Ryan Risberg, D-22873, is a vertical formation skydiving competitor and freefly organizer. He was a member of SDC Core, which won the gold in vertical formation skydiving at the 2015 USPA Nationals, and was also a member of the team that set the 164-way Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Record for Largest Head-Down Formation Skydive. Risberg, who is known for jumping in flip-flops, now travels the world sharing his knowledge and love of the sport and all facets of freeflying.
Since I was a kid, I’ve dreamt of flying. I would have dreams that were so vivid that I could feel the zero-G sensation as I flew in my sleep. As a boy, I would climb onto the roof of my house and jump off with a towel stuffed in the back of my shirt, yelling, “Superrrrrmaaaannnnn!” Thankfully, I never broke any bones, because the secret would have been out, and my parents would have killed me once they learned of my dangerous hobby! No matter how much I tried to hide it, though, all the early warning signs were there that I was an aviation addict.
More than once in past “Gearing Up” columns, you’ve read me urging jumpers to take a canopy course. Of course, since 2012, USPA requires those who want a B license to take one. But it’s generally conceded that it’s a good idea for all skydivers who haven’t done so yet to go through a canopy course, no matter how many jumps they have. It’s also a good idea to go through a refresher course if your last one was a while ago. After all, the average number of jumps made by those who died last year in landing accidents was 1,840.
Last weekend, I finally took my own advice.
As a USPA Instructor or Instructor Examiner, you may need to help a skydiver who holds foreign or military credentials obtain a USPA license or rating. USPA does not have a process for automatically converting non-USPA licenses or ratings into USPA licenses or ratings, but shortcuts are available in some circumstances.
For the many skydivers who jump from Cessna 182s or Cessna 206s at their local drop zones, group separation is not much of an issue. If the airplane carries two 2-way or 3-way groups, by the time the second group climbs out and exits, the airplane usually covers enough distance that group separation is not a problem. However, larger airplanes usually mean more groups on board. On top of that, if the jumpers are performing many different disciplines, the group dynamics may be very complicated because they may be falling at very different speeds and not necessarily straight down. (Wingsuit, tracking and angle flyers cover a lot of real estate before breaking off for deployment.) Each jumper in all the various groups must plan and execute the jump properly to ensure that everyone has clear airspace for deployment.
With the surge in popularity of wind tunnels among both skydivers and non-skydivers alike, USPA is faced with many questions regarding the sport of indoor skydiving. First and foremost, how involved should USPA be with the burgeoning sport? Is indoor skydiving actually skydiving, or is it only related to skydiving?
Should USPA remain entirely hands-off and consider it a different sport, just as it does with BASE jumping? Or should USPA completely incorporate indoor skydiving into the organization and issue memberships, licenses and records and select champions and U.S. Teams just as it would for jumpers of any other discipline? Or should we take some middle ground?
Brought to you by Niklas Daniel and Brianne Thompson of AXIS Flight School at Skydive Arizona in Eloy. Photo by David Cherry. Information about AXIS' coaching and instructional services is available at axisflightschool.com.
While opening a container to start a reserve repack, a Federal Aviation Administration Senior Rigger found that the reserve ripcord was positioned on the top-reserve-flap grommet, pressed between the pin and the top of the grommet.
The International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame will hold its 2017 Celebration Event at Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle, Illinois, the weekend of September 21-23. Now in its eighth year, the Hall of Fame recognizes and honors those who “through leadership, innovation and/or outstanding achievement have defined, promoted, inspired and advanced the sport at the highest levels.” The hall and museum strive to preserve the sport’s rich history, as well as inspire current and future skydivers to document their aerial achievements.
If you’re squaring up to the requirements for your D license, there’s a good possibility that those jumps are causing a bit of nail-biting. Steve Woodford—the organizer of many funnel-free, injury-free, collision-free big-way-milestone night jumps—is here to tell you not to worry.
