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  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Rusty Frank holds his drogue as he talks to members of the Friends of the Kibler School.
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Rusty Frank holds his drogue as he talks to members of the Friends of the Kibler School.
Published July 20. 2010 05:00PM

A plane circled the field behind the Kibler School in Towamensing Township. Suddenly there were four dots in the sky around the plane.

As they came groundward from their 4,000-foot height, the dots proved to be Bill Lynch, Paul Mayza, Pat Shields and Rusty Frank. Frank was the speaker recently for the first of Three Thursdays in July programs sponsored by the Kibler School committee.

Frank's wife, Rhoda, said "Forget it" when the door on the plane opened. Lynch's wife, Kathleen, also skydives but chose to be on the ground crew at the school.

The dive and program were dedicated to Frank Dandrea, a sky-diving friend who made 9,000 jumps - 5,000 of them in tandem. Frank said Dandrea died the previous week, though not from a bad dive.

Frank began skydiving in 1979. Rhoda took him out to the Lehigh Valley Parachute Club in Germansville. That dive cost $80 and he was hooked. But Labor Day came and she told him he was staying home to be with his family. Besides, someone from the club had been killed.

He went anyway and when he got home all his goods were stacked outside. He chose the family over the diving.

Twenty-eight years later he wanted to try it again. Five years ago Rhoda agreed he could go. "The kids are grown. They don't need a father anymore."

It took 25 jumps to renew his license. Now he has the second highest license available, which means he is not allowed to jump into something like a stadium.

The instructions at one time were to put the left foot on a tire and both hands on a bar. Count to 20 seconds and drop. Today newcomers begin with tandem diving in which the licensed partner is connected to the diver from the drop point to the landing.

In tandem flights neither person wears a helmet because of the danger if they should come in contact. There is no possibility of landing standing up in tandem as a single diver can do.

Frank was asked what the weather was like at 4,000 feet, the height from which they jumped at Kibler.

"It was better up there than here," he said. There is a 3.5-degree change in temperature for every 1,000 feet of altitude.

For high jumps special suits are worn. If someone is tall and thin he will tend to float so he wears a tight-fitting suit. Frank is short and stocky so his suit is baggy. The suits let the skydivers control their motion so they can form stars or slow down or change direction by putting the arms out.

They carry altimeters, and Frank said opening the parachutes at 3,000 feet gives them only 15 seconds before landing.

For the dive at Kibler they flew from the Endless Mountain Skydivers Club at Tunkhannock.

Frank showed DVDs of skydiving. He said Don Kellner, a 74-year-old, made 39,000 skydives and is in the Guinness Book of Records.

One day Frank and some friends were waiting for the sky to clear. After lunch they decided it was good enough to go up, but the plane did a lot of circling until they found some holes in the cloud cover which was at 3,000 feet.

Frank said at 120 miles per hour the speed affects the face and cheek muscles.

When the parachute opens there is an immediate drop in speed from 120 to 10 miles per hour.

Frank was asked if they can see wires such as telephone or electricity. He said they see the poles and realize there are wires.

"You have to be good to be an instructor. An instructor can push legs into the proper position," said Frank.

Every third or fourth jump a videographer goes along and takes pictures. A student can't jump in a wind of more than five miles per hour. Twenty-mile-per-hour winds is the maximum for safety even for an experienced skydiver. If the wind is greater than that, Frank said it blows you backwards.

A skydiver puts an arm down to turn as needed to put separation between people before the parachutes open.

As Frank's shirt said, "If it can't kill you, it ain't a sport. Skydive." He enjoys and plans to continue to enjoy his sport.

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