If you ask Patricia Annette Thomas (whom most simply call “Pat”) about her greatest life achievement, she will unhesitatingly say it is her family, then quickly change the subject. However, if you persist, she might share some stories from the myriad wonderful moments in her life.
USPA is celebrating the 100th anniversary of freefall on April 28 and is encouraging skydivers to submit photos of themselves making 100-shaped formations in the sky, so it’s the perfect time to learn how to make one.
Many people know that the Wright brothers developed their flying technology in Dayton, Ohio, even though their first flight was in North Carolina. But what a lot of people don’t know is that Dayton continued as a hub of aviation innovation long after the Wright brothers’ time there. By World War I, the U.S. Army Air Service was located in the city at McCook Field, where the development of aviation technologies—including the parachute—thrived. The field, named for the McCook family (Union General Alexander McDowell McCook, his seven brothers and five cousins all fought in the American Civil War), was the home of the first military aviation research facility in 1917 and the first intentional delayed freefall skydive on April 28, 1919.
In 2018, 13 people died during skydives in the U.S. This is the lowest annual fatality number since 1961, when USPA (then the Parachute Club of America) began keeping statistics. That year, 14 jumpers died, and the number of fatalities steadily increased for the next two decades before they began to drop in the early 1980s. Considering the increase in skydiving activity over the last 57 years, this is a phenomenal achievement.
Though our fatality numbers are at an all-time low, there is never an acceptable number of injuries or deaths. Look at it in the family context: What number of people in your family would it be OK to lose in a skydiving accident? That answer is clearly zero. However, as improbable as it may seem to get the fatality count down to zero, we have already succeeded in two of our deadliest categories: canopy collisions and high-performance landings. There were zero fatalities in these categories in 2018.
Tragedy struck the skydiving community in 2018 when a Cessna 182 crashed shortly after takeoff, killing the pilot and three skydivers and leaving the lone survivor with serious injuries. According to the National Transportation Safety Board Preliminary Report: “A witness that was in a park outside the airport watched as the airplane climbed after takeoff on the accident flight. The witness said that the airplane was about 150 feet over the runway when the engine stopped. They watched as the wings of the airplane rocked left and right before the airplane pitched down and collided with the ground.”
Rob Laidlaw, D-32405, has an extensive skydiving resume, and his name is synonymous with innovation in skydiving training and advanced coaching. He began skydiving in 1973 at the age of 19 in Manitoba, Canada, and since then has made more than 18,600 jumps.
Mark Baur, D-6108, is a USPA Lifetime Member who made his first skydive in 1978. By 1979 he had earned all four licenses and USPA issued them all—A through D—in March of that year. Over the years, Baur earned nearly all possible USPA instructional ratings: He was a Coach Examiner and AFF, Tandem and Static-Line Instructor Examiner. Although he no longer holds instructional ratings (he stopped using his last rating—AFF Instructor—at the end of 2018), he continues to mentor local instructors at his home DZ, Skydive Twin Cities in Baldwin, Wisconsin.
Every two years, skydiving gear manufacturers, riggers, drop zone operators and everyday skydivers gather somewhere in the United States for the Parachute Industry Association Symposium. The event includes something for everyone: seminars on a variety of topics by industry leaders, continuing education for riggers and a huge trade show where vendors show off their latest and greatest products.
In an effort to encourage technological innovation that advances skydiving, USPA and Sigma, a global platform for verified identity, co-hosted the Skydiving Technology Advancement Roundup (STAR) competition. Following a six-month online submission period, nine finalists exhibited their innovations during the Parachute Industry Association Symposium in Dallas, Texas, February 4-7. From those nine, three winners walked away with cash, while all the finalists, as well as the audience, walked away with the excitement that comes from seeing dreams put into action. But it’s the average skydiver who is the ultimate winner.
As a skydiver, you probably take the advice of doctors on health questions involving skydiving with a few grains of salt, right? I mean, if it’s important enough that you’re actually going to bother asking somebody outside of the internet, your fate seems predestined.
The Second Annual Red Bull Fly Girls Summit at iFLY Orlando and Skydive DeLand in Florida hosted 55 of the country’s best female skydivers—professional and amateur—during the first weekend of 2019. The summit celebrated women in skydiving, a sport that men have traditionally dominated. With its event, which featured a variety of seminars, tunnel time and fun jumps, as well as a competition and an instructional rating course, Red Bull hoped to inspire more women to become skydivers and grow the sport accordingly.
Have you ever noticed how two containers with the same number of jumps on them can look vastly different? This is a result of many factors, which you should take into account every time you use your rig.
Every two years, USPA brings together drop zone owners, operators and staff for a day full of presentations and discussions on all the latest important issues for DZs. This year, USPA held its 2019 Drop Zone Operators’ Conference February 3-4 in Dallas, Texas. About 100 DZOs, speakers, Federal Aviation Administration representatives and sponsors met to share information on everything from safety to marketing to keeping young jumpers in the sport.
Following USPA elections last fall, the USPA Board of Directors gathered for the first meeting of its three-year term February 1-3 in Dallas, Texas. The new board welcomed six new members, two of whom had previously been on the board and returned after a hiatus.
