Above: Patrick Finnegan prepares to board Whiskey 7. Photo by Ryan Akenbauer.
Skydive the Falls in Youngstown, New York, hosted its fifth annual Falls Fest July 13-16. The event brings in various specialty aircraft such as Windsor Aviation’s Boeing Stearman PT-17 A75N1 biplane and Stephen Hatzistefandis’s Robinson R44 helicopter. This year’s featured specialty aircraft was Whiskey 7, a Douglas C-47A Skytrain built and delivered to the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1943. Whiskey 7 gets its name from the squadron code for the 37th Troop Carrier Squadron, which was W7. Its chalk number (the number assigned to an aircraft load) of 37 represents the 37th TCS that lifted off the ground on June 5, 1944, at 11 p.m. for the D-Day airborne assault during World War II. W7 was the lead plane on June 6, carrying 21 paratroops from England to the Normandy coast. Amid the chaos of the airborne assault, W7 troops were among the few to land at their specified drop zone.
Jumpers on load one get a lift to altitude in the C-47.
Drop zone operators Jason Berger and Tom Neilson arranged the Whiskey 7 jumps with the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, New York. They planned for seven loads, each carrying 12 licensed skydivers, to fly out of the Niagara Falls Airport on Friday, July 14 starting at 9 a.m. By 4 p.m., all 84 jumpers had the opportunity to exit out of this historic aircraft from 7,500 feet AGL and below over the drop zone.
Falls Fest 5.0 took place in memory of Stearman pilot Chris Caruana, who tragically passed away on June 11. While stints of rain and clouds challenged the boogie, the weather cooperated enough over the four days to fly plenty of helicopter, Kodiak, Caravan and C-47 loads. The participants all had an amazing time.
Christi Davis | D-31958
Buffalo, New York