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Hanging over the Arctic Ocean near Barrow

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Rob Omstead parachuting onto the old DEWLINE airstrip from out over the Arctic Ocean a bit northeast of Barrow. A wonderful photo opportunity, and just how it happened is an adventure story too.




The fun is over, safely on the ground.

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Rob dropped onto the gravel and flowers, just next to the "Marston Matting" surface of the old runway. The planning for this specific jump started two days before, when we discovered that Frenchy, from Circle Air out of Central, Alaska, was in Barrow for a few days. And Frenchy is not only flying a Cessna 206 suitable to jump from, it's equipped with a wind deflector mounted in place of the front section of the cargo door, allowing the plane to fly with the door removed and have no wind inside. (He was flying an Outside photographer over the ice taking pictures of polar bears.)




Fueling up the Cessna 206

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Frenchy topping off fuel tanks on the 206. Note the tail end of a helicopter over to the left. They landed while we were gassing up, and the fuel truck then moved over and fueled up the chopper too. It's a Canadian outfit, and Frenchy (whose name is actually Renald Drouin) is from Quebec. The chopper is working for BP Alaska to support their offshore oil exploration work this summer.




Frenchy, the pilot

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Here's a closer look at Frenchy. That grin pretty much describes his whole personality! Frenchy is fun, and full of adventure; and Rob, who has been searching for a jump plane for two months, was extremely happy to meet up.

Frenchy's wife, Dawn, is a very talented telecommunications technician who works for United Utilities Inc. I'd never met Frenchy or Dawn in person before, but in the early/mid 90's when I lived in Fairbanks, I often spent hours and hours on the telephone with Dawn troubleshooting and/or testing long distance lines and satellite earth stations all around Interior Alaska.

So Dawn calls Monday morning and tells me Frenchy is in Barrow and bored to death because it's been too cloudy to fly the photographer who's chartered the plane, can I show him the town? Heh heh... what kind of an airplane did you say he brought with him???? Things started to cook...




The chopper...

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That is one big helicopter.

In Rob's quest to find an aircraft to jump from, he had talked to the helicopter crew, but their company didn't want to charter the craft for a parachute jump.

While they were fueling up the chopper, Frenchy and I talked to the crew. One of them said he also would like to jump from the chopper, and made a crack that company policy only allowed him out the door while flying if he was attached to a steel cable and came back inside before landing... :-)




Lisa with Cynthia and Ben, waiting

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Lisa Omstead came along to watch hubby's jump. Rob is retired, and Lisa is an Emergency Room nurse working at the Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital in Barrow.

Robert Omstead's blog is very interesting.

And Lisa, in addition to nursing, is a published author, writing as Samantha Gail.

The two children waiting patiently are my favorite pastime. I borrow them from their Mom and Dad whenever possible. Cynthia Kim is 8-1/2 years old, and her brother Benjamin is almost 5 years old. (And Lisa, who just met them for the first time merely minutes before this picture was taken, has somehow managed to corral them! Everyone else noticed, and we were all marveling at the whole idea of Benjamin sitting still.)




Rob and the kids.

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But when Rob jumped, the kids were up and running! And Rob is also very good with children; he purposefully asked Benjamin to carry the pilot chute. And here Rob is noticing that Cynthia is picking flowers.




Picking Flowers...

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It seems that Rob not only makes an effort to inspire children, but he is equally inspired by them... keep an eye on the flowers.




Note the smile...

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Two boys, both grinning. The yellow flower in hand...




And a bouquet of flowers...

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And Cynthia picks up her flowers to go too.




A flower for Lisa.

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A kiss for Rob.

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The bouquet goes...

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The kids are no longer distracted...

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...the adults are distracted.

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Man in the mirror.

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This picture serves no purpose. I just liked it... Joe Hilderbrand (whose face is in the mirror) is part of the ground crew to support Rob.




Kids at play.

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Rob gave his helmet to Benjamin and his goggles to Cynthia, and off they went!




Bashful crew.

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That is pretty much the entire crew.




They do have faces...

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From left to right, Joe Hilderbrand, Lisa Omstead, Rob Omstead, Tom Saxton, and Kristine Hilderbrand (Joe's youngest daughter).

There is a story right there all in itself. Rob is a retired fireman who worked for the Albany, Oregon Fire Department as a paramedic and is currently volunteering his services with the Barrow Fire Department's ambulance squad. Lisa, as mentioned is an ER nurse. Joe Hilderbrand is an EMT III (he is the Ambulance Captain for the Barrow Fire Department, and is the senior volunteer EMS person in Barrow). Tom Saxton is a paramedic and is currently employed as Assistant Chief for the Barrow Fire Department. Kris Hilderbrand, who is a very talented administrative specialist with Iligsagvik Community College, also volunteers as an Emergency Trauma Technician for the ambulance squad.




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