Ash Jump


RJ Smith
Ash Jump

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Stardust Falls to Earth
A Photo Essay
On Saturday, September 18, 2010, family and friends of   Ronnie "RJ" Smith and Norris "NJ" Hargett gathered to celebrate the lives of their friends and loved ones at PK Airport/Raeford Drop Zone in Raeford, NC.

To fulfill their final wishes, members of the Black Demonstration Team of the Golden Knights were present to take these Former Golden Knights on their final jump.  During the ceremonial exchange of the ashes from the families to the Team,
1st SGT Bryan Schnell of the Knights and several alumni spoke to the group. The Team completed 2 jumps,
releasing each Alumnus's ashes and recording the event while in flight.  Although poignant and bittersweet,
the event was also a joyful and beautiful occasion. Farewell, friends and "Blue Skies".
All photos, except as noted, by Regina Hudson
Black Team and Alumni 952
953 - Black Team and Alumni
Photo by Donna Dixon
952 - SSG Rachel Haddon Medley photographs the ceremonies as friends and family look on.
Photo by Donna Dixon
904 918
904 - [l-r] Brandie Phillips, Ty Wheeler (behind), Skip Cassel, Brandon Valle, Joyce Smith (wife of RJ Smith) and Wil Fleming with the Release Bag that Waits to Take RJ on His last Jump 918 - Along with the Black Team, numerous family members and friends, and about 75 Alumni members participated in this special memorial.
[l-r] Bill Forristal, Bill Gatter, Spider Wrenn, Carter Edge,
and Fred Patterson
921 924

921 - Jack Hargett (center, son of NJ Hargett) joins Black Team members: [kneeling l-r] Brandon Valle and Wil Fleming; [standing l-r] Brandie Phillips, Arlyn Slade, Todd Beckel, Ty Wheeler and Howard Sanborn
Far left is alumnus, Carter Edge.

924 - [l-r] George Torrealba, Jack Hargett and
Skip Cassel
939 936
939 - Alumnus Bill Gatter joined RJ on his last jump. 936 - Alumnus Carter Edge joined RJ on his last jump.
937 938
937 - A covered area shields Team Members from the bright sunny day as they wait to depart. 938 - Team member, Brandie Phillips
926 929
926 - The 8-man team that flew with RJ Smith began the
flight by preparing on the ground with a technique
known as a "dirt dive".
929 - A mock cabin helps the Team plan their exit.
941 949
941 - Team Members escort RJ to his final jump. 949 - All details are given careful attention as the Team
does a final review of its jump plan.
951 - Friends and family watch and wait. 935 - Donna Dixon, USAPT Media Relations, and alumnus Gene Paul Thacker share a special moment.
945 946
945 - Many friends are there to witness and record the day. 946 - Remembering NJ, we pay homage to our pilots, without whom we could never really fly.
950 958
950 - Sean Capogreco and Rachel Medley will record the event. 958 - RJ begins his final jump.
Photos left and right by Sean Capogreco894
894 - Blues Skies, RJ
893 - Fly Like an Eagle
954 974
954 - Team members separate after the Bomburst
Photo by Donna Dixon
974 - And the Team starts to return.
1085 991
1085 - A brilliant sun burst illuminates the 2-man stack.
Photo by Sean Capogreco
991 - Team members demonstrate their
exceptional talents for an appreciative crowd.
994 966
994 - There was an air of peace as the crowd watched the Team members descend. 966 - Each Team member lands with a soft stand-up finish.
1001 1004
1001 - Rachel Medley and Wil Fleming check their equipment and prepare for the next jump. 1004 - Wil Fleming, Sean Capogreco and Donna Dixon review the video of RJ's jump.

Between jumps the two larger aircraft used by
the Drop Zone developed mechanical difficulties.

After a long waiting period, the airport
offered use of its much smaller
Cessna aircraft.

It was eloquent and somehow right that the
Cessna should take NJ Hargett on his final jump.

In the early 1960s, NJ flew the Golden Knights
using aircraft and technology that is
far more primitive than today.

His gift for improvisation and his flying
skills helped the Golden Knights not only to survive
many tight moments, but also to succeed.
1010 - 1st SGT Bryan Schnell oversees preparations
for the second jump.
1013 - This specially-modified helmet promotes the ability
to take photos in free fall.
1015 - Specialized recording equipment
helps to capture unique moments.
1017 1026
1017 - Sean Capogreco (shown at right)
shot the amazing photo shown in the sidebar.
1026 - Arlyn Slade takes care of NJ in advance of the flight.
1040 1030
1040 - When the Cessna finally arrived, family and friends
remarked how fitting it was that the plane's ID included
the initials "N" and "J".
1030 - Because of the plane's smaller size, the size of the jump Team was smaller as well. Above the Team
members start the ground-side preparations with the pilot.
1033 1035
1033 - Sean Capogreco demonstrates how he will balance over the wheel while holding to the strut. 1035 - Team members practice the positions they will occupy as they exit the plane.
1037 1036
1037 - The Cessna has a tiny cabin. 1036 - Family and friends recording the flight preparations.
1049 1050
1049 - NJ taxis to his final lift-off. 1050 - Smoke trails the jumpers as they slowly descend.
1054 1056
1054 - The Hargett Family 1056 - The Hargett Family
1057 1058
1057 - The Hargett Family 1058 - The Hargett Family
1063 1065
1063 - Late day clouds provide a back drop for the jump. 1065 - A Beautiful Sight
1067 1069
1067 - Soft Landings 1069 - Ground side, Golden Knights await the return of the jump Team.
1072 1073
1072 - Jack Hargett waits to speak with the jump Team
with Bryan Schnell.
1073 - Alumnus George Torrealba and Wil Fleming review the jump video.
1078 1079
1078 - Reviewing the photos. 1078 - As with the quality of their jumps, the results of their filming  is of great importance to the Golden Knights.
Photographer/videographers review their efforts.
1077 1082
1077 - Every jump concludes with repacking the parachutes. 1082 - Attention to detail is essential to performance and safety. Howard Sanborn finishes repacking his parachute.
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