I had the opportunity at this years Service Credit Union Boston-Portsmouth Airshow to fly with the US Army’s premiere parachute team the Golden Knights Black Team. The Black Team was led by Sgt. 1st Class Tom Dunning followed by Staff Sgt. Dan Cook, Spc. Matt Navarro, Staff Sgt. Todd Beckel, Staff Sgt. Trevor Oppenborn and New Hampshire native Staff Sgt. Howie Sanborn. Our pilot was Ken Breeden, a former 23 year Army serviceman with over 8000 flight hours, and our crew chief is Staff Sgt. Jusseppi Silvagnoli. Here is a photo essay on my adventure.
I get the call at 0900 to get ready to fly. An associate from Herb Gillen Agency, the airshow promoter, drives me over to the “hot ramp” where the Golden Knights Fokker (F-27-400M) C-31A troop carrier aircraft is waiting. At 0905 we arrive at the hot ramp, the team is not yet here so I get to grab a few shots of the plane I’ll be flying in. The light is great at this time of day for shooting.
The crew arrives at 0914 and prepares to do their pre-flight checks. I speak briefly with our pilot, Mr. Breeden, and he gives us some background information on the plane and what altitude we’ll be flying at. I walk around the plane and watch as Black Team packs their parachutes.
At 0950 we board the C-31A and I grab some shots of the cockpit.
I am instructed to take a seat at the front of the plane.
At 1000 I get my pre-flight briefing on the do’s and don’ts of flying with the Golden Knights from SSG Sanborn. I am issued an air-sickness bag tucked into a small brown paper envelope. I was jokingly reminded not to get sick in the brown paper envelope but the white bag inside. I’m pleased to announce that I did not get sick. I’m buckled in and I am seated on the seat next to the door on the right side of the plane. The jump doors are open all the way up to altitude. There are 3 other civilians on this flight with me. I came prepared for the flight wearing pants and a fleece. The others came in shorts and t-shirts so they were outfitted with flight suits. From the looks on their faces, it didn’t do much good in the 30 degree temperatures we faced at altitude.
The team suits up at 1012.
SFC Dunning finishes suiting up while SPC Navarro looks on. At 1028 the team is suited up and we await our clearance from the tower to taxi to the runway.
We started to taxi at 1033 and at 1036 we are cleared for takeoff on runway 34 and we begin our accent to 12,500 feet. During the roughly 20 minute flight I watched the great scenery out the jump doors. It’s a beautiful day and you can see for miles.
For more great shots, including the New Hampshire coast from an aerial view and the Golden Knights Black Team’s jump, be sure to click Read More!
After the team gave the “Let’s go!” chant they prepared to leave the plane at 1113. I’m not sure I’d want to be in their shoes, jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, but they seem to enjoy it. The team states this is just the way they “get” to work. In fact, the team has over 15,000 combined jumps. The newest member Matt Navarro from Florida made his 580th jump on this flight. As the Black Team leaves the aircraft we snap pictures in a frantic fashion.
SSG Silvagnoli then comes from the front of the plane and closes the rear doors. The decent from 12,500 feet to 200 feet takes just under a minute. We streak across the show line shortly after all members of the Black team have touched down safely. We circle around and land. What a great experience to have flown with such great professionals. The Golden Knights can be found on Facebook, on the web, or at an airshow near you.
Pete Langlois lives in Derry with his wife and two children. Pete works in the information technology banking sector as a systems administrator. He is an accomplished photographer and loves to shoot at air shows and balloon festivals. He also enjoys shooting waterfalls, nature and macro photography. You can view his outstanding images on his website.