Twenty-four skydivers packed themselves like sardines into a Twin Otter airplane Thursday afternoon. As the aircraft climbed rapidly above Marion, they made the final adjustments to their gear, examining gauges, buckling helmets and preparing mentally for the imminent rush of free fall.
Among them was 75-year-old Dick Rapacilo, of Kalispell, who was seated close to the exit door in a light blue jumpsuit. The veteran skydiver, with nearly 6,600 jumps to his name, was ready to go.
Its really [expletive] exciting, even at this point, after 53 years, Rapacilo said. The planes doing 80 knots, the wind comes in, you put your goggles down its showtime.
Once the Otter reached 17,000 feet, the jumpers peeled the door back, opening the main bay to the smokey expanse below. In small groups, they gripped the bar above the door, some counting out loud while others bounced up and down, once, twice and on three, out they went. After all 24 skydivers had disembarked, pilot Steve Hill made a rapid descent of his own, turning the aircraft sharply to the left, dropping 10,000 feet in less than two minutes.
As the plane skidded down the runway, the skydivers made their own landings in the grassy drop zone roughly 50 yards away. Rapacilo headed toward the conglomeration of tents and RVs with his chute in hand and a smile on his face. Skydiving may be hard on the knees, but it was good for the soul as far as he was concerned.
Its still probably the most exciting thing you can do. Ive done a lot of other sports nothing compares to this. Ive had a lot of injuries, but its been worth it. Ive lost a lot of friends, but thats the way it goes, he said. Usually by the time the boogies over, Im licking my wounds, trying to explain to my wife while I still do it.
The boogie in question was the 50th annual Lost Prairie Boogie a nine-day summer camp for skydivers which draws hundreds of jumpers…