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. Following Performance Designs’ Project Orange in 2013, which encompassed all canopy disciplines and featured a high-performance-canopy flight through a frame-shaped canopy formation, jumpers felt the need for a similar
groundbreaking event that would allow participants to fly to their limits. Blacklist filled that void.
Project Blacklist 1, held at Florida Skydiving Center in Lake Wales in 2017, broke lots of new ground. In addition to some of the best canopy formation skydives in years, the event featured a wingsuit fly-through of a CF frame, as well as an XRW (“extreme relative work,” in which a canopy pilot and wingsuit flyer dock) flyby of a CF frame. While designing and flying the formations, participants learned a staggering amount about timing, wing loading, speeds, descent rates and execution. Everyone’s effort was amazing, and the reward was perfection.
Blacklist 2’s goal was to increase the scope of the first event and to allow the great athletes to express their talent unbridled by the usual restrictions. Jumpers came from all over the world to take advantage of the unusual opportunity. As a bonus, Ian Drennan and Scott Roberts hosted a high-performance flocking event at Sebastian at the same time as Blacklist, so participants in both events had the chance to learn from one another and even participate in each other’s jumps.
Exploring the Possibilities
Unfortunately, weather issues on the first two days left all the amazing athletes sitting around looking at the planes for much of the time, unable to practice the skillsets that they needed for the intricate and crazy formations ahead of them. However, they were eventually able to get in a few dives. The CF jumpers used this time to work on some amazing 6-way sequential jumps organized by Sean Jones, a member of the U.S. Canopy Formation Team, while the CP athletes flocked and Iain Jensen and Max Manow organized a huge multi-canopy XRW formation.
As a special treat at the end of day two, members of Canopy Formation Specialists flew with nine flags in sizes between 800 and 2,000 square feet and built what was essentially a wall with them for the wingsuiters and canopy pilots to fly by. While that was going on, the CF jumpers played, filling the skies with beautiful canopies backlit by the setting sun.
Getting in Frame
With weather on their side on day three, the group—a little on edge since they were light on practice time—decided to work on an XRW fly-through of a CF frame. As a warm-up to dial in the timing, the first jump consisted of solo wingsuit flyer Daniel Darby flying through a CF frame. Thanks to the skill of the jumpers and the great load organization by Brian Pangburn, the CF frame (the largest to date and the only built since the original Blacklist) flew flawlessly. Darby pierced the target perfectly. This really energized the participants and showed what was possible.
For jump two, the organizers had wingsuiters and canopy pilots work on timing by passing beside the canopy formation, which also allowed them to select the correct XRW pair for the ultimate jump. Although the canopy formation imploded, the team worked through its problems during the debrief and decided on the necessary adjustments. Everyone left the debrief smiling, prompting observers to comment on the teamwork and camaraderie that are the hallmarks of the CF community.
During the ride to altitude, the feeling of excitement was palpable, even among the most veteran jumpers. Everyone had a significant part to play; everyone’s contributions were necessary for the jump to work. The team was laser focused, and the exit and jump seemed to unfold in slow motion. The build was smooth and the timing good as jumpers released their grips and the center pulled out. Then time seemed to stand still until the XRW pair—Jensen under canopy and Will Kitto in his wingsuit—flew cleanly and safely through the center of the formation. Everyone cheered! It was like an explosion of awesomeness in the sky!
The Progress Continues
The event continued in a celebratory spirit following the successful XRW fly-through. The fun jump that marked the end of the event—a racecourse for wingsuit flyers and canopy pilots that used 4-stack canopy formations as the pylons—didn’t go according to plan but was heaps of fun. On another jump, Richo Healey, flying his Fluid Wings HKT high-performance canopy, completed the first double sled (docking with his feet under the chest straps of two backflying wingsuit flyers) on the East Coast. In addition, Vladi Pesa—the first known canopy pilot to have touched a wingsuit flyer in the air—