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Mongolian Smokejumpers, continued

by Jack Demmons (MSO 1950) |

This article is a continuation of the experiences Dave Pierce. Bruce Ford and Jeff Hogue had while transporting and setting up a parachute maneuvering simulator for the Mongolian smokejumpers in 1990.

Dave mentioned that at the beginning of the practice training period Buddhist monks from the nearby monastery would be invited to come to the area and chase away evil spirits. One monk used the thigh bone from a young virgin to do so.

He said that many of the Mongolian jumpers had at least 800 parachute jumps to their credit--many of them free falls performed during non-duty time.

Bruce was to jump with them one day but high winds came up. The Mongolians jumped anyway, using high performance sport chutes.

Ninety percent of the fire suppression activities in Mongolia are carried out by smokejumpers. Jumper aircraft carry loudspeakers. Should additional personnel be needed on a fire. the aircraft flies over the nearest population center and blares out instructions to mobilize additional personnel.

Dave mentioned that in Mongolia 55-56 percent of the fires are forest fires and -45 percent are grass fires . There is a spring fire season in March through June and a fall season in September and October.

Mongolian jumpers make smokejumping a career. although some become pilots. They were very inĀ­terested in what Dave and Bruce had to say about fringe benefits jumpers get in the United States.

Their basic pay is about $120.00 per month. There is a bonus for each fire jump, a premium rate for flying, but no overtime for working long hours on a fire. The standard work week is five and one-half days.

Instead of spotters. the Mongolians use the Russian system, where the pilot observer picks a release point for the jumpers and assumes initial control of strategy and tactics for the fire while flying the plane. (To be continued at another time.)