Canadian Forces Parachute Team (CFPT), The Sky Hawks, 1977-1979
The Canadian Forces Parachute Team, The Sky Hawks
This is a page on the author's service with the team from 1977 to 1980.
A list of all CFPT Sky Hawk team members who served can be found on a separate web page here, listing Sky Hawks from the beginning to the present day
Canadian Forces Parachute Team, the Sky Hawks, Chinook helicopter exit over Drop Zone (DZ) Buxton, Alberta, 1978. The author looked up to catch John Glover on the left, Rick Guthrie in the middle, Pat Turpin on the right and Al McGee in the rear on a formation exit from the CH-147 Chinook. There were no slow pokes on this exit, nice clean and tight formation! (Author Photo)
Sky Hawk team crests worn on our jumpsuits 1977-1980.
The Canadian Forces Parachute Team, the Sky Hawks, is Canada’s only military parachute demonstration team. It has been representing Canada and the Canadian Forces for more than 47 years, providing parachute demonstration jumps to over 73 million spectators worldwide under the team’s signature Canadian flag parachutes. Bringing their parachutes in close proximity to build formations in the sky, the team puts on a spectacular show. Performing these aerobatic parachute formations requires a high level of skill and courage; and is known as Canopy Relative Work.
Supported by the Canadian Army, the Sky Hawks are currently based out of Trenton, Ontario, at the Canadian Forces Land Advanced Warfare Centre. There, they train alongside soldiers who help defend our territory and sovereignty through a wide variety of domestic and overseas missions. Both Regular and Reserve, the team members are from various occupations of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and bring a wide range of experience to their performances.
It is with great pride that they continue to showcase the professionalism, dedication and team work it takes to be part of Canada’s military. (Internet: http://www.army.forces.gc.ca/land-terre/skyhawks/at-pe-eng.asp)
Sky Hawk History
(Photos courtesy of Gerry Vida)
Two of the early Sky Hawk team crests worn on their jumpsuits 1971-76.
In June of 1969 an unofficial team comprised of sport parachute qualified members of the Canadian Airborne Regiment was formed under the authority of the Commanding Officer. The Team performed its first show on the 14th of June 1969, at the Mobile Force Fire Power Demonstration at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ontario. At that time the team was known as the Canadian Airborne Regiment Parachute Team.
By October of 1970 the team was referred to as the Canadian Forces Parachute Team. Under this new title, the team attended the World Parachuting Championships in Fontainebleau, France, where they brought home the silver medal in the Team Accuracy event.
In 1971, the team came under command of the Canadian Airborne Centre (CABC) and was officially formed by National Defence Headquarters in August of that same year. The following month saw the title “Sky Hawks” bestowed upon the team by the Commanding Officer of CABC.
Captain (Retired) Gerry Vida recently gave this account of the origin of the team to present and past members of the team:
"My take on the roots of the Sky Hawks: The Sky Hawks morphed from military jumpers who were active sky divers in local civilian parachute clubs across Canada. Eventually these enthusiasts flocked to the newly formed Canadian Airborne Regiment (Edmonton) circa 1968. With permission from the Regiment's commander Col Don Rochester they formed the regimental parachute demonstration team. Eventually the Team administration was consolidated within the parachute training wing of the Canadian Airborne Centre (CABC). The team continued as an ad-hock "pick up" team drawn from the many sub-units of the Regiment and CABC. In 1971 the team became a more or less permanent organization and acquired the now famous handle the Sky Hawks, which was introduced by the then Commanding Officer LCol Stu Northrup. Ten years later after mountains of service papers, hat in hand presentations to the brass at NDHQ/FMCHQ and friends of anything airborne the Team was recognised and allocated a Canadian Forces Organisational Order (CFOO). This assured permanence with eight (8) members and the much sought after annual budget. The rest is history as the Sky Hawks are now in their 47th year of operation."
Between the inception of the name “Sky Hawks” and the team’s 42nd anniversary season in 2013, many changes have taken place. The most notable change took place in 1977 when the team traded the Para-Commander round parachute for the more maneuverable Ram-Air square parachute. This advance in team equipment allowed for more dynamic and crowd-pleasing performances. One part of the team which has not changed, is the Signature of the Sky Hawks: the Canadian Flag parachute.
CFPT member landing at Ontario Place during the Toronto International Air Show, 1979.
On the 19th of September 1982, the Sky Hawks performed the world's most northerly demonstration jump at Canadian Forces Station Alert on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island.
In August of 1996 the CABC moved along with the Sky Hawks from Edmonton to their new home base in Trenton, Ontario. At this time the Canadian Airborne Centre underwent restructuring and was renamed the Canadian Parachute Centre.
