just finished playing a concert in London. Afterwards, John and I decided to go club hopping. We took taxicabs all over London, from Stringfellows to the Hippodrome, and who knows how many other nightclubs. All the while getting drunker and drunker. I even remember spilling a whole glass of champagne on some poor girl's bosom by accident! At about 2 am, all the legal clubs shut down. But I knew about an after-hours club which stayed open later. Didn't remember where it was, but luckily a cab driver knew, so that's where we went.

John and I stumbled out of there at about 4 in the morning. I remember we were heavily immersed in a conversation about music. We hopped into a cab, and I told the driver to take us to the Cavendish (which is the hotel where we were staying). In retrospect, I do remember the driver looking around and saying, "Are you sure, Sir?" I said, "Yes, that's where we're staying." And John added: "To the Cavendish ... and don't spare the horses!" Of course we had no idea where we were in London at that point.

Well, we drove for about 20 minutes, and then the cabbie dropped us at the Cavendish Hotel. I slept pretty soundly, and I would imagine John must have, too. The next day we all had to meet in the lobby at noontime, to be driven to the Reading Rock Festival, where we were scheduled to play that afternoon. I remember walking out of the hotel, terribly hung over, my eyes straining to get used to the sun, and saying to John, "Hey look ... there's another place called The Strand right across the street." If we had just looked up, the night before when we left the club, we would have noticed a giant Marquee for the Cavendish Hotel!
Arthur Stead
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Bob1Dog
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Sorry Arthur I'm only now getting back to this thread and reading your plane crash story! Yikes! Great story brother. Great story. Noreiga. For those who don't remember the criminal he was:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manuel_Noriega
What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about? Smile

My neighbor rang my doorbell at 2:30 a.m. this morning, can you believe that, 2:30 a.m.!? Lucky for him I was still up playing my drums.
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Arthur, take away the 100,000+ people in your audiences, take away the exotic locations, take away the band's popularity with groupies and autograph/picture seekers, take away the fans adulation, take away the extravagant lifestyle, take away the unlimited expense account, take away the notoriety, take away your talent and skills, take away your looks, take away the experience that 99.9% of the people on earth won't have, and when all is said and done our lives were very similar. Smile
John

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arthur stead
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Very funny, Slowkneenuh! If you take away the fact that I worked for VIP's, most of whom are ultra-rich, tantrum-prone tyrants, whose over-inflated egos make them lose sight of what life is like for us mere mortals, then I'm just the same as everybody else.
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Great stories everyone. Makes my life look boring by comparison and I'm a sky/scuba diver!

Arthur, your life could come right out of one of my favorite movies "Almost Famous". As a musician I never made it past the 'set up your own gear' level of the rock and roll world so it's nice to hear your stories of the "Big Time"
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Hey Daryl -the other brother (great name, by the way): I can't swim, but in my younger days I would have been thrilled to go sky diving with you! And believe me, I paid my dues with many years of "setting up my own gear" before making it to the "big time."

Regarding my life as a rock 'n' roll star: If you combine "Almost Famous" with "Spinal Tap", add being able to get away with pushing outrageous behavior beyond the limit, and mix in a good dose of real life porno, that's it in a nutshell. Man, could I tell some stories ... but unfortunately most of them are not G-rated.

By the way, Peter Frampton was hired as a consultant for the movie "Almost Famous", got to write a couple of the songs, and had a small part in the movie. I'm not 100% sure, but my understanding is that some of the movie's content may have been loosely based on Peter's exploits when he was playing guitar for The Herd.

OK, now it's time for someone else! Let's have your stories, guys! I especially enjoy the military ones.
Arthur Stead
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A military story continues… Part 3

Before I go on, let me say this: My service time was from July 1960 to June 1963. This timeframe precedes most of the U.S. military activity in Vietnam. In fact, prior to my discharge, believe it or not, an assignment in Vietnam was offered to me as a “reenlistment bonus”. It would involve me being a member of a small Special Forces team visiting hamlets with other personnel, such as a medic, to “win over the hearts and minds of villagers". I’ll never forget my platoon sergeant telling me how beautiful the Southeast Asian women were and how much I would like it there. Because it did not include my close knit friends in the unit and because I had been accepted into college, I declined the offer. A few years later my unit shipped over in a combat role and had a very difficult time. Luckily, my closest friends that I had in the unit were also discharged before that happened. Others I knew were not so lucky, like my squad leader. For some reason, to this day I feel guilty about not having served in Vietnam, even decades later when I question whether it was worth it or not.

