GREAT FALLS – The United States Army Golden Knights showed off high-flying tricks and choreography during the Mission Over Malmstrom air shows this past weekend.
MTN’s Shannon Newth spent time with the parachute team and tagged along for a ride.
“The nerves are still there, they’re just pushed further back in your mind,” described Golden Knights team member, Ssg Charles Creech.
“The kind of fear is what keeps you performing the way that you’re supposed to,” explained Golden Knights team member, Ssg Blake Gaynor.
“A lot of people think what we do is really scary. It’s really not,” said SPC Skyler Romberg.
The Golden Knights are ambassadors for the United States Army. They’re known for their precision maneuvers, thousands of feet up in the air.
“It’s one of the best jobs you can have in the Army,” said Golden Knights pilot Joseph Baker.
Before the team jumped, the prep work started on the ground with what’s called a dirt dive.
“It’s just a rehearsal prior to conducting the jump. You go through all the different scenarios you might encounter,” Gaynor explained.
As the team of 12 jumpers loaded up, the pilots prepared the plane. Then, it was time for takeoff and the plane climbed to around 10,500 AGL (above ground level).
Temperatures dropped significantly as the plane gained altitude.
“Visualization is the biggest thing for me. I plan in my head everything that I’m going to do as soon as I get out of the plane,” explained Romberg.
“It’s more mental than it is physical. Obviously, there’s a physical execution that has to go down, but breathing and keeping a positive mindset is key,” Gaynor said.
The group used hand signals to communicate in a very loud and windy open-door plane.
In true Great Falls fashion, the wind on this particular flight was a little too strong for the team to jump safely.
In place of the performance, the Golden Knights flew over the crowd at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
“One of the coolest things is getting to meet people and represent the Army,” said Gaynor.
“That’s the biggest thing, the honor to be able to do this,” reflected Baker.
The Golden Knights have used the plane they flew this weekend, the Fokker 27, since the mid-1980s. The plane is on its last few air shows. It will be retired in October.
You can learn more about the Golden Knights here.
-Shannon Newth reporting for MTN News