John LeBlanc, vice president at Performance Designs, loves “flying everything that can be flown.” He’s been doing just that for more than 40 years (since age 16, as a matter of fact), and he’s been designing parachutes for 35 of them. Over the course of those years of intense testing, LeBlanc has unsurprisingly suffered more than his share of openings that were slappers.
Remember when President Harry S. Truman announced over the family radio that there was a growing threat on the Korean Peninsula? Me neither. But U.S. Army recruit Lewis Barton Sanborn must have been paying close attention, as he was going Airborne and was about to make his first jump. On April 18, 1949, he made that jump—a static-line from 1,200 feet—over Fort Benning, Georgia. That was a long, long time ago.
It was June 2011, and USPA excitedly announced its newest program. We had named it Sisters in Skydiving. We had no idea how the skydiving community would receive the program or whether it would succeed. But we knew one thing: We needed to do something to encourage more woman to take up and stick with the sport.
No great adventure was ever achieved by staring at a phone. Well, unless you’re a skydiver who spotted a post on social media about a Huey-helicopter-based innhopp (a nomadic skydiving adventure where you’re not told the itinerary) in Namibia, Africa, and decided to sign up! Noted innhopp organizer Even Rokne and aerial cinematographer Tommy Papatango put together the event, which included jumps into 23 locations, overnight stays at five-star lodges and an adventure spanning 1,600-miles.
Hey, skydiver: What’s your mental image of hypoxia? Do you immediately picture a plane full of sport jumpers laughing like drunks and falling all over each other? If so, you’re not alone, and there’s also a good chance that you think a) you’ve never been hypoxic; b) hypoxia is just something that happens on high-altitude jumps when the oxygen system is on the fritz; and c) you know what to look for.
The thing is: You’re not actually right about any of that.
We live in the age of GPS spots, turbine aircraft and high-performance ram-air main and reserve parachutes that have lots of forward speed. So, we’re finished landing off the drop zone, right? Unfortunately, not! Murphy’s law—the foundational rule of skydiving—says, “If it can go wrong, it will.”
Maybe you are on a big-way dive or in a tracking contest or really finding out what your wingsuit can do. Maybe the weather is tricky or your exit delayed. No matter the situation, when you open your canopy and find the drop zone is w-a-a-a-y farther away than you wanted, your plan went wrong. So, how can you avoid this situation? And what can you do when it inevitably does come up?
Sunny with a Chance of Beach Landings—The 2019 Costa Rica Boogie
Hosted By: Tsunami Skydivers Exotic Boogies
Tambor Bay, Costa Rica | February 9-18
A Parachutist Pictorial
On St. Valentine’s Day weekend, February 14-17, many of our sport’s founding members and innovators reconnected with lifelong friends in Felicity, California—the Official Center of the World (as declared by France’s Institut Géographique National in 1985)—during the Pioneers of Sport Parachuting Reunion. The event also included a celebration of USPA President Emeritus Jacques-André Istel’s 90th birthday (or, as Istel referred to it, his “100th birthday rehearsal”).
More than 150 jumpers from 17 countries and six continents traveled to Skydive Sebastian in Florida for the Spring Fling canopy formation skydiving (aka canopy relative work or CRW) event March 9-17. The nine-day event—now in its 15th year—has continued to grow. Organizers Chris Bohn, Chris Gay, Eric Gallan, Francois Huot and Brian Pangburn kept up with the surge in participation by adding Andrew Draminski, Gerben Frankvoort, Sean Jones and Scott Lazarus to the organizing team. The team’s goal was to keep everyone challenged, from the 12 jumpers who had never tried CF before to the most experienced participants.
To open Safety Day 2019 at Skydive Cross Keys in Williamstown, New Jersey, DZO and pilot Pico Mazure remarked, “Safety is no accident. Safety is an attitude and a core value of our community. We are happy to see not only students but also highly experienced jumpers attend Safety Day and help us instill that value in all generations of jumpers.”To open Safety Day 2019 at Skydive Cross Keys in Williamstown, New Jersey, DZO and pilot Pico Mazure remarked, “Safety is no accident. Safety is an attitude and a core value of our community. We are happy to see not only students but also highly experienced jumpers attend Safety Day and help us instill that value in all generations of jumpers.”
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.
(More articles being added every day!)
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