Skydivers are aviators. Our bodies are low-performance aircraft. Under canopy we are slightly higher-performance aircraft. We share airspace with aviators of all kinds. So it makes sense that skydivers were well represented at AirVenture 2018 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The airshow, produced by the Experimental Aircraft Association and billed as “the world’s largest and most significant annual aviation event,” has taken place for more than 60 years. Occurring annually during the last full week in July, the show attracts more than half a million spectators each year.
After the International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame Eagles made a successful appearance at the show in 2015, the EAA once again extended the team an invitation to demonstrate large-formation skydiving above the aviators’ paradise. Led by Larry Henderson, T.J. Hine, Jim McCormick, Roger Ponce de Leon and Louie Tommaso, the Eagles built a formation in the shape of a three-bladed airplane propeller as a tribute to the thousands of aviators and aviation enthusiasts on the ground.
At 18,000 feet, jump organizer Ponce de Leon masterfully spotted the exits from the three-plane formation (a Skyvan and two Twin Otters) to allow the team to open their parachutes over the north-south runway exactly as EAA requested. With some team members wearing canisters that left smoke streams in the blue Wisconsin sky, the 65-way formation was readily visible to the crowd. Spreading their landings out over the 2,000 feet of crowd line, the team members received an overwhelming response from the spectators.
Cloud cover dictated that the second performance by the Eagles consisted of 70 jumpers exiting individually from 4,500 feet. In many ways, the crowd seemed to enjoy the low jumps even more than the freefall formation because they were able to see the team members from the exit to landing.
Walking along the crowd line after landing, the skydivers joined with the pilots on the ground in a celebration of aviation. Whether they used wings, rotors or parachutes to fly was not important. All were aviators.
About the Author
Jim McCormick, D-12379, is a Colorado skydiver, author and organizational consultant. He has earned numerous state, national and world large-formation records. McCormick is also the director of development for the International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame.