Dale Longanecker retired last week after making 896 jumps out of perfectly good airplanes. Longanecker made his last jump out of the North Cascades Smokejumper Base when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 57. Here is an excerpt from an article in the New York Times:
WINTHROP, Wash. — Kristy Longanecker smiled while her husband fell from the clear blue sky.
Dale Longanecker, 57, is retiring after 38 years as a smoke jumper with the United States Forest Service.
“He got to live his dream,” said Ms. Longanecker, barely bothering to watch. “I’m envious of that sometimes. How many people get to live their dream?”
So ended jump No. 896 — one final shock to the skeleton, one final perfect parachute roll, a practice run with no more reason to practice. Last month, Dale Longanecker turned 57, the mandatory retirement age for firefighters employed by the United States Forest Service. Friday was his last day on the job, and his was not just another retirement.
Mr. Longanecker has spent 38 years as one of the most elite of his kind, a smoke jumper. He has parachuted out of airplanes into some of the most remote wildfires in the West carrying little more than a shovel, a gallon of water and a bottle of ibuprofen. He was 19 when he made his first jump, and the Forest Service says his 896 jumps — 362 of which were into fires — are a record that may never be broken.