Jim Hall is licensed
as a Parachutist
NPJR License #A-82
PCA License #B-33
USPA License C-68
Mexico License #1
Senior Riggers EX-9
Jim Hall's incredible parachuting career started, and almost ended, on a bright early March morning in 1949 in the skies above northern Sonora, Mexico. On this, his first parachute jump, everything went wrong but he escaped serious injury. He limped away from a very hard landing with little more than a few bumps and bruises. He came away, however, with an intense desire to learn more about this new adventure.
Now, 60 years and 1800 successful parachute jumps later, Jim has decided to write about his early days as the world's first parachuting mining engineer. He was born into a miner's family in the rolling hills of the coal fields of northern Appalachia at the start of the Great Depression. Like his brothers and his cousins before him, he was destined to spend his life digging the black gold from the hills to supply the steel mills of Pittsburgh. All this changed when fate intervened and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
The young men of the region were scattered all over the world to defend the country. Jim became one of them when he joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 at the age of 17. By theWar's end, he had flown a combat tour in B-29s bombing Japan, received a battlefield commission and returned home looking for more adventures.
He took a stab at becoming a Catholic priest, quickly learned that was not a fit for him, and enrolled at the University of New Mexico to start a new life.
In his first engineering class at the University, he met a former paratrooper who had two parachutes and was looking for a partner to join him in making exhibition parachute jumps at fairs, rodeos and air shows. Jim became that partner.
Before he could be trained, the opportunity to visit a remote gold deposit in Mexico came up and the enthusiasm of youth overruled good sense. Jim made his first parachute jump without training. He would not make this mistake again, and for the next four years, he made a very good living by smart parachuting and learning from other barnstormers and military paratroopers.
When he graduated in 1952 with a double degree in engineering and geology, he put aside his parachutes and devoted his
efforts to learning everything he could about mining from the grass roots up. He held jobs from hard rock miner up to mine foreman and worked in most of the major mining areas in the western United States.
In 1956, during a trip to Mexico he decided to combine his two areas of expertise and become the world's first parachuting exploration mining engineer. This was before the new machine, the helicopter, was used to gain access to the remote regions of the world. Jim saw the parachute as a unique way to use his talents to re-visit long-lost gold mines discovered by the Spanish Conquistadors more than 400 years ago in old Mexico.
In Parachuting for Gold in Old Mexico, Jim Hall takes the reader on a remarkable journey. You will learn:
• What it feels like to parachute into the high sierras and deep canyons in the central region of Mexico where these lost gold mines were located
• How he interacted with native people who had never seen a white man before and who were terrified and mystified by the appearance of a man and his dog as they fell out of the sky
• About his relationship with the Mexican government and local officials, the Indians in their remote villages and the ordinary Mexican people, both good and bad
• About exhibition parachute jumping on the beaches of Acapulco and onto soccer fields in other major Mexican cities
• How he met the young revolutionaries Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and Raul Castro as they raised their army in southern Mexico, and how he volunteered to lead their 82-man army into Cuba but was stopped at the last minute by the American Embassy in Mexico City
• About some of the interesting and intriguing "behind the scenes" activities that went on in Mexico during the middle fifties; about his near fatal brush with Nicaraguan guerrillas and his hair-raising parachute jump into the teeth of a hurricane in Guatemala.
Injuries and opportunities caused him to return to the States in 1958 where he joined with top exhibition parachutists Dave Burt and Bob Sinclair, to form the world's first professional parachuting company, Para Ventures, Inc. The company was a magnet for adventurers from all over the globe with its headquarters located on the main stem of the world's entertainment capital, Hollywood Boulevard.
Jim was its Director of Operations, and the company operated the world's largest commercial sport parachuting facility; it was based at the Elsinore Para Center, midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. In 1963, Para Ventures merged its operations and personnel with Parachuting Associates, dropped its sport parachuting activities and concentrated on TV commercials, motion pictures and Air Force-related test work.
In 1961, Jim was co-creator of the television series, Ripcord! that put Sky Diving before millions of viewers for the first time. The story line was based on Jim's adventures in Mexico and the show served as a proving ground for many of the advancements in freefall parachuting and air-to-air photography.
In 1962, Jim was awarded the Leo Stevens Medal, the parachuting industry's highest award, for his development of the "Buddy System" of free-fall parachuting instruction that teaches aircrew members to safely make a parachute jump from high altitudes.
In 1964 he was part of the elite team of parachutists who created the Air Force Academy's Airmanship Free-Fall Parachuting Program.
In 1965, he live-tested the F-106 zero-zero ejection seat and in 1967, he wrote and directed the Air Force's definitive training film on how to survive an ejection or bail-out.
He retired from the Colorado Air National Guard as a Brigadier General in 1981 and was awarded the Air Force Legion of Merit. Jim was inducted into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame in 1985. He lives in Aurora, Colorado, with his wife and two children.