Michael Kearns (center) and friends
Michael Kearns, D-16816, began jumping in 1976 while in the military. He made more than 200 special operations jumps in 14 countries, including night jumps wearing tactical gear, and also became involved in sport skydiving. Along with sport jumping and his demanding career, he earned two doctorates (in theology and business administration) and is working on a third (in educational psychology). After taking a several-year break from jumping, he got reinvolved in the sport in 2010. He became interested in vertical formation skydiving and sponsored the first all-female VFS team, Serendipity. He currently is involved in running his YouTube channel, Eternal Friends of Skydiving, which collects interviews with noteworthy jumpers.
Nickname: Kearnsey (I grew up around five Michaels)
Age: 62, and thankful for Social Security retirement!
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland
Nationality: USA and Australia (I joined the Royal Australian Air Force in Jan 2001)
Marital Status: Single
Occupations: I first was an intelligence specialist teaching evasion and escape, as well as being on an aircrew, in the Maryland Air Guard. In 1982, I was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence officer. I retired in 1991 and became an intelligence officer with the Royal Australian Air Force in 2001, retiring in 2009. I’ve been a licensed private investigator in California since 1995. I was also a deputy sheriff in Denver, did a consultant gig in the Middle East and held a few civil service positions (supervisory physical scientist, intelligence analyst and historian).
Education: Way too much, I’m told
Jump Philosophy: There’s bold skydivers and there’s old skydivers … but not many old, bold skydivers! (Steve Hetrick, 1992)
Team Name: Arizona Serendipity (2012), first women’s VFS team (with Mel Curtis as coach)
Container: Sun Path Javelin Odyssey
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Sabre 190
Reserve Canopy: Precision Aerodynamics Raven I
AAD: Airtec CYPRES 2 Expert
Disciplines: Lately, I’ve enjoyed picking up tips on head-down. Pat Works was correct: One cannot chase after freefly … one must allow it to happen! But I’m a belly flyer mostly and really enjoy Tim Long and Doug Garr’s Skydiver Resurrection Award group and Parachutists Over Phorty, etc.
Home Drop Zone: Skydive Buckeye in Arizona and Skydive Arizona in Eloy
First Jump: Static lines at a military sport club in 1976. After the Gulf War, AFF in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Licenses: A-13000, B-15001, C-21874, D-16816
Records: I made 41 jumps in five hours on my 40th Birthday at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in 1998, which was a state record
Total Number of Jumps: 1,700-plus FS: 1,250-plus Military Static Line: 200 (14 countries over 30 years) Camera: 100ish Accuracy: 25 while going for the PRO Tandems: 12 as a student for training Demos: 12 Freefly: Six CF: Six with Aussie demo team (Red Berets) Wingsuit: Six at [the World Freefall Convention] Balloon: Four South Pole: One BASE: Two (in two years at Bridge Day)
Largest Completed Formation: 20-way (base, of course) at the Herd in the early 1990s
Total Number of Cutaways: Three
Does one jump stand out most?
Pucker-factor wise, my static-line combat equipment jump in El Salvador in 1988 with a Special Mission Unit.
Who has been your skydiving mentor?
My boss in 1990, Lt. Col. Jim Hare, U.S. Army. He convinced me to do the AFF program at Chambersburg. I got hooked and did Bridge Day with him after he handed me my retirement orders in freefall. He and I did a few Herd Boogies as well … Moo! Dave DeWolf was such a classic!
What safety item do you think is most important?
An awesome hook knife. I always had one for my military jumping, so maybe it’s more of a comfort item? But I used it once (doing CF) and like having it ready!
If you could do a fantasy 2-way, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
I’d love to jump with Madden “Pat” Works, on the Sunshine Coast of Australia, and we’d be doing the Universal Skydiver series, with a big beach party afterward.
Is there one jump you would like to do again?
The Rebel Skydivers have an award one may earn by jumping with five of them; it’s called the CWR (Collision with Rebels). In January 2017, at Jacques Istel’s [Center of the World Museum] in Felicity, California, the Rebels offered Jay Stokes their award, and I got on the jump as the last one out of the Porter. Watching it build with the U.S.-Mexico border and Jacques’ unique city below, I was diving as hard as I could … and made it in just a few moments before breakoff.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
Creating the Resistance to Interrogation course for the Joint Special Operation Command’s Operator Training Course in 1987-‘90 and teaching it worldwide for all tier-1 Special Mission Units.
In 1997 you were the only jumper on a 4-way at the South Pole to survive, when your CYPRES activated. What can you share about that?
The South Pole is at 10,000 feet MSL, yet there was no supplemental oxygen planned! The person who I was told would be our jumpmaster wasn’t one. The guy wearing the camera hadn’t jumped it before. And although I was able to get the medical oxygen for our jump, and I hit it a few times, the already hypoxic jumpers carried on. The moment that struck me the most, visually, was the non-jumpmaster leaning out into the airstream at 7,000 feet AGL to spot, and his open face shield frosting up to the point where I was certain he couldn’t fully see out. Yet, he called us to the rear door of our Twin Otter, and we complied. It was -40 degrees Fahrenheit (calculated at approaching -200 degrees F in freefall). The cameraman forgot to put on his gloves, forcing the tandem to get them for him. And I just watched it all, seemingly helpless. Having paid $22,000 just for the jump itself, I believe, coerced our thinking. In the end, the Norwegian tandem pair who exited after us, had no problem. To me, they are the true record holders and should be remembered as such.
Someday I am going to own …
Absolutely nothing of any pecuniary value. I’m still working on being a Bodhi!
Describe yourself in five words or fewer:
“Transforming dogmatic nonsense—socio-political and intellectual.” (I call this my Maieutic Philologist mode of awareness)