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Steve FieldingSteve Fielding, D-2822, has been jumping since April 24, 1966. He made his first jump at age 22 in Arvin, CA. Timm Harris was his jumpmaster. A friend of his introduced him to the sport and he has just kept at it since.
Relative work in the late 60's and early 70's was in its infancy. Gutter gear was primarily used then, so flying was a challenge with the chest mounted reserve. Single point canopy release systems would not be developed for ten more years. People were wary of malfunctions. Fielding did not let this deter him from teaching himself how to dash and dart around the sky. His favorite thing to do was diving.
Teams and Records
He was part of several 10-way teams. Jerry Bird invited him on the first 24-way star. He did a great job. After that weekend, other jumpers suddenly realized what a great jumper he was.
Perrisites (1971): Warren Frazier, Steve Fielding, Dennis Trapanier, Ken Crabtree, Al Krueger, Andy Benard, Donna Wardean, Sherry Cleary, Phil Christman, Bud Krueger.
He loved diving so much, he started the thankless job of organizing, so that he could go out last. The bug for larger and larger stars led him to organize or participate on record loads. Some of the events and journeys were very fruitful, as the efforts leading up to the first night 10-way to 16-way stars. Fielding was the organizer and record holder on the first 10 way night star on Feb 26th 1972. He went out last. (Read a related story, Journey to a 16-way Night Star) Other events, like the 100-way attempt that yielded several 99-ways were disappointing.
Fielding has been on many teams over the years. He claims to have more second and third place titles than anyone else.
Fielding kept organizing groups in Southern California. His roster consisted of mostly experienced and proven jumpers. If a jumper was not quite up to the level Fielding required, he asked the jumper to return in 6 months. Those jumpers came back and joined Fielding's dives.
Poor Performance Report
Fielding kept tabs on how well all his friends did on their jumps together. At a New Year's Eve party, each year, he would distribute the list of oops from that year. It was his way of getting folks to be better and better over the years. He had stuff like "Too fast - in the way" for super-swooper Rich Brooks.
The Poor Performance Report may have grown out of a try-out Fielding had with Roger Nelson. Nelson invited him out early before the 100-way attempts. On the dive Nelson had Fielding go out in front of him. Nelson docked before Fielding. After the jump Nelson said, "You're a little bit slow, but you'll do."
More Big Ways
Fielding has been on many big-way attempts and records. There are many stories of these dives. Fielding was on the 1981 World Record 64-way at Perris, 120-way in IL, the 144-way diamond, the 81-way jewel, the 200-way in Mrytle Beach, VA and 222-way attempts that built to 217. He was on the Record 40-way in 1993 and 75-way POPS load in 1995. He is on the end of the wacker at 3:00.
POPS 75-way - Photo by Rick Thues
Fielding started organizing a trip to Costerison Farms twice a year. People flocked there from all over California, but most rode there in Skip's DC-3. He started the tradition in the early 80's. The last one was in Oct. 1999. The Rumbleseat Meet was there in 1985 and 1986. Fielding settled into the Labor Day and Memorial Day routine around 1990. Getting toilets was always the hardest things for him to do there.
On Sept. 19 1987, Harry Liecher did his 2000th jump. On this now famous jump, Fielding logged, "17 of 18 diamond with comp and side dock diamond I was one ft low in slot." The Poor Performance Report read, "they all went high."
Steve's love of exiting last has, over the years, created his justifiable paranoia about being stuck in the airplane in the event of an emergency exit. Steve will be the first one to yell "GET OUT" at the slightest burp the engines make.
I will never forget one flight at Perris about 8 or 9 years ago. We loaded the D-3 and took off in a normal fashion. We started to climb and I promptly fell asleep right in front of Steve, who was sitting right behind the pilots.
All of a sudden I was violently awaken by the shrill screams of a panicking skygod-GETOUTGETOUT-it was Steve of course, and he was in full tilt cardiac spasm. apparently the left engine threw a rod and shuddered before the pilot could feather and shut down. Steve's ejaculations were in no way authorized by the pilot-in-command and fortunately the other jumpers did not listen to Steve. The DC-3 was over the hills east of the Perris airport. The pilot flew back to the airport and landed with the full load of jumpers.
Steve took a lot of flack for it that night over beers.
Near Death Experiences
Fielding's first near death experience was in 1972 when he punched through someone's canopy.
One low cut-away, near death experience happened April 1989 at Perris, CA on a POPs record attempt. Fielding opened with mega line twists. The canopy was fully inflated so he kept trying to kick out of them. People on the ground said he'd probably cutaway. Then since he kept getting lower and lower, people said "I guess he's going to ride that in." Then very low, estimates say around 200-300 ft. Fielding's logbook says 100 ft. Fielding cut away. The crowd gasped! His reserve opened in the nick of time. There was no time for him to unstow the brakes. He landed in the nursery, south of the runway, where he wiped out a couple of rows of potted plants. Onlookers remarked that he lived because he made two really bad mistakes. If he had known how low he was he probably would not have cutaway.
Fielding also did demonstration jumps over the years for many Southern California events. He has been doing the Simi Valley July 4th demo since 1978. In the early years, the group jumped just before sunset. In 1982, the group had lanyards rigged to fire the smoke after they jumped. When Fielding exited, his lanyard accidentally pulled out his hand deploy pilot chute. He was zapped at 12 grand at sunset. The fireworks show was postponed until he landed. The announcer kept saying, "Yes that's Steve Fielding up there, making his way to the landing area." The crowd could not see him in the waning daylight. The demo team was called Blurred Visions Demo Team - a take-off on the World Champion Visions Team. In 24 continuous year, the group jumped into Simi Valley all but one year because of low clouds.
Many long standing friendships developed from these dives.
If it weren't for Kevin Vetter saving someone's life, Steve Fielding would have won the Skydiver of the Year Award from Skydiving Newsmagazine in 1996. Skydiving later ran an interview of Fielding by Robin Heid.
Fielding accomplished a personal best during his effort to 'keep on schedule' for his 4000th jump. He had been weathered out a few weeks in a row and needed to do 9 jumps in a day. He did a hop-n-pop in-between the larger loads so that he could do his 4000th on Nov. 10,2001.
Photos by Jack Gramley, Rick Thues, Leigh Webb and others.
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