Ten years later the Canadian Parachute Centre was renamed The Canadian Forces Land Advanced Warfare Centre (CFLAWC) which began the transformation into a Centre of Excellence for Land Advanced Warfare while remaining home unit to the Sky Hawks.
Each year they perform at events across North America and around the world thrilling audiences with their aerobatic parachute formations in the sky. Having performed to over 73 million spectators worldwide the team is proud to once again fly their signature Canadian flag parachutes this season. (Internet: http://www.army.forces.gc.ca/land-terre/skyhawks/history-histoire-eng.asp)
For three of the Canadian Forces Parachute Team’s show seasons the author had the great privilege of earning a spot on the Sky Hawks, serving as a team member from 1977 to 1979, and as a backup member in 1980 and 1981. In the photo, the author has a helmet equipped with a communications microphone and cable. The microphone was plugged into the radio system on the Douglas CC-129 Dakota to guide the aircraft onto the drop point. The jumper unhooked just before exiting.
Our primary jump ship, nick-named "Myrtle the Aluminum Turtle", was one of the Douglas CC-129 Dakota (Serial No. 12950) transport aircraft. Myrtle was flown by the No. 402 Squadron Air Reserve crews to Edmonton from their home base in Winnipeg for our jump training and a great number of exhibition jumps.
Long Dakota rides between airshows, 1977.
Dakota group waiting for the “show” to start, left to right: Cpl Rick Guthrie, 2Lt Hal Skaarup, Cpl Al McGee, Sgt Wayne Johnson, Cpl Daniel Plourde, Cpl John Glover, 1978. (Ron Polling Photo)
(Gerry Vida Photo)
In this photo the author is wearing three parachutes on an exit from a Dakota over Drop Zone (DZ) Buxton, north of Edmonton, Alberta in 1977. The top mounted parachute on my back is a "cutaway" parachute used for demonstration jumps. The jumper would fall in formation with another parachutist, open high while the other jumper opened slightly lower but still high, and then he would hang on to a built-in handle on one of the canopy risers. He would cutaway/release the parachute to collapse it and hold on to it for ten seconds, so that it would look like a "streamer" from the ground. The jumper would then let go of the handle, back-loop and open his canopy just under the other jumper, although both parachutists would still be at a safe altitude. Both jumpers would be trailing smoke grenades attached to boot brackets on their feet to make it easier for the crowd on the ground to see.
The training jumps in 1977 began in February and were conducted over clear but cold and snowy DZ Buxton, north of Edmonton, Alberta. In this photo the author is shown exiting from the ramp of a C-130 Hercules, with Captain Phil Campbell diving to meet me. Phil was the CFPT Team Leader in 1977. The CFB Edmonton Base Photographer took the photos.
The author took this photo of Major John Hasek under one of the Sky Hawk Para Commander canopies over Edmonton in 1977.
The author first met members of the Sky Hawks in 1973 while jumping as a sport parachutist in New Brunswick, and later in Nova Scotia and Manitoba. The team leader at that time was Warrant Officer Simon Fairfax Wykham-Martin and he had an interesting way of landing, in that as he touched down under his round - and in those days "high-performance" Para-Commander canopy (shown above), he cutaway from the parachute and walked away from the canopy before it hit the ground. I made my first sport parachute jump in June 1972 with Joe Chow at Perth, Ontario.
Basic Parachute Course, CABC, CFB Edmonton, Alberta, Sep 1975. (For some reason I am the only one wearing a while helmet). Front Row Instructors: Real Gagne, Bob Casavant, Rick Hardy, Mcdermot, Jimmy Buffet, Bouch Bouchard.
As a young Militiaman with brand new jump wings earned in August 1975 at the Canadian Airborne Centre in Edmonton, I desperately wanted to be part of the team. Warrant Officer Gerry Vida told me early on that if I attended the training camp I would make more jumps in a day with them than I did in a month as a sport parachutist - and he was right. It took the persuasion of LCol J.R.J. Gil Bellevance in Edmonton and the support of a great number of people in Halifax including Captain Kent White and applications in 1975 and 1976 before I was given the opportunity to try out for the team in March 1977. By that time I had a few hundred jumps and my own square canopy, a Strato Cloud. The team was just converting to ram-air canopies, and so it was that I found myself on my first military demonstration jump at Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan within a few days of arriving at the CFPT, located at the Canadian Airborne Training Centre (CABC) commanded at that time by LCol Don S. Manuel. There are no easy roads to winning a slot on the team, but I had excellent coaches and won the prize.
Bill, aircrew, Gary, John, aircrew, Brian, Hal standing in front of the Dakota,
Al, aircrew, Gerry, Murray, and Lorne kneeling in front, 1977.
