Around the Drop Zone – A Sunday Afternoon at Midwest Freefall

This is a regular blog post. Show notes and links to episode audio appear in the other entries.

I spent Sunday afternoon at Midwest Freefall, a drop zone in Ray, Michigan between Romeo State Airport (D98) and Ray Community Airport (57D).

Dave Schwartz of Skydive Chicago was in town flying skydivers while the drop zone is between aircraft. Midwest had been using a Cessna Caravan or similar aircraft and is in the process of obtaining another one. In the meantime, the Otter is filling in.

Really nice, laid back DZ. Here’s the observation line right near the loading point for the jumpers. A pretty good group of family and friends watching the departures and landings. A guy had a grill going with steaks, burgers, and dogs and even delivered a couple to the cockpit after the second load that I flew. I’m the first to admit that I’m still a bit of a pretender in the cockpit of aircraft like the Otter, but it was really cool to be respected (and fed) as a pilot.

Here’s a load shortly before takeoff. More folks in the aircraft than we flew at Skydive Chicago (mainly due to the fact that we were flying on a Monday morning then and it was understandably slow) and there were more definite and pronounced changes in CG as jumpers moved back and departed the aircraft. Definitely had to pull and re-trim.

Here’s the last jumper of the second load. Wingsuit flyer. It’s kind of hard to get a picture that captures the fact that the jumper is heading out the door while still getting the jumper in the shot.

Here’s the view out the front window right after the wingsuited jumper left. You pitch 30 degrees nose-down, bank over 60 degrees, throttle back, pitch for Vne of 160, and get the airplane down as quickly as possible. Lots of planet in the window, as you can see.
On a busy day, you night save enough time to be able to get another couple of loads of jumpers up in a day.

That’s Romeo State Airport down there. Kunstman Airfield is between Romeo and Ray, and you announce on the CTAFs of both airports (122.8 and 122.7, respectively) before you greenlight the jumpers. You’re also talking to Selfridge ANGB (KMTC) approach, so you have good eyes on you.

If you’re interested in checking out Midwest Freefall, the contact information is below.

Midwest Freefall Sport Parachute Club
62912 Kunstman Road
Ray, Michigan 48096
586.75 2 JUMP (586.752.5867)

Midwest accommodates first-timers, experienced jumpers, and everyone in between. Tandems are available.

The DZ runs a United States Parachute Association‘s Accelerated Freefall (AFF) program.

You start with an extensive ground school session (6 – 8 hours). The club provides special student equipment that includes industry standard safety features and ground-to-air radio. You exit from more than 12,000 feet AGL and you and your two freefall instructors fly for approximately 60 seconds. You deploy your own parachute and descend to the landing area with the assistance of ground-to-air radio instruction.

Really nice DZ with really nice people.