B.J. Worth did not just influence the sport of skydiving, he defined an era. His thumbprint appears on most of the significant developments from the 1970s through the last decade, the heyday of skydiving Baby Boomers. It began with cutting-edge skydiving, which led him to undertake breathtaking stunts for major media productions and later organize exhibition jumps viewed live by millions. All this while thoughtfully and considerately governing skydiving as a board member for USPA and the International Parachuting Commission of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. Worth’s contributions earned him the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2017 FAI Gold Parachuting Medal, skydiving’s highest honors.
Breakoff. Greg turned 180 degrees to track from his five teammates. It was a simple 6-way with no contact. Uneventful, yes, but still glorious. Everything about skydiving was glorious. Especially when the jumps were from a C-130 Hercules at 12,500 feet … and it’s your job.
Greg was just one of hundreds of military freefall parachutists in training for the Army. On this, his 35th jump, he was tracking over the arid California desert, just a speck in the sky. Greg was a typical young parachutist with a great sense of humor who loved to joke with his fellow jumpers. But when it came to skydiving, he was quiet and deadly serious. His focus was absolute.
One of the most important of an instructional rating holder’s tasks is ensuring that each student receives proper training for the USPA A license. Part of this responsibility includes making logbook entries and initialing required items on the USPA A-License Proficiency Card or A-License Progression Card to properly track and document this training. Some instructors are very good about making logbook entries and updating the license cards, but many could use improvement, and drop zones handle this process in a seemingly infinite number of ways.
As a SoCal jumper, I don't have to worry that much about landing in trees or anything green. So I took seriously memorizing the DZ's aerial photo (the kind all DZs have hanging near manifest) when I went jumping in Maine. I knew where all the tree groves were, along with power lines, ditches and other obstructions. After a couple of jumps, I got comfy with the landing pattern, and I felt I knew my way around.
As skydiving continues to progress—with jumpers now enjoying a wide variety of disciplines and piloting faster canopies—it has become more challenging to find clear airspace at deployment time. Since 1999, 11 jumpers have died in canopy collisions. Additionally, there were many instances of collisions that resulted in injuries or cutaways, although the exact number is unknown.
John Bull’s love for the sport and the community is contagious. Bull made his first jump in 1978, and in 1981 he became a member of the Air Trash brotherhood of skydivers, to which he still belongs. Bull simply loves formation skydiving and is happy to jump with anyone on the DZ, from a newly A-licensed jumper to the most experienced of load organizers. He is an ambassador for the sport and the kind of guy you can’t help but love.
I first learned of skydiving in 1961 at the age of 6. The television show “Ripcord,” about two guys who provided almost entirely fictitious parachuting services, aired that year. My older brother and I didn’t mind the implausible events, because we didn’t watch for the stories. We wanted to see the show’s stars in freefall, and those scenes were all real, taken with helmet cameras and from airplanes.
In "Five Minute Call," you'll read of the Oklahoma DZ owner whom a court ordered to pay a substantial sum to a 16-year-old injured in 2014 during a static-line first jump. Coincidentally, during that period, USPA's board of directors was once again debating what the Basic Safety Requirements should state as the minimum age to skydive.
Lisa Mazzetta is a badass freeflyer who has been on four world record jumps, most recently the 65-way Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Women’s Head-Down World Record at Skydive Arizona in Eloy in November, as well as the 138-Way Head-Down World Record in 2012. Mazzetta is a big supporter of USPA’s Sisters in Skydiving program, which helps women develop networks to support each other in the sport. At Skydive Arizona in 2012, she co-organized the first SIS event and has put together a SIS event at the drop zone every year since.
The Federal Aviation Administration operates the largest and safest aviation system in the world. How large? Of the 32.9 million air carrier departures worldwide in 2015, the U.S. had the most with 8.7 million. China was a distant second. Of an estimated 370,000 general-aviation aircraft worldwide flying an estimated 35 million flight hours, more than half those aircraft and hours are flown in the U.S.
