Poppenhager gathers his gear after making a jump in 2014. Photo by Tom Plonka.
On May 5, longtime Florida drop zone owner, sport parachuting innovator and prolific instructor Paul “Pop” Poppenhager passed away at age 87. Poppenhager, D-47, was an active skydiver for more than 60 years, starting in the Army in 1953 and continuing through the 2010s. He was the first skydiver to reach the 2,000- and then 5,000-jump mark. He was also an aircraft pilot, rigger and parachute test jumper.
In 1959, Poppenhager established Florida’s first skydiving club, and over the years he owned and operated a series of popular drop zones in the state. As an accomplished style and accuracy jumper, he promoted the disciplines by hosting prestigious money meets at his DZs in the ‘60s and ‘70s, attracting the top competitors in the country. He was also a well-known instructor who used innovative methods (including an early form of what would later be known as accelerated freefall) to train his students. His students included his own children, all six of whom made skydives.
Poppenhager joined USPA in 1960, and in 2015, the International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame inducted him as a member. In June 2016, Parachutist published an interview with Poppenhager in “Profile” by Brian Giboney, available here https://parachutistonline.com/p/Article/paul-pop-poppenhager-d-47.