United States Air Force


                                                         U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, PUBLIC AFFAIRS, USAF ACADEMY, CO  80840

                                                                                                                                                     (719) 333-2990




            During a normal Wings of Blue demonstration, 12 parachutists exit the jump aircraft in four separate maneuvers at altitudes ranging from 4,500 to 11,000 feet above ground level.  The team uses colored smoke to aid spectators in seeing the demonstration.

            On the first pass, wind drift indicators are dropped from the jump aircraft. These weighted pieces of crepe paper are designed to fall at the same rate as an open canopy.  The jumpmaster drops the indicators just as the aircraft passes directly over the target at an altitude of 3,000 feet.  The jumpmaster watches to see where the indicators land and uses this information to determine the exact point at which the jumper should exit the aircraft to land in the target area.


            The second pass is the canopy show, where four parachutists exit the jump aircraft from 4,500 feet above the ground. They freefall for about 10 seconds before deploying their parachutes.  The team uses the high performance square parachute, which has a vertical descent rate of 2-16 feet per second and can reach forward speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.  Shaped like an airfoil, it exhibits some of the same flight characteristics as the wing of an airplane.



            The third pass is the barber pole show, where two parachutists exit the aircraft from 7,000 feet. The jumpers come together in mid-air and begin to spin, by a slight movement of one arm or leg, or by dipping one shoulder.  As they spin, the colored smoke they are carrying forms the barber pole. At 4,000 feet, they begin moving apart, and at 2,500 feet, they deploy their parachutes.



            The fourth pass is the high-low show, where two parachutists exit the plane from 9,000 feet. One assumes the basic spread-eagle position, which allows him or her to fall as slowly as 85 miles per hour. The second jumper streamlines his or her body and pitches over into a head-first dive, allowing the parachutist to reach speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour. Both deploy their parachutes at 2,500 feet. Each second of delay in opening between the first and second parachutists represents approximately 150 feet of vertical separation between the two jumpers.



            The final pass is the bomb burst show, where four jumpers exit the aircraft from 11,000 feet. They maneuver their bodies in freefall to join into a four-man star, holding this position until 5,000 feet. At this altitude they break the star, turn and track away from each other.  The smoke they carry creates the spectacular bomb burst effect.  They deploy their parachutes at 2,500 feet.

(Current as of April 2006)