Most people who parachute out of a plane do not have the luxury of jumping from a C-17A Globemaster. However, approximately 270 lucky skydivers had the privilege of leaping from the RAAF’s largest aircraft to support Legacy Australia.
Participants departed RAAF Base Amberley last month in a C-17 to jump at the Ramblers Drop Zone at Toogoolawah, north west of Brisbane.
Commanding Officer No 36 Squadron Wing Commander Peter Thompson, one of the key organisers of the event, said the activity was an opportunity for Air Force to showcase its air mobility capability with the C-17A and support a charity close to the heart of the Australian Defence Force.
“What we’ve done is tried to give civilians the opportunity out the back of a C-17 and they do that by making a donation to Legacy,” WGCDR Thompson said.
“We had just over 270 skydivers over three loads and raised over $38,000 for Legacy. It was great! We had people donating anything from $100 to $5000.”
Aside from the charitable aspect, WGCDR Thompson said the jump also provides an excellent training resource for the RAAF.
“It’s pretty good training actually for our crews as well. The loadmasters down the back don’t get a lot of opportunities to work at such high altitude in parachute operations so they got to practise their procedures for that,” he said.
“For the pilots, working with a different agency has its own limitations for us, in terms of standard parachute procedures with people who aren’t used to the military style of operations. You’re blending civilian and military style techniques to get the job done so to speak. It opens up the crew’s lateral thought on how to get things done.”
Previous iterations of this event raised about $11,000 in 2016 and $30,000 in 2017. With the event still being in it’s infancy, WGCDR Thompson believes it will become a tradition for years to come – saying the interest is there to grow the event to be bigger and better.
“I think we’ve shown that there’s enough people out there that are keen to do it,” he said.
“It highlights what we can do, it gets a lot of people out here and there wasn’t a bad word said from the civilian parachuters.
“They love the experience, it’s a lot different from what they’re used to when they get to basically run out the back of a C-17 at a much greater speed. There’s always a bit of risk in making sure we can provide an aircraft on the day, but as long as we can do that I don’t see any reason we can’t keep it going.”
The Squadron operates Australia’s fleet of eight C-17 Aircraft from RAAF Amberley. This aircraft is predominantly used to airdrop paratroopers and cargo in training and combat operations, as well as during humanitarian crises.
The C-17 can also be configured for aeromedical evacuation work. The maximum payload capacity of the C-17 is more than 77 tonnes, and its maximum gross takeoff weight is approximately 265 tonnes.
WGCDR Peter Thompson presents a cheque for $37,800 to Wayne McDonald, President Ipswich Legacy. (Defence)