Don Worthington

Rock Hill father, son work side by side high in the sky

Commentary

Daniel Hammond and a tandem partner free fall during a recent jump at Skydive Carolina in Chester.
Daniel Hammond and a tandem partner free fall during a recent jump at Skydive Carolina in Chester. Skydive Carolina

Working side by side has been a lifestyle for the Hammond family of Rock Hill.

Charles Hammond, now 56, worked with his father at Perm-Ex Roofing and Siding for almost 25 years, installing roofs, siding, and replacement windows.

On the maternal side of the family, Charles’ mother, Marjorie, came from a line of up-before-dawn dairy farmers.

So when Daniel, 25, joined his dad in the family business, he didn’t give it a second thought.

But instead of working a story or two off the ground on a roof, Charles and Daniel work at an altitude of 12,500 feet and a speed of 120 miles per hour.

Chuck Hammond and his son Daniel Hammond, both of Rock Hill, are with Skydive Carolina in Chester. They routinely make four or five tandem jumps a day, exposing people to the sport of skydiving. (video by Don Worthington)

They are not pilots. They do what what most pilots call insane. They jump from a perfectly good aircraft every day they can. Often, they have another person strapped to them, usually someone who is bigger and heavier and second guessing the decision to jump out of an airplane.

Charles and Daniel are tandem instructors at Skydive Carolina at the Chester Catawba Regional Airport.

They swear there’s no better job – jump, float, land, and do it all over again.

Their career path started with a thrill ride at the Carowinds amusement park.

Charles and a friend went to the park on June 29, 1996. Among the rides they took was the “Rip Cord.” Charles – a self-admitted adrenaline junkie – and his friend decided they need to experience the real thing.

Charles’ first jump was from a Cessna 182.

“I was nervous the whole way,” Charles said of his first jump. But after he landed, all of the nerves vanished. “I have to jump,” he said.

That was the first of more than 6,650 jumps for the senior Hammond. Among that total was a jump in the Smokey Mountains with the Pigeon River as a backdrop. Strapped to him was his son, Daniel.

To get ready for the jump, the pilot did a few acrobatic moves, Daniel said. “They calmed my nerves,” he said.

Then they jumped, and the son, like his father, was hooked. He wrote in his dad’s logbook, “One day I want to do what you do.”

Daniel Hammond now has more than 600 jumps. It takes about 500 jumps before one can qualify as a tandem instructor.

While no two tandem jumps are exactly the same, Charles and Daniel agree there are some similarities.

Getting a tandem jumper to the plane door often requires some trade secrets. A few more trade secrets can get a reluctant jumper out of the plane. Leverage and timing are key, they said.

Once out of the door, the wind and the screams are loud. Conversation is impossible. One of the best feelings is when the chute pops at an altitude of about 5,000 feet slowing the 120 mph descent – and the tandem jumper hopefully starts to enjoy the ride. Then there is the joy of a relatively smooth landing.

“If I have done my job, they are ecstatic,” Charles Hammond said.

Both do solo jumps into addition to their tandem work.

Charles remembers a demonstration jump he made onto a stage in Comiskey Park in Chicago for a White Sox baseball game. It was Elvis impersonator night and Charles not only wore an Elvis costume but had fireworks attached to his feet.

Making the jump more challenging were the winds at the stadium, which hit the backstop and reversed. Charles had to make a pinpoint landing because there were four other stages on the field, each with their own Elvis impersonator.

But the most memorable jump for both of them was in December 2006. That’s when Marjorie became Charles’ tandem partner to celebrate her 70th birthday. Her 80th birthday is next year, and Charles said her jump partner for that tandem will be Daniel.

After all, it will be another day at the office with Hammonds – this time mother and grandson working side by side.

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