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Back-Tracking —A Parachutist Anniversary Series
Features | Oct 31, 2021
Back-Tracking —A Parachutist Anniversary Series

USPA Staff

“Have you ever really taken a look at a jumper after he has landed? There is an electric-like energy that courses through him. His cheeks are flushed, eyes are bright, and he is smiling—really alive. Jumping has awakened him, brought him joy and a sense of relationship with all that surrounds him. Yes, parachuting is good for your health.

A freefall parachutist thinks young. Jumping keeps him young. His thoughts are sky, flying, jumping and sucking the most out of every day. We jumpers are like children—youthful and simple in our thoughts. The simple joys are important—not a large bank account or promotion, but learning to use our body deftly, easily, with precision, naturally. Freefall.

Freefall is what I do most naturally. It is the state in which I belong. When I push away from the wing strut and feel the cushion of sky build beneath me, I have the same feeling as an old cowboy getting in the saddle. It is right. It is where I can accept the world because although I am part of it, I am alone. I wasn’t made to fly, with feather wings and a fast heartbeat, but I have learned and it feels as right and necessary for me as it must for a gull.”

Wayne P. Kubasko | C-1775
Fort Riley, Kansas
From Parachutist, February 1979

When you can’t find a 2-way partner, sometimes the best option is to make one.


Nancy Dwyer geeks the camera before tracking forward into a new year at Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida. Photo by Sam Williams.


Over empty Snohomish fields, Kevin Deiner (left) and Martin Fox perform a test jump with highly innovative early ‘90s helmet technology. Photo by Rob Tyler.


The long ride to altitude is always better with a healthy snack.


Erling Olson (Rabbit), John Mitchell (Santa), Tom Nili (Batman), Lenny Aikins (Smurf), Larry Chernis (Dracula), Georgi Nelson (Wonder Woman), Stacy Sorby (Uncle Sam), Valinda Mitchell (Super Girl) and Dan Creech (Joker) of the Kapowsin Air Sports Demo Team conspire to give the locals nightmares for weeks.


Robert Capen, the “Skydiving Clown,” smiles high in the skies near Santa Barbara, California.


John Jordon and Lindsey Harris let their udders fly free during a 2002 kiss pass over Atlanta Skydiving Center in Cedartown, Georgia. Photo by Mark Shimell.


Back-Tracking Feedback

Gene Riddle, O.B. Taylor and I performed this demo [from August’s “Back-Tracking”] into the Kansas City Royals’ 1985 Opening Day game. 1985 was the year the Royals would win the “I-70 Showdown” World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The camera was mounted to the strut of the Cessna with an onboard switch, and we usually used it to take photos of first-jump students. It was Dana Savorelli’s, and the day of the demo he loaded the camera and asked the pilot to press the button as we left the aircraft.

If you look at the picture closely, you can see the red smoke we had mounted on the aircraft behind the tail of the plane and that I have smoke attached to my right ankle. They were displaying info about our jump team on the park’s Jumbotron, so our exit and descent times were critical—we had less than 30 seconds between each member’s landing time in order to match the display on the screen.

As I set up and circled the playing field before final approach, I noticed a sound that I had never heard before while under canopy. I pulled my frap hat away from my ears and found the sound was the crowd of nearly 35,000 people cheering our arrival. (It makes you feel like a rock star!)

The part that I remember most was as I departed the field through the pitchers’ bullpen, when Dan Quisenberry (later inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame) approached me and asked to shake my hand. I was dumbfounded! He told me that he had thought pitching in a professional baseball game was a high-stress situation, but realized after watching our demo that our team “must really have gonads the size of basketballs” (only he didn’t use the word “gonads”).

Tom Dolphin | D-6919
Crispin, Missouri

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