OIL DERRICK BASE JUMP
By Bill Newell
Also published in Skydiving Magazine
I was given published credit for this jump, but it was actually done by my buddy, Ken Barnes in March of 1963 on one of the old wooden oil derricks surrounding Taft, California. He was the only one to do it twice. Andy Anderson, Ken Barnes and Dave Bristow first did it a few weeks earlier.
I was present the second time. Anderson (in his mid 40's) declined this time. I accompanied Bristow to the top of the oil derrick to assist his launch. He was using a 26' conical for this his second jump because he weighed almost 200 lbs and busted his ass the first time.
The wind was gusting to about 15 mph up there. When Dave inflated the canopy it headed downward and started pulling him over the railing. I grabbed and held him while he tried cutting it away. I nearly lost my grip on him and after getting rid of the canopy, Dave was pretty shook. He blamed the downward direction of the canopy on the wind and the 26' conical's solid apex. He never tried it again.
Ken was up last with his 24' twill. He'd already had a few beers and took 2 bottles of Coors to the top with him. After downing the two bottles he swung his legs over the rail and dropped his twill below him. As it inflated, he tried to bring the canopy up higher than himself, but after a couple of tries the highest it would get was a little less than head level.
When Ken jumped, there was slack in the lines. He got line stretch just below the first catwalk and lifted his legs to keep from straddling a guy wire the rest of the way to the ground. He had cowboy boots on and busted his ass big time on landing, limping back to the car for another beer. That was the last time he ever tried it. He was 24 years old.
I told this story to Falcon's Disciples author Howard Gregory at the Pioneer Club in Arvin in 1965. I told him it was Ken that did it, who was at the bar with me at the time, but instead Howard printed my name in his book.
I asked Howard to correct it in his next book, Parachuting's Unforgettable Jumps, but somehow it never got changed.