Golden Knights

The U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team performed at the 2011 Open House at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Before boarding their Fokker Friendship airplane, the team performed a "dirt dive"— a ground-level walk-through of their free fall maneuvers—on the apron in front of the hangar that holds Air Force One. The Fokker climbed in a wide spiral over Washington before reaching its station at 12,600 feet, directly above air show center, in time to release the jumpers at high noon. With the two rear doors gaping open and the wind howling, temperatures inside the airplane were some 40 degrees cooler than the spring day on the ground below. The first jumper out of the aircraft buckles a canister of smoke to his heel and wraps the release string around his hand. (The smoke is meant not just to wow the crowd, but to alert other jumpers to wind conditions.) He salutes upon stepping out the door—a Knights tradition. Photos/Video: Roger Mola (1:44)

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