Local residents were in for a surprise when the Mayor of Gulfport, Billy Hewes, jumped out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. The Mississippi city mayor went for a tandem skydive with the elite Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Team into Jones Park.
It was sunny day in Gulfport, MS when Mayor Hewes leaped from an airplane into the skies over Jones Park. No wind, no cloud coverage. The day could not have been any more perfect for skydiving. The Leap Frogs Parachute Team arrived to make preparations for the jump. Vibrantly colored flags were used to measure the speed and direction of the wind. The team and the mayor boarded an aircraft from the 815th Airlift Squadron in Kessler, which arrived on time. Anticipation was high as they took to the Mississippi sky for the adventure of a lifetime.
The Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Team has been performing for decades.
This year marks their 75th anniversary. The tandem skydiving partner who was with Mayor Hewes has over 20,000 jumps to his name. His experience makes him an elite member of this advanced skydiving crew. The team jumped in a four-stack formation, carrying a large American Flag with them. It was quite a sight to behold. The skydivers showed off some of their advanced skills and maneuvers while in freefall as well. The mayor and his tandem instructor could be seen among the formation crew. After the pleasant canopy ride, they came in for a landing approach that was near perfect. Howes and his tandem instructor touched down close to the lighthouse nearby.
“Like nothing I’ve ever done before,” Mayor Hewes said. “It was just awesome.”
There is no better way to experience skydiving than with a tandem instructor who has such vast experience with this extreme sport. Skydiving is a thrill ride that most people only dream of doing. Many are simply too afraid to actually take the plunge. Perhaps the mayor’s bravery and successful skydive will bring more people to the sport. “Nothing like it. It was just amazing. Just brought home how beautiful our area is, this is a perfect day. We can’t thank our Leap Frogs enough for doing what they’ve done, part of military week,” said Mayor Hewes, “It’s our honor to host them all the time. But to let us do something like this, let me do something like this, was a once in a lifetime deal.”
First time skydivers typically experience this adrenaline rush in a tandem jump.
This means that there is a certified skydiving instructor who has been harnessed to the newbie’s back securely. He or she will be the parachute pilot, navigator, and guide throughout the entire experience. With that being said, there is a short ground course that all beginners must sit through before going up in the aircraft. This course is designed to teach the new skydiver about the basic principles of skydiving and emergency procedures. The student will also learn simple maneuvers and landing approaches. He or she will not be expected to perform any of these skills or moves during the tandem skydiving experience.
This ground course is simply for the purpose of safety. All precautions are taken when one decides to join in on this extreme sport. Better safe than sorry! The plane ride to the desired jump location is typically about 10 minutes. Anticipation builds as the team prepares to jump. The pilot gives the green light which signals to the jump crew that it is time to fly. The tandem partner will be the one to push off into the air. The experience is something that cannot be described in words. It is something one must experience for oneself. Veteran Navy Parachute Team member, Jim Woods said:
“That was awesome, that was a lot of fun. It was exciting. The view was amazing. Such a beautiful day down here in Mississippi,”
Being a certified skydiver, Woods is able to jump in any location around the world. Becoming a certified skydiver is something many people who experience the sport for the first time wish to pursue. It is a fun process that gradually allows the skydiving student to experience freedom in the sky during free fall. For people looking to do something out of the ordinary, one skydiving experience tends to be enough to satisfy the daredevil within. It is certainly an experience that Gulfport Mayor Hewes will be re-living for years to come. His wife is happy that he landed back on the ground safely.
“Thank y’all for being down here on the coast,” Hewes said to the Leap Frogs. “Hope you come back soon.”
With such an amazing experience under his belt, Hewes left the landing site with a renewed sense of confidence. After all, if one can go through with skydiving, then one can potentially do anything.