That being said, I still think I have some good stories to share as we had our challenges with Berlin, Cuba, University of Mississippi, Russia, etc. so let’s continue.

First, some more background:

A lot of folks lump together sky divers and paratroopers as a single experience of “jumping from a plane“. However there are significant differences and I’ll highlight a few. I am not portraying one requiring more courage than another but just highlighting some major differences. All parachute jumping requires above average nerves.

Folks ask me about being afraid to jump or freezing at the wrong time causing a problem for others. Fright is a relative thing. I would say we were all frightened to some extent. Some more than others. It manifested itself in several ways. A lot of guys got sick, some got either aggressive or passive in their moods, some slept, some stared off in space deep in their own thoughts. Remember we were basically boys (I was a teenager for most of my service time), some of us were trying to prove something to ourselves, our girlfriends, our parents, and a surprisingly large number of them were there to stay out of jail. It was machoville galore. I think the most nerve racking time occurred just before jumping. After you boarded the aircraft and on the way to the drop zone you had time to spend as you wanted. About 10 minutes from the drop zone, a red light came on in the aircraft and over the jump door. This was a signal to get ready to jump. We began that process by standing up, hooking up, checking your own equipment and the guy’s equipment in front of you. Then you just stood there waiting for the green light which was the signal to begin jumping. It was probably only a few minutes but it always seemed like it took forever. During this time they would also open the aircraft doors that we would use for jumping out. This sudden increase in the sound level in the aircraft and the rushing air added to the tension. Once the light turned green and the yelling and movement towards the door began, it became somewhat of an automatic process. You got caught up in the excitement, went with the flow, and couldn’t stop if you wanted to stop, up to and right out the door.

Of course, if you slipped in the vomit and fell to the floor like I did in jump school that put a snag on things!

Skydivers typically jump at a lot higher altitude and height is a big safety factor because you have more time to react to any given situation. Also a skydiver’s chute is smaller and much more maneuverable. In addition, they are not loaded down with combat gear that added well over another 50 pounds of weight and when the gear was loaded on you properly, restricted your movements that made sitting, walking, bending difficult or impossible depending on your particular gear.

Our jumps were all at 1250 feet which is a little less than the height of the Empire State Building in New York City. Combat jumps can be made at a lower altitude. The two biggest factors for determining the drop height are 1) enemy fire, a longer time descending in your chute means the more hostile fire you can get until you reach the ground and nothing you can do about it, and 2) you need some safety margin time (additional seconds) to react and deploy your reserve parachute in case your main chute fails to open. I believe we had about 4-5 seconds to “feel” (a quick jerk) from our main parachute opening. If you didn’t feel it then you began the process to deploy your reserve chute with only seconds to spare. Thankfully, I never had to use my reserve chute because that introduced another set of challenges all revolving around not getting the two chutes tangled together and neither one working while you were seconds away from crashing into the ground. As I mentioned above, the parachutes we used were larger and had little or no maneuverability so we relied on the flight crew to make sure we were dropped at the correct location because too soon or too late was not good and I‘ll give examples later on.