(Photo by Jean Simard)
(Photo by Jean Simard)
The author as a Lieutenant in freefall wearing the black flight suit the team members wore throughout the 1977 team season.
(Photo by John Glover)
In this photo the author is wearing one of the first red flight suits the team acquired in 1978.
View of an MFP jump from inside a C-130 Hercules. When the ramp opened it was like watching a barn door opening in front of you. The view was even more interesting when we had two other Hercules in trail formation following us to the drop zone, and on static line jumps you could make out the other two aircraft pulling up alongside in V formation so we could all exit at the same time - very rare if ever done these days. On a Canadian Airborne Regiment training exercise over CFB Borden, Ontario in 1987 we had twelve Hercules carrying more than 600 paratroopers dropped by static line in four three-plane waves with weapons and equipment. We did a combat extraction two hours later - aircraft came in to land, taxied to the end of the runway and turned slowly around. You jumped onboard by group, and if you missed the plane as it turned around, it took off without you and there was a 25 km hike north to a vehicle pickup point. Needless to say, everyone was on board after the tenth plane came in and the other two came back to Petawawa empty. You are unlikely to see that again in Canada in the near future.
A view from the outside after exit. You can tell it is a winter jump by the jumper wearing mukluks.
Between show seasons team members acted as coaches, instructors and jumpmasters for the Military Freefall Parachutist (MFP) courses conducted at the Canadian Airborne Centre in November/December and in January/February. The photo shows MFP jumpers leaving the ramp with full equipment.
MFP kit, how it looks on the ground...
...and how it looks in freefall. (Author Photo)
This MFP jumper in freefall is rigged out with full winter kit, including rucksack and snowshoes, over DZ Buxton, Edmonton, Alberta. The photo was taken by the author using a hand-held 35-mm camera. Note: the soldier's rucksack would normally be mounted in front of the jumper for static line exits but for freefall, as shown here, it is mounted behind the jumper. They were very chilly jumps, usually from the ramp of a Lockheed C-130 Hercules, a Boeing CH-147 Chinook helicopter or a de Havilland CC-138 Twin Otter. The Sky Hawks primary jump ship for these years was the Douglas CC-129 Dakota flown by No. 402 "City of Winnipeg" Squadron based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Other jump ships included the Bell CH-135 Twin Huey helicopters from No. 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Edmonton, Alberta, No. 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron at 5 CDSB Petawawa, Ontario and No. 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron at 2 CDSB Valcartier, Quebec and Boeing CH-147 Chinook helicopters with No. 450 Transport Helicopter Squadron based at that time at CFB Edmonton, now 2 CDSB Edmonton, Alberta and later at CFB Ottawa. We made a great number of jumps from the Lockheed C-130 Hercules with No. 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron, nicknamed "Chinthe Squadron" and de Havilland CC-138 Twin Otters from No. 418 and No. 440 Squadrons based at CFB Edmonton, and de Havilland CSR-123 Otters from No. 400 "City of Toronto" Air Reserve Squadron, now located at CFB Borden, Ontario. Airshows were carried out by the team in the North West Territories and the Yukon as well as at Goose Bay, Labrador & Newfoundland and at Royal Roads Military College, Victoria, British Columbia, and as far south as Charleston, West Virginia n the USA.
1976-1977 Sky Hawks Brochure.
Some of the team members were still using Para Commanders before all were equipped with the rope and rings version of the Strato Cloud (the slider was just being invented). In Dec 1975 the author was jumping with an inventor named Bill Booth at Zephyr Hills in Florida, who came up with the idea of the throw-out pilot chute and three ring releases. It took awhile, but Bill's ideas caught on and the Sky Hawks eventually changed their equipment to match his inventions. Before the slider came along, those canopy openings particularly after pulling the ripcord in a 200 mph diamond track were particularly nasty. We were really happy when the rope and rings system that ran around the canopy and up through the centre came along and made those openings fairly tolerable, but then regular openings tended to be verrrrrrrrrry slooooooooowwwwwww - and of course interesting.
A flag jump can be very tricky, particularly if you have an extremely large one with three jumpers hanging on to it as they exit the aircraft. The author chased Murray McConnell, Pierre Deschenes and Pat Turpin off the ramp to get this shot.
Pierre Deschenes wrote to say, "Let me add a few more details to this jump...This was our second attempt. We did lose the first flag. (Or I did, after all I did sign for it). So to keep it simple. EVERYTHING went WRONG! On the first trial run, I did jump with the flag and two other jumpers did hook up with me. Possibly Pat and Murray. As soon as we deployed the flag. GONE! My arms were almost ripped right off. The wind velocity (120-mph) and also the fabric of the flag. A very thick piece of canvas with a Canadian flag sewn on either side created a huge amount of drag. Also, (we were) jumping at only 8000' due to Airforce regulations (at the time). With only 30 to 35 seconds of free fall, depending if you are falling stable or not, there was not much time to execute.