Here's a jump story. Or rather, a story about a jump that didn't happen. But first, do you believe that things happen for a reason? Or alternatively, do you believe that a bad outcome can later be viewed as a good outcome?
Omar Alhegelan was a pioneer in the discipline of freeflying in the 1990s as a member of the Freefly Clowns with Charles Bryan, Stefania Martinengo, Mike Vail and Olav Zipser. Known for being Zen in freefall, he has won 11 gold medals at national and international competitions and has performed stunts and acted in numerous commercials, TV shows and movies. An international traveler who is fluent in Arabic, English, French, Italian and Spanish, Alhegelan has skydived in numerous places, including the North Pole and Mount Everest. Most recently, he organized a skydiving excursion to Antarctica. Along with skydiving, Alhegelan is now giving motivational speeches and Facebook Live talks on happiness and other topics.
Reflecting on the association’s past year is like digging through your gear bag after a long, hectic skydiving season. The things you expect to see are there, interspersed with surprising items that somehow got thrown in. For USPA, 2016 was just that mixed bag. Let me inventory those items for you.
Trent Alkek, D-24348, along with teammates Jed Lloyd and Stephen Boyd, set the USPA Nationals on fire in freefly from 2003 to 2007. Their team, Spaceland Anomaly, created some never-before-seen moves and also set several world records during speed rounds. Alkek, a USPA member for 17 years and counting, is now a sought-after load organizer who also works in aircraft leasing at Skydive Spaceland—Houston in Rosharon, Texas.
This month's "Gearing Up" is written for just 22 of you. If 2017 is an average year in the U.S. accident-wise, some 22 of you won't be around to read this column in next February's Parachutist due to a skydiving accident. Let that sink in: 22 of you reading this will die making your last skydive. Odds are you're licensed (most likely a C or D license), have been skydiving for at least 10 years and have just at or over 1,000 jumps. (Don't think you're off the hook if you're not nearly that experienced, since these are averages; less-experienced skydivers will be among them.) Statistics also tell us that the circumstances of your demise will likely involve a hard landing, a mishandled main-parachute malfunction or a collision.
Lewis “Lew” Sanborn, D-1, has been skydiving for 67 years. He and Jacques André Istel, D-2, established sport skydiving in the United States in the 1950s. Sanborn started jumping with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and later became a member of the U.S. Parachute Team, master rigger, private and commercial pilot, instructor, national judge and world-record holder. He devised a technique for freefall photography and shot a cover photo for Sports Illustrated. In 1960, he was even nominated for an Academy Award for filming the skydiving documentary “A Sport is Born.” In 1972, USPA honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award “for originating safe and reliable parachuting equipment and pioneering work in freefall photography.” In 2000, Istel inducted him into the Hall of Fame of Parachuting in Felicity, California. In 2001, the Golden Knights made him an honorary member, and in 2010, the International Skydiving Museum inducted him into its Hall of Fame.
Jessie Farrington, D-6853, served on the USPA Board as a regional director for many years and has a long history in the sport. She is part of a large family of skydivers. Her father, Lenny Aikins, got her started in 1964. She has owned Kapowsin Air Sports in Shelton, Washington, with her husband, Geoff, for decades. Her children, Andy Farrington and Keri Bell, are extremely talented skydivers who made many jumps while still in the womb. And her brother, nieces and nephews are all skydivers, and a fourth generation is on the way.
In 1984, the IRS classified USPA as a 501(c)4 non-profit association. That was based on its finding that USPA’s main purposes “promote the common good and social welfare.” Importantly, 501(c)4 organizations can lobby government officials as long as they meet all lobby registration and lobby reporting rules. And USPA does lobby on behalf of skydiving. What does that mean? Primarily, USPA’s executive director and director of government relations engage in efforts to build relationships with various officials, usually those in the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration but sometimes other federal and state agencies.
(More articles being added every day!)
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