After feeling the reassuring tug of your chute deploying, the next immediate thing was to look up at the canopy and make sure it was fully deployed. Very rare (nobody in my outfit experienced it) was a “streamer”. This was caused by an improperly packed parachute and the result was the canopy of your chute didn’t open and your chute was a mass of twisted silk. You had to immediately release yourself from this chute and deploy your reserve chute while praying your reserve chute didn’t become entangled in the mess above you. This is where the fatalities occur. The clue to this condition was when you didn’t get that “tug” of your main chute opening. Another highly unusual thing, (nobody in my outfit experienced this either) was getting “hung up” outside the plane. In an earlier story I mentioned how your weight when you exit the plane and the line in the plane your parachute is connected to work together in a “pulling” action to open your chute. To keep it brief, sometimes (again a packing issue) there is a snag somewhere in the process of the chute being pulled from its packing and the chute instead of getting released along with you, stays attached to the line inside the aircraft. What this means is you are outside the aircraft still hooked to the line inside of it and you are flapping in the prop blast (airflow down the side of the plane from the propellers) banging against the side of the plane. This situation leaves you helpless and you rely on the jumpmaster inside the aircraft, who is stationed at the jump door just for this purpose, to remove a bowie type knife that he has handy, to cut the line of your chute that is connected to the plane and letting you fall to the ground with no main chute and hoping that you are still conscious after all that banging around to activate your reserve chute. Not common, but also not infrequent was a “mae west” situation. This meant that some of the lines from the chute to your harness had crossed over the parachute itself and instead of one large chute you had two smaller ones. Typically not fatal, but this meant you descended to the ground faster than planned. Depending on the severity (where the lines crossed over your chute), it could lead to deploying your reserve or just riding it down and doing your best to avoid a “hard” landing with injuries.

After doing the canopy check and finding it OK, you had several seconds (the weather conditions affected the amount of time you were in the air) to meditate and think to yourself “life is great” or more commonly “WTF am I doing here?”. As you approached the ground and you could see that you were going to touch down in the landing zone, you prepared yourself to land by getting in a “PLF” position that was taught to you at jump school. This position was intended to prevent you from getting injured when hitting the ground. Looking back I think it was a psychological ploy to give you something to focus on as you made an uncontrollable crash into the ground.

If you were unfortunate enough to find that you were not going to land in a spot that was intended for you, then the process of trying to control your fate began and mostly luck took over. Unfortunately I had several of these but with only one injury. As I mentioned before, there is not a whole lot of elapsed time between when you jump and when you land on the ground. So there is not much time to guide your descent and in fact the only control you had was to tug on your risers (connects you to your canopy) to make marginal movements in any direction. Generally, if you landed in the designated drop zone you didn’t need to maneuver your chute. On the chance that people or equipment were in the way of your landing you could exercise slight control.

Upon hitting the ground (sorry I meant landing) you had to “collapse” your chute. This means removing the air that collected in the canopy as you descended. Like an inflated balloon is controlled by air movement, so is a partially deployed canopy. For a few seconds after landing, the air trapped in the chute keeps it from collapsing and any wind will take the chute and you and your equipment in the direction it is blowing. I once had a good ground landing but it was a windy day and I was dragged into a pond and had to be helped out of that situation by a medic on the ground as I was going underwater, gear and all.

That's enough storytelling for now.... Next time I'll talk about the planes and some interesting experiences....
John

"A poor workman always blames his tools"
arthur stead
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Thanks for sharing this story, Slowkneenuh. It was gripping and harrowing, and very well described. What an experience!
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Great job Slowkneenuh; you're a good story teller! I'm still working on my Yogi Berra story, but it's not nearly exciting as jumping out of planes or traveling with Peter Frampton!
What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about? Smile

My neighbor rang my doorbell at 2:30 a.m. this morning, can you believe that, 2:30 a.m.!? Lucky for him I was still up playing my drums.
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Thanks for the story. Just wondering--since it seems that many parachute fatalities are caused by improper packing, has the technology changed since the 60s? That is, has anyone come out with an automatic parachute-packer or something like that?
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Thanks for your comment landmark. I didn't mean to imply there were many fatalities but it's true the ones that occurred while jumping generally had something to do with the chute. As a side note the folks that pack your chutes are called riggers. They receive special training, are jump qualified and must be willing to jump what they pack. At least once that I recall we had to visit a rigging facility and rig a chute ourselves to see what's involved and gain confidence that our chute would do what it is supposed to do (although I don't think they used the ones we rigged, those were used so we could learn what was involved).

Because of the harsh environment where the chute is used, it undergoes a very detailed inspection before it is used again. This may be one of the reasons it is not a more automated process. At least as far as I am aware the rigging process has not undergone a lot of automation.

Here is a clip a few years old about rigging that you may find interesting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzjfWU_KYHE
John

"A poor workman always blames his tools"
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