So back to the drawing board (Gerry's). This time, (the plan was for) three jumpers to step back off the ramp of the Hercules, (while) holding on to each other. It sounded and looked good on paper, but as soon as we (dropped in to) the prop blast, that piece of paper was gone with the wind. My two wing men were flapping in the wind and all of us were having the time of our lives tumbling towards the ground. But this time, I did manage to save the flag and a piece of my cute behind and also two weeks of peeling potatoes."
Diamond formation over DZ Buxton, Edmonton, with Pierre Dechenes in the lead, Murray McConnell left wing, me on the right wing, Pat Turpin in the slot. Gerry Vida took the photo, spring 1977
Group exit from the ramp of a C-130 Hercules, with jumpers wearing a mixed bag of black flightsuits, red or orange jumpsuits, or just green combats, depending on the dress of the day.
(Canadian Forces Photo)
Double side by side static line parachute jumps from a Lockheed C-130 Hercules, ca 1979.
Paratroopers exiting the side doors of a Lockheed C-130B Hercules, c1966.
Lockheed CC-130 Hercules, Edmonton, Alberta, ca 1978.
Sky Hawks preparing to board a Lockheed CC-130 Hercules, equipped with Jet Assisted Take-off (JATO) bottles mounted, for an airshow at CFB Goose Bay, Labrador & Newfoundland, 20 Aug 1977. That is Pte Lorne Ogden bending over to tighten his parachute harness.
Pte Brad Smith in fine form, closing in on the author after a dive exit from a Lockheed C-130 Hercules. In order to give the aircrew practice in dropping us, we were hopping out just two at a time for this one. A fast shutter speed gives the impression the propellers have stopped. The author used a hand-held camera for this shot, but just as often used a helmet-mounted camera for these jumps.
1977, CFPT wing suits, Kevin Gammon, Pierre Deschenes, Murray McConnell, Hal Skaarup, Gerry Vida kneeling
(Gerry Vida Photo)
In the group photo, the author is standing on the left with a helmet mounted camera and remote cable in hand alongside 1978 Sky Hawk team members Doug Kelly, Daniel Plourde, George Thibault, and Alain Dore kneeling. Note, experimental kit was the order of the day. The author is wearing an early model tandem rig, the others are equipped with front mounted reserves, all with ripcords. We also had a mixture of canopy release systems. Doug and George are equipped with cloth tab quick-releases which we nick-named "sport death wells", while the rest of us have standard military canopy cutaway releases (Bill Booth's three-ring circus was still in the future).
Getting rid of a perfectly open canopy can be a bit unsettling, but Corporal George Joseph Fleurimont Thibault got such a big kick out this activity that we were quite happy to let him be the super cutaway man and he probably made more cutaway demonstration jumps than most of the rest of Sky Hawks put together.
A jump from a No. 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron Bell CH-135 Twin Huey helicopter, over DZ Buxton, Edmonton, Alberta. The author stepped off the rails and looked up to get this shot of Wayne Johnson in the doorway, Ralph Goebel in a picture perfect step off (not easy to do), and Jean Simard to the right, 1978.
Capt Jean Simard on the left and Sgt Ralph Goebel on the right in a hookup over DZ Buxton in 1978.
We did a lot of Airshows jumping out of the single-engined de Havilland CSR-123 Otter from from No. 400 "City of Toronto" Air Reserve Squadron, based in Toronto, shown here over Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1977.
Sky Hawks building a star formation in brand new red jumpsuits, 1978. The photo was taken over Mountainview, near CFB Trenton, Ontario.
Sky Hawks building a star formation in brand new red jumpsuits, 1978. Sky Hawk formation with George Thibault on the left, WO Gerry Vida wearing a helmet-mounted film camera on the right and possibly Alain Dore in the black suit. The photo was taken over Mountainview, near CFB Trenton, Ontario.
Ottawa Airport, group photo with the DC-3, July 1978, getting ready to jump into the Ottawa Football Stadium.
Left to right: Harold Skaarup with Beaulieu film camera standing, George Thibault standing, photo tech in white shirt, Doug Kelly in the doorway, John Glover with a lady sitting in the doorway, Gerry Vida kneeling, Pat Turpin standing, Michel Cleroux standing, Keith Pillar standing.
