It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Chuck Baker!: Local senior takes to the skies

Paul Hollingworth/Special to the Town Crier
Chuck Baker prepares for his skydiving adventure last month. The World War II pilot never had to deploy his parachute during the war.

To celebrate his 100th birthday earlier this year, World War II B-17 pilot Charles "Chuck" Baker took flight above Hollister April 7 for a skydiving adventure.

Fellow Los Altos resident Paul Hollingworth, who connected with Baker after reading an article about the centenarian in the March 20 Town Crier, went along to watch the jump from his gyroplane, "near (but not too near) the drop zone," Hollingworth said. According to Hollingworth, Baker wore his WWII flight jacket, and "his headgear was the pneumatic intercom he used for initial training."

"From the first day in the Air Force, every time I sat in the cockpit of the plane I would fly, I buckled on a parachute," Baker said. "We were given instructions of use, but I never had to abandon an airplane. So finally Sky Dive Hollister tickled my enthusiasm to just do it."

Baker added that the skydiving company set a new personal record, as he was their first 100-year-old jumper.

He was buckled up to Sky Dive Hollister’s "Goose," an experienced tandem jumper, for the aerial trip.

Baker described the jump: "(The door) was opened at about 10,000 feet, and at 13,000 feet, Goose and I just rolled out. Immediately, there was a tremendous wind as we free-fell 5,000 feet, just a bit short of a mile. … Finally, at 8,000 feet, there was a jolt and everything came to a stop as the chute was deployed (and) we were just floating in air. (Goose) turned the direction of the chute by pulling the shrouds and pointed to where we would land. … Finally he turned into what little wind there was and we landed - a very soft landing it was. … We detached the harness and soon a car came to pick us up to return to the compound."

Proof of a good time in the air, the day flew by.

"I made a vow," Baker said. "This will be an annual event."

The adventures continue

After the success of the jump, Hollingworth invited Baker to take a tour in his gyroplane - another new experience. Not surprisingly, the adventuresome Baker accepted the invitation; the two enjoyed a flight out of San Martin Airport April 14.

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