“You take one look out that door … and it’s a long way down.”
In fact it was 14,000 feet down, give or take a foot or two, for Mike Crowe and members of the U.S. Army’s elite Golden Knights precision parachuting team -– a record high for the team in tandem jumping.
Crowe, 59, of Louisville, Ky., dropped from the plane and into the sky linked to Sgt. First Class Mike Elliott, otherwise known as the tandem master.
Crowe, who has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, wears ankle-foot orthotics (when not jumping), hasn’t much use of his hands, has had two hip replacements and needs shoulder replacements.
“We wanted to make this jump for one reason, and that was to show people with disabilities everywhere that almost anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” Crowe said.
Setting a new altitude record
Crowe had wanted to set an altitude record, and he did. The previous highest tandem jump for the Golden Knights was 13,500 feet.
When first out of the plane, he and Elliott were traveling at 200 miles per hour, until the tandem master deployed a small drogue parachute that slowed their descent to a mere 120 mph.
“Talk about getting a birds-eye view of the world!” enthused Crowe. The two enjoyed 50 seconds of near-free fall before the main chute kicked in and slowed their descent for another four minutes. It was the same chute used by former President George H.W. Bush when he jumped with the Golden Knights June 12 on his 85th birthday.
Like Bush, Crowe wore a special jumpsuit. This one had material added around the knees so he could use his arms to lift his legs up just before they touched down at Fort Knox. “It was like landing on a pillow,” he said.
Crowe hopes to make an even-higher tandem jump with the Army team to keep emphasizing his message of “you, too, can do.”
|As the Crowe Flies: Click here to watch a slide movie of Mike's jump.|
The Golden Knights, which celebrated the group’s 50th anniversary in March, make jumps of this type partly to demonstrate the U.S. military’s parachuting expertise and partly as a recruiting tool. Members of the team each make about 500 jumps every year.
“Landing dead-center on a pre-designated spot is extremely difficult,” said Golden Knights commander Lt. Col. Anthony Dill, who also is a tandem master. “To do it consistently –- which we do –- is much harder.”
The Crowes are longtime disability and veterans rights advocates. In 2002, they made 300 acres of forested land available to the state of Kentucky to be used as an accessible environmental education park for people with disabilities. They also were instrumental in making the state’s vocational schools accessible to students with disabilities.