A video promo film for the Sky Hawks was commissioned in 1978 (Mike Brun, are you still out there?). The film crew built a wooden board with straps and fasteners to bolt a large Beaulieu film camera onto the author. WO Gerry Vida made sure it was on the author as safely and securely as possible, and it was worn on a number of jumps over the Ottawa Football Stadium and over Edmonton. The author is exiting from our Douglas CC-129 Dakota over the Ottawa football stadium in July 1978. Interesting jumps, with the camera mounted upwards to film exits and other skydivers, and mounted down to film the landings on many different jumps. The author was also given a film credit.
The Sky Hawks were flown by a number of pilots and aircrews flying Canadian Forces aircraft from the following Squadrons from 1977 to 1979:
400 Sqn, City of Toronto, de Havilland CSR-123 Otter, jump ship
401 Sqn, City of Montreal, de Havilland CSR-123 Otter, jump ship
402 Sqn, City of Winnipeg, Douglas CC-129 Dakota, jump ship
403 Sqn, CFB Gagetown, Bell CH-135 Twin Huey Helicopter, jump ship
405 Sqn, CFB Greenwood, Canadair CP-107 Argus, ferry flight
408 Sqn, CFB Edmonton, Bell CH-135 Twin Huey Helicopter, jump ship
412 Sqn, CFB Ottawa, CC-109 Cosmopolitan, passenger transport
413 Sqn, CFB Summerside, de Havilland CC-115 Buffalo, jump ship & passenger transport
418 Sqn, CFB Edmonton, de Havilland CC-138 Twin Otter, jump ship
424 Sqn, CFB Trenton, Lockheed CC-130 Hercules, jump ship
426 Sqn, CFB Trenton, Lockheed CC-130 Hercules, jump ship
427 Sqn, CFB Petawawa, Bell CH-135 Twin Huey Helicopter, jump ship
430 Sqn, CFB Valcartier, Bell CH-135 Twin Huey Helicopter, jump ship
435 Sqn, CFB Edmonton, Lockheed CC-130 Hercules, jump ship
436 Sqn, CFB Trenton, Lockheed CC-130 Hercules, jump ship
437 Sqn, CFB Trenton, Boeing CC-137 Husky (Boeing 707), passenger transport
438 Sqn, City of Montreal, de Havilland CSR-123 Otter, jump ship
440 Sqn, CFB Edmonton, de Havilland CC-138 Twin Otter, jump ship
450 Sqn, CFB Edmonton, Boeing Vertol CH-147 Chinook Helicopter, jump ship
Boeing Vertol CH-147 Chinook, 450 Squadron, taking off from DZ Buxton at CFB Edmonton, Alberta, ca 1978.
Boeing Vertol CH-147 Chinook helicopter (the best jump ship of them all in the author's opinion in 1978). Note the shark mouth taped on the nose by 450 Squadron crew based in Edmonton. These helicopters were sold to the Dutch, who took our guys up with them in Afghanistan years before the Canadian Forces bought another batch.
Boeing Vertol CH-147 Chinook exit. Note red jumpsuits and smoke grenades on boots.
The author looked up to catch John Glover on the left, Rick Guthrie in the middle, Pat Turpin on the right and Al McGee in the rear on a formation exit from the CH-147 Chinook. There were no slow pokes on this exit, nice clean and tight formation!
Another Chinook exit.
The de Havilland CC-138 Twin Otters were painted white at first, then to improve visibility they switched to yellow. The author shot this one at Namao, CFB Edmonton in 1978. If you think it looks cold there, I can confirm that it was!
(Gerry Vida Photo)
Team photo as we get ready for the day's jumps from the de Havilland CC-138 Twin Otter. Left to right, the author, Bill Greenshields, Ralph Goebel, Murray McConnell, Pierre Deschenes and Kevin Gammon, 1977.
Twin Otter exits.
Lots of Twin Otter training jumps. Capt Jean Simard is in front of me here.
During a brief stint with the Airborne Trials and Evaluation Section (ATES) as an air to air freefall photographer, the author was tasked to chase jumpers using the CT2 round canopies being tested with double pilot chutes and extra long sleeves and to photograph them on opening. On a number of occasions, the canopies blew up. This happened to the author - picture looking up at your canopy and more than half of the suspension lines have broken away and are draped around your neck, so you risk being strangled if you cutaway. Therefore you use the classic hand deployment of the reserve method - a bit disconcerting, so I had a particular interest in helping to solve the problem. There were two causes: one, when the two pilotchutes did pop up, the snatch force on the long sleeve caused the round canopy to slump to the bottom, then a big lump had to break out of a small opening at 120 mph -the canopy tore apart on opening. Second, sometimes only one of the pilotchutes popped up and the other hung down and dragged, causing an extremely slow opening and again a bunged up canopy in the sleeve. The solutions were to go back to a single large pilot chute and use a shorter sleeve - the exploding canopies stopped happening. The photos helped us to determine the cause and effect, and to find a solution. Neat stuff to be part of.