USPA held its 2018 National Collegiate Parachuting Championships at an unusually frigid Skydive Arizona in Eloy December 28-January 2. Skydive Arizona has hosted numerous Collegiates over the event’s 61-year history, and as usual, owners Larry and Lil Hill, Safety and Training Advisor Bryan Burke and the rest of the staff held a fantastic and successful competition despite the surprisingly chilly temperatures.
In the fabric of stories that makes up the history of skydiving, there’s one notable place where the material dwindles into a frayed edge: the part that weaves in skydivers of color. If you’re not so sure about that, I’ll just put it this way: Google “the history of African-American skydiving.” The first hit is for Team Blackstar.
Safety Day—traditionally held on the second Saturday in March—represents the beginning of a new season of skydiving. Whether you're from a northern drop zone that shuts down for the winter or you’re a fair-weather jumper from the south, you’ll soon catch yourself staring out the window listening to the birds sing, watching the trees bud and daydreaming of the jumping days ahead. If you’re like many jumpers across the country, you’ll start pulling out gear that has sat unused for months. Now is the time to check your data cards, dust off the electronics and charge the batteries. The 2019 season will soon be here.
The country of Egypt currently has no civilian drop zones, but that didn’t stop Alia Parachuting and Air Sports Federation—an organization that helps facilitate sport-skydiving activities in the country and abroad—from putting together an amazing boogie over the pyramids of Giza December 9-11.
In mid-November, some of the world’s best wingsuit flyers and canopy pilots joined an equally talented group of canopy formation skydivers to stretch their limits at Project Blacklist 2, a four-day invitational event at Skydive Sebastian in Florida. Made possible by the evolution of multiple skydiving disciplines in the past decade, Blacklist gives jumpers a chance to fly together and explore their diverse skill sets in spectacular fashion.
Breaking world records in skydiving is not easy, as anyone who has taken part in one will attest. And nearly doubling one is harder yet. Needless to say, it was no simple task when Abdulla Al Mansoori and Samir Al Ammar, management at Skydive Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, decided that the DZ would take on the challenge of hosting a jump with a 4,885.65-square-meter (52,588.70 square-foot) flag to break the Guinness World Record for Largest Flag Flown While Parachuting (set by Ralf Grabowsky of the CYPRES Demo Team in July 2017 with a 2,698-square-meter flag).
Skydiving has had many great moments, but none surpass the first skydive by President George H.W. Bush. Now it is with great sadness that the skydiving community bids farewell to one of its own. President Bush was 94 years old.
When some of the best skydivers in the world learned that Kids for Peace was launching the Do It for Peace campaign to inspire people worldwide to take action, they just had to be part of it! On September 27, 34 world-class skydivers with a combined total of 195,000 jumps united and accomplished a peace-sign formation at Skydive Elsinore in California.
Lew Sanborn, D-1, was holding court outside the Bird House bar, relaxing with old timers whose jump totals were in the thousands. Just a few yards away at the other end of the facility, a couple of tandem students were gearing up for the experience of a lifetime. Nobody knew whether they would become skydivers or were merely weekend seekers of a thrill ride. In between, skydivers of every age, from everywhere and from every discipline, champions and casual weekend jumpers, gathered. It was the kind of atmosphere that epitomizes our sport. It was the International Skydiving Museum’s Hall of Fame weekend at one of the iconic locations of sport parachuting: Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida
Some say that aging gracefully is hard. But on Saturday, November 10, Skydive Elsinore in California showed that time is on its side and age is just a number as it celebrated 60 years of top-notch skydiving at the drop zone’s home, Skylark Airfield. Current, former and aspiring jumpers flocked to the event. Among them was Larry Perkins, the son of the drop zone’s founder, Cy Perkins, who on March 1, 1958, took a skydiver (whose name is lost to time) up in his Cessna 172 and let him fall out.
It was the best worst idea (or, perhaps, the worst best idea). It came, as all the best worst ideas do, over coffee.
It bubbled up one wintry Slovak afternoon as my partner, Joel Strickland, and I were taking a mid-tunnel-camp break. As I snuggled down into a beanbag chair with my thermos, I checked my phone. A dear friend—the inimitable Melissa Dawn Burns—popped up to invite us to visit her in Alaska, where she and her husband have been flying planes over the wilderness at the world’s end. I’d never been to Alaska. I’d always wanted to go.
Suddenly, a thought occurred out of the ether. I turned to Joel.
“Hey, do you want to jump in all 50 states?”
“No,” he said, without missing a beat.
A few moments went by. I kept scrolling.
And suddenly, it was real.
On April 28, 1919, 23-year-old Leslie Irvin did something many had long thought impossible: He jumped from an airplane—intentionally untethered by a static line—freefell 1,000 feet, deployed a parachute and landed safely. And so freefall as we now know it was born.
Being a new jumper can be overwhelming. You graduate from AFF and are constantly learning new information about disciplines, the flow of the drop zone, landing rules and more. On top of that, you have a big choice to make: What canopy should you buy? To be fair, this will continue to be a significant question all the way throughout your skydiving career.
Jump for the Rose is a skydiving charity that raises funds for a beautiful facility called the Rose, a nonprofit breast cancer clinic that Dorothy Gibbons and Dr. Dixie Melillo founded in 1986. The Rose helped Marian Sparks, the founder of JFTR, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and had no insurance. Sparks paid it forward by creating a fundraiser to help uninsured women (and men) get help at the Rose.
(More articles being added every day!)
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