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Some jump at chance to enjoy unique experience in Frederick

FREDERICK  About a dozen students and their instructors are getting a taste of parachuting from 1,500 feet above to the ground below during the World War II Airborne Demonstration Team's Winter Jump School. The school is being held this week at Frederick Municipal Airport.

The twice-a-year event is sponsored by the World War II Airborne Demonstration Team. The jump originates from "Boogie Baby," a Douglas C-47 plane that was used in combat during World War II. The students are from the United States along with several foreign countries including Switzerland, Australia and the United Kingdom.

"Originally it was used by the Royal Air Force, then by the French Air Force, followed by the Israeli Air Force," said team pilot Ray Cunningham. "We bought it from the Israeli Air Force in 2000.

Col. Raymond Steeley, the team's commander, said the 70-year-old aircraft is in excellent mechanical condition.

"She's a beautiful old bird," he said. "We try to take really good care of it."

Once up in the air, the jumpers with their parachutes on line up to drop the 1,500 feet to a "drop site" just a few few feet from the team's hangar. The students line up in the plane prepared to jump - one right after the other.

"It's a fascinating sight to see them go out the door," Steeley said. "We did a night jump Monday night when winds were calm on the ground, but gusting up to 35 mph in the air."

Steeley said the team is staffed with some of the best and most experienced pilots around. They include retired Lt. Col. William B. O' Connor and Cunningham.

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