These jumpers are equipped with CT2 round canopies and their openings are preset with a mechanical height-finder to fire at 3,500 feet. The next two shots show Pierre Deschenes as he opens his "rope and rings" Strato Cloud main canopy on two different jumps. I rarely had time to take more than one good photo on the opening before having to get my own chute out, although the person I was taking the photo of usually opened higher than normal so that I could be open at the normal altitude.
For these jumps during the winter of 1978-79 over DZ Buxton, Edmonton, the author used a hand-held 35-mm camera. The jumpers were opening around 3,500 feet so I could get my own canopy open at a safe altitude after the shot.
(Photo by Faye Skaarup)
In between military jumps, the author enjoyed (and still does) hanging out. My future wife Faye Jenkins (who made one jump herself) took the photo on the left from a C-182 over Waterville, Nova Scotia, fall 1976.
(Photo by Chris Skaarup)
My brother Chris (who I chased out of a C-182 over Lahr, Germany on the first of his two jumps) took this photo over Winchester, Ontario, summer 1985. Note the change from front-mounted reserve to piggyback rig.
Still wearing the black flightsuit, the author is shown exiting a Single Otter over Mountainview, near CFB Trenton, Ontario just prior to the Toronto International Airshow in 1977. The pilot chute is just leaving the main back pack and you can see it is attached to a double rope which went through the centre of the ram-air canopy and around a set of rings. Note the smoke grenade on the boot bracket
...and of course there is always parachute packing, with the author working on a "rope and rings" version of the Strato Cloud main canopy in this shot from 1977.
(Gerry Vida Photo)
Sgt Wayne Johnson and the author rigging smoke grenades on boot brackets for the day's jumps.
1977 CFPT. Back row, left to right: Sgt Bill Greenshields, 402 Squadron aircrewman, Rick Hodge, Cpl John Hunt, 402 Squadron pilot, Sgt Brian Wesley Fulton, Lt Hal Skaarup. Front row, left to right: Cpl Al McGee, 402 Squadron pilot, WO Gerry Vida, Cpl Murray McConnell, Cpl Lorne Ogden.
(Allan Warren Photo)
On 7 May 1977 the Sky Hawks did a demo jump into Calgary for the PPCLI trooping of the colours. Penelope Meredith Mary Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, known until 2005 as Lady Romsey, and until 2017 as The Lady Brabourne, was presiding. We hopped out of the Bell CH-135 Twin Huey helicopter from Edmonton, but as we were coming in to land, some children ran out to the first set of jumpers on the target area. You can't afford to land on a kid with smoke grenades etc., so I turned and landed behind the bleachers.
As I dropped my kit to get ready for the salute, her father, Admiral of the Fleet Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, British Royal Navy officer and statesman, an uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and second cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II, stepped over to say hello to me. Seizing the day, I reached up to shake his hand and said, "hello sir, I always wanted to meet a man who went down with his ship!" He laughed and said "yes, and do you know the bastards machine-gunned us in the water!" (He had been on the destroyer HMS Kelly when Stuka dive bombers sank it - as the ship rolled over, he was washed out of the bridge and came up the other side as the ship sank, and the dive bombers did machine gun them in the water.) In August 1979, Mountbatten was assassinated by a bomb planted aboard his fishing boat in Mullaghmore, County Sligo, Ireland, by members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Mountbatten commanded the destroyer HMS Kelly and the 5th Destroyer Flotilla and saw considerable action in Norway, the English Channel and the Mediterranean. In August 1941, he received command of the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. He was appointed chief of Combined Operations and a member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in early 1942, and organised the raids on St Nazaire and Dieppe. In August 1943, Mountbatten became Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia Command and oversaw the recapture of Burma and Singapore from the Japanese by the end of 1945. For his service during the war, Mountbatten was created viscount in 1946 and earl the following year.
The Sky Hawks attended many civilian and military functions during their tours of duty. For informal occasions the team members were usually dressed with white turtlenecks and white or grey slacks with blue jackets. This photo was taken at the RCR Trooping at CFB London, Ontario in 1977. Standing left to right, Rick Guthrie, Hal Skaarup, Phil Campbell, Pat Turpin, Lorne Ogden, Gerry Vida and Kevin Gammon. First one seated was a Second World War Vet, the gentleman seated 2nd from the left wearing a Sky Hawk sticker is Brigadier (Retired) Milton Gregg VC, one of New Brunswick's Victoria Cross winners from the Great War. There are none left now. The third was the CO of the RCR and the fourth was RSM "Buz" Girden.
The author used both a hand held and a helmet mounted camera during jumps to observe and test new equipment. He is looking up at other jumpers as they exit from the ramp of a Lockheed C-130 Hercules in this photo.
