For Russell Louden, jumping out of a plane is considered “old hat.” At first, all you could see was the small plane and nothing else. “Russell’s in free fall,” said a voice over a walkie talkie.
“Copy, ok he’s out of the plane and he will free fall for almost a minute,” said Skydive South Padre owner Frank Shisler.
After about a minute, Russell appears out of the clouds, goggles on, parachute open and a big smile on his face. As the parachute swooped down on the beach all you could hear was the raucous whoops of this now experienced skydiver.
Once he was steady on his feet it was nothing but excitement and adrenaline after that.
Yesterday, the 94-year-old completed his fifth jump and landed gently on his feet in the soft sand on sunny South Padre Island.
It was a real show. Several of his friends had lined up their chairs along the beach and were ready to watch him land. The Canton native and veteran was just 90 when he went skydiving for the first time on his birthday.
That was with the help of Skydive South Padre, the company he’s jumped with ever since. Since then, it’s become his birthday ritual. Once all the paperwork was signed and sealed, the fun began.
The plane took off from the Brownsville/South Padre International Airport and set him up for the parachute landing directly on the beach.
Even though, he started in his 90s when most skydivers start in their 20s, Russell doesn’t let a little thing like age slow him down Russell had dreams of skydiving at a much younger age.
“When I was in World War II, I really wanted to be an officer in the paratroopers, but the school was closed for officers,” Russell said. “Ever since, I wanted to jump out of a plane.”
Russell was in perfect hands during his tandem jump with his now good friend Rodney “Sparky” Pap. Pap, who was connected to Russell during the entire trip, has more than 8,000 jumps under his belt and was Russell’s jump buddy the first time and every time since.
According, to the company’s website, all jumpers are required to tandem jump or jump with an experienced jumper who is neatly secured on their back.
“I won’t ever jump without Sparky,” Russell said. When asked if he would jump next year at 95, Russell said he’s “shooting for it.” Shisler has more than 11,000 jumps under his belt, which he says is pretty standard for an experienced skydiver.
“I’ve jumped all over the world and South Padre Island is the No. 1 or No. 2 place to jump with year-round conditions,” Shisler said. “Based on the view at 11,000 feet, the Island looks like a landing strip.”
By KAYLEIGH SOMMER Staff Writer