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Photo by Carl Boenish
Order of Entry
Jerry Bird chatted with some friends in January 1972 about doing a big star record dive. He picked Jan. 15-16 for the event. He contacted Jerry Kearman, owner of Perris Valley Airport, and received a go ahead for the weekend. Kearman supplied 2 Beechs and a C-206. Discount jump rates were given to the jumpers too. Three jumps per day were planned. Bird invited 25 to 30 Southern California jumpers to an 8:30 AM showtime.
On Jan 15 jumpers started to show up. Showtime was not taken seriously back then. By 10 AM there were 22 jumpers present, so Bird decided to go for a 22-way, as the old record was 21.
The first jump was great. All 22 jumpers docked and held the star for 6 seconds. There were a few hard docks, but nothing serious.
Jump number two was a bit more exciting. A 25-way was planned. On the ride to altitude, Joe Faulk, who was to be second out of the lead plane, had his centerpull reserve open. He confined the reserve and moved toward the cockpit. The rest of the jumpers exit as planned. The star built fine until jumper number 12. A grip broke and the star mutated into a horseshoe shape. Bill Stage rose to the occasion and closed up the open slot. The star built to 23 - one jumper out as time ran out.
Jump 3 had high expectations because the jumpers had just built back-to-back 22-way stars. Jerry Bird said, "Far Out!" The star built slowly this time. Only 21 made it into the 'sloppy' star that was briefly held.
The group partied hard that night and had a surprize Champange party at the DZ, courtesy of Jerry Kearnen and his wife.
The first jump on Sunday the group, filled with high expectations, tried a 26-way. The extra weight in the aircraft meant for a longer ride to altitude. They only reached 12,500. The planes were crowded on the inside and exits took much longer. The star built to 8, then funneled. It reformed to a 13-way with lots of folks outside the star. They broke off, opened and landed. That was the 'keep you humble jump' for the group.
Bird cut two folks off the load, so that the planes could get more altitude. He put 10 jumpers in the lead and 14 in the trail. They got up to 14,500 ft AGL for this jump. The exit went smoothly.
The Krueger brothers built the base quickly. The star built without a hitch up to 14. The star breathed a bit as Sam Alexander, with a POV camera, lined up with his slot and docked. The next three docked with no problems. Chuck Wickliffe docked hard and pushed one side in. Everyone kept on flying the star. It floated as Bird entered. The next two docked with no problems. Steve Fielding had a bit of difficulty but broke in okay and settled out nicely. Then Warren Frazier, aka the Black Knight, just outside the star at 4 grand, finally broke in at 3,800 ft. They held it down to 3000 before breaking off. Whoops and hollers were heard from the jumpers in the air and from the spectators on the ground. This was a new record - a 24-way. They broke the 22-way record they set the day before.
On the last jump, they tried a 25-way. This dive did not go well. It only built to 15. People started to track away around 7000 ft.
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