For most airshows, the team members carried flags.
CABC Edmonton, Alberta, Parachute Training Wing, MFP Course 7902, 14 Dec 1979.
2nd row Donald Boivert 1Cdo. Pte Martin
Rear Row: Sgt John Hunt, 2, MCpl McCardle, 4, 5, Sgt Chris Cablegun, Cpl Steve Griffin.
3rd row: 1, 2, Cpl Luke Paquet, 4, Pte Colin Beattie,
2nd row: 1, 2, 3.
Front Row: Sgt Ralph Goebel, Capt Hal Skaarup, WO Tom Holland, Capt MacAulay, CWO W.D. Collier, MCpl Jim Ogden, Sgt Wayne Sabean.
The coaching technique was important, simple things like waddling off the ramp with that huge rucksack behind you and all the equipment plus winter kit can lead to unexpected difficulties. Two of the jumpers the author photographed here managed to get their rucksacks hooked together on exit. They managed to get disentagled fairly quickly, but it did make the jump a bit more interesting for the participants.
The author had the privilege of serving two tours of duty in Germany, first as a Reservist with HQ CFE in Lahr (1981-1983), and again as the Regular Force G2 Ops for 4 CMBG (1989-1992). During the first tour we took a military K-bus up to Calw, south of Pforsheim to jump with the German 521st Fallschirm Brigade, hosted by French Para/Marines from Carcassonne and the R22eR. Six of us Canadians including myself and five R22eR soldiers were on the visit. We made two Static line jumps from a very big Sikorsky Sea Stallion helicopter shown here, onto a DZ in Malmsheim near an old walled town called Weil-an-der-Stadt. We were required to make six jumps to earn their wings and they only permitted two per day, so it took a few visits. We also parachuted from their Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters. After the jumps, 756 troops lined the parade square (300 French Marines, 450 German paras and 6 Canadians) for their wings parade, followed by a huge party in the evening, with a tug-of-war contest.
In somewhat reverse order, the author went overseas in 1981 as a Reservist Captain in the Intelligence Branch and came back to Canada in 1983 as a Second Lieutenant in the Regular Force Intelligence Branch. He trained at CFB Borden and was posted to CFB Ottawa in 1984. While there he was able to participate in a few military jumps at the annual Jump Bivouac, held by the Canadian Airborne Regiment at CFB Petawawa, Ontario. This group photo was taken at the August 1984 Jump Bivouac at CFB Petawawa. (The author is standing under the propeller on the left side of the photo).
Jump Bivouac, August 1985, CFB Petawawa, Ontario. (The author is 3rd row down, 4th from the right).
Canadian Airborne Regiment logo.
CT1 chute, CFB Petawawa, Ontario.
(Photo by Faye Skaarup)
Captain Harold A. Skaarup, Regimental Intelligence Officer, HQ & Signals Squadron, Canadian Airborne Regiment, First Special Service Force, 1986-1989.
While on duty in Ottawa, the Intelligence Branch noted that since I already had my wings, it was deemed appropriate that I serve with the Canadian Airborne Regiment. I was posted to Canadian Airborne Regiment based at CFB Petawawa from 1986 to 1989 as the Regimental Intelligence Officer - a great honour. The Regiment was at that time part of the First Special Service Force.
Canadian Airborne Regiment coin, 04567.
In August 1986 the Regiment was deployed to Cyprus on Op Snow Goose There were opportunites to jump with the British contingent, and the author is shown here carrying the Canadian flag while acting as a guest jumper with the British "Red Devils" Army Parachute team. We made several practice jumps from a Wessex helicopter and then did a demonstration jump into a British UN medals parade at Blue Beret Camp near Nicosia, Cyprus in 1986.
HRH Prince Charles presided over the partnership formed between the Canadian Airborne Regiment and the British Parachute Regiment while we were on Cyprus in 1986. He is shown here being escorted by our CO, Col J.M.R. Gaudreau.
(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4235973)
Westland Wessex helicopter in Cyprus.
We used the British Contingent's Westland Wessex helicopter (shown here outside our HQ in Nicosia) for the medals parade jumps at the BRITCON Camp. At one point there was smoke coming out of the instrument panel. The pilot landed, a mechanic banged some things around and we took off again. Interesting solution to the problem, but the show must go on and it was otherwise a great jumpship and the Red Devils had their act together.
The Canadian Airborne Regiment's flag hangs in the Infantry School lines in Building J7 at 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.
The Army sent me to some interesting places. Officers of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, CANCONCYP, Nicosia, Cyprus, fall 1986, Col (later MGen) J.M.R. Gaudreau commanding. It was a privilege to have served with them. Ex Coelis! During this deployment to Cyprus, the author taught sport jump courses to serving personnel using the British facilities at Lanarca, and learned to SCUBA dive with the RCR before the main contingent arrived.
Still taking part in exhibition jumps, this one is from a balloon over the Lahr airfield, Germany where I served as the Int Officer with 4 CMBG, on 1 July 1991. The balloon pilot asked me to carefully climb outside the wicker basket and hook a foot in a small step, then to lean back and let go gently, which is when he took the photo. It felt like I was stepping off a building - quite the memorable jump for Canada Day. The airfield was a long way off, but the warm air kept myself and Jacques Levesque aloft enough for both of us to make it to the landing site.
Canadian National Intelligence Centre (CANIC) crew, author as the CO, standing 2nd from the left, in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1997. I did bring my parachute gear, but the opportunity to use it escaped at that time.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Maj Dumas, 6 Maj Laflamme, 7 Col Richard Giguère (COS), 8 Maj Dany Fortin, 9 German Colonel (DComd KMNB), 10, 11 BGen Jocelyn LaCroix, 12 Major Hal Skaarup, 13, 14, 15 Maj Demers, 16, 17 LCol Alain Tremblay, 18. Col Richard Giguère retired as a BGen, having been Cmdt CFC and Comd 2 Can Div. Maj Dany Fortin is now MGen Fortin, Comd 1 Can Div. Maj Tremblay is now MGen Tremblay, Maj André Demers is now BGen Demers, Maj Laflamme is now Col Laflamme and Maj Dumas is now Col Dumas.
Officers of the Kabul Multi-National Brigade (KMNB), International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Kabul, Afghanistan. BGen Jocelyn LaCroix (5e GBMC) commanding, 2004. I met with General Khatol, Commander of the Afghan Airborne forces to arrange jumps using their Mi-18 Hip helicopters, but the plan was vetoed.
Liaison duty with Afghan Police Generals in Kabul, spring 2004.
Along the way a skydiver gets to try a lot of new ideas, attend courses and to earn his ratings and certificates to keep up with changes in the sport. 1,757 jumps to date. The author holds the following licences and ratings:
CSPA A Licence No. 337, CSPA B Licence No. 971, CSPA C Licence No. 705, CSPA D Licence No. 313, CSPA Rigger No. B0009A, USPA D Master Licence No. 022874. CSPA Jumpmaster and Instructor ratings.
Eight Way Star Crest Rating No. 9898, Canadian Ten Way Star Crest No. 593, Four Stack Canopy Crest Recipient No. 2759, Eight Stack Canopy Crest Recipient No. 1262.
Canadian Army parachute wings, German Army parachute wings, British Army parachute wings.
CSPA Instructor and Jumpmaster ratings.
CSPA/Canadian 10-way star crest award.
8-way Star Crest rating, 8-stack and 4-stack canopy relative work ratings.
My oldest son Jonathan Skaarup getting ready for his first jump with his Dad at Calhan, Colorado. The next generation's turn. The author followed Jonathan out of a Cessna 206 over Colorado on his first two jumps. Jonathan and his wife Jocelyn have also made me a grandfather, with grandson Cole Hayden Skaarup and granddaughter Ashley Isabelle Skaarup, so there are prospects for a third generation too.
My youngest son Sean preparing for his first skydive, Ex-Sky Hawk Dominic Dumont with the Gatineau Parachute Club took him up for a tandem jump from a Cessna Navajo on 29 Sep 2012. I followed them out of the aircraft at 12,500 feet and we shook hands (a three-way on his first jump!) and then we opened our chutes and flew back to the DZ side by side on a beautiful sunny Quebec morning. Way back in the day when I made my first jump at Perth, Ontario in 1972, you had to have a C licence and at least 100 jumps before you were allowed to do a hook-up. (Mind you, I have just realized that was 40 years ago. Where did the time go? I guess time flies when you are having fun, and when does a jumper ever stop doing that?). Sean and his wife Mélyse (who is also a jumper), have added three grandchildren to our family, granddaughter Owen, granddaughter Auli, and grandson Bauer!
Some Sky Hawk artwork by the author:
Canadian Forces Parachute Team, Sky Hawks, exiting a Boeing CH-147 Chinook helicopter.
Canadian Forces Parachute Team, Sky Hawks, exiting a de Havilland CC-138 Twin Otter.
Canadian Forces Parachute Team, Sky Hawks, exiting a Douglas CC-129 Dakota.
Canadian Forces Parachute Team, Sky Hawks, exiting a Lockheed CC-130 Hercules.
Canadian Forces Parachute Team, Sky Hawk Capt Hal Skaarup, exiting a CC-130 Hercules.