SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Skydivers usually pick open fields, unincorporated land or otherwise unexciting places to land during their jumps. But a group of Missourians took it up a notch – quite a few notches, actually.
During some down time at a jump session, Herb Laub of Springfield was looking through Parachutist Magazine and spotted an article about the fifth annual “Jump like a Pharoah” event – a skydiving event with the landing located next to the Egyptian Pyramids.
Being an average guy from Southwest Missouri, Laub says he knew he couldn’t pass up an opportunity for such a unique look at one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Accompanying Laub on the international trip was his wife, Tanea, and fellow skydiving peers Bob Feistamel of Mount Vernon, Mark Anderson of Nixa, Kevin Melton of Springfield and Todd Kolczun of Miami, Oklahoma. On Nov. 4, they set out for the Middle East.
“Most of us are from small towns. We’re just regular guys with 9-to-5 jobs,” Laub told The Heartlander. “For somebody like me to go over there to jump out of a C-130 and land by the pyramids in Egypt, it was just really cool.”
The group chose the three-jump package, which included three 15,000-foot-jumps from a Hercules C-130, a military transport aircraft. From Laub’s understanding, an average airplane can’t fly in the restricted airspace over the pyramids, and therefore skydivers must go to a military base beforehand and get escorted to their jump.
Laub and his skydiving peers prefer to deploy their parachutes before reaching terminal velocity and possibly getting injured due to the chutes’ quick deployment. However, things don’t always go as planned.
“We try to open before we get to 120 miles per hour in freefall. But in Egypt, going out of the C-130, our exit speed was 140 miles per hour. So we were actually having to go into freefall just to slow down to open our parachutes. That was exciting.”
Once the skydivers are in the air, Laub’s team grabs onto each other’s parachutes to set up for canopy formations. The thrill-seekers then place their foot into the line and move into other formations, such as a diamond.
During the group’s very first Egyptian jump, the pilot of the formation exited the plane with Laub following closely behind. When Laub realized his formation pilot was spinning out of control, he quickly went into action.
“When I opened, I saw him spinning. I was like, ‘Something is going on with Todd.’ So, I went to go down after Todd and I saw him cut the main parachute away.”
The Springfield skydiver changed his course of flight in order to recover the extra parachute that had been cut, but ended up landing in the middle of the desert about a mile and a half away from his target next to the pyramids.
During his lengthy walk back to the group, Laub received some help by what can only be described as a camel taxi – which, oddly enough, was somewhat expected.
“Some guys on a camel came up and said, ‘Do you want a ride?’ I thought, ‘Well, I’m already out here in the middle of nowhere, so heck yes!’. I absolutely got on the camel and rode back. The funny part of the story is during debriefing. Someone asked what would happen if we landed out in the desert. The organizers said, ‘Don’t worry about it. There are lots of people out there with camels, they will be there before you even land.’ He said to take camel money with you.”
Since money for rides is commonly referred to as “camel money” in Egypt, before boarding the plane Laub’s wife asked if he had any camel money. When he told her “no,” she stuffed cash into his pocket.
The group’s second jump landed them a bit further out than preferred, but Laub says the third jump was a resounding success. World-famous professional photographer and competition skydiver Bruno Brokken joined Laub and his peers for the third jump.
“When we got our diamond together, we just flew around and he buzzed us like a bee taking pictures of us. That was very cool because we knew we were going to carry that diamond all the way into our final and then we were going to break it down at 400 or 500 feet. Just breaking the diamond at 400 or 500 feet, we try not to do usually. But getting the pictures, we were like, ‘We’re going to take it in until we are at a very comfortable altitude to break it and land.’”
The featured photo is courtesy of professional photographer and competition skydiver Bruno Brokken.