Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando commissioner jumps with West Point Parachute Team

BROOKSVILLE — About 3 p.m. Friday, Hernando County Commissioner David Russell stepped aboard the Free Fall Express, a green and white De Havilland Twin Otter out of Zephyrhills.

The plane quickly filled with West Point cadets, all spending their week of spring break at the Hernando County Airport.

Wearing goggles and a tight black leather helmet and zipped tightly into a banana-colored suit, Russell was ready. The cadets had invited local officials connected to the airport to join them in a jump, and Russell had accepted.

West Point Parachute Team head coach Tom Falzone, 49, had buckled, strapped and clipped a black harness over Russell's suit.

On the back of the harness was a bright orange warning: "Danger! Peligro! Gafahr! Parachute systems sometimes fail to operate correctly even when properly maintained, assembled, packed, and unpacked."

For Falzone, with nearly 11,000 jumps behind him, one more with the commissioner was simply all in a day's work.

Russell, who had a granola bar and black coffee six hours earlier, said he was stoked.

With 365 square feet of nylon tucked tightly into a backpack, Falzone and Russell jumped at 12,500 feet, free-falling at 120 mph for about 45 seconds before releasing the canopy.

Five minutes later, they landed — upright.

"Soft landing. Tippy-toe," Falzone said.

Several others affiliated with the airport would be next for a chance to experience a free fall and the few moments of silence under a canopy floating back to earth.

Russell, 54, tapped his white Avia tennis shoes and smiled. In a moment, he would peel off his yellow suit to reveal a polo shirt with his name embroidered on one side and the official seal of Hernando County on the other.

He got into his bright red Viper SRT-10, scratched "skydiving" off his bucket list and drove to lunch. He was starved.

Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at

Hernando commissioner jumps with West Point Parachute Team 03/19/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 20, 2010 12:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  2. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  3. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  4. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.

  5. IT failure blamed for British Airways cancellations (w/video)


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend.

    Passengers wait at a British Airways check-in desk after the airport suffered an IT systems failure Saturday at London''s Gatwick Airport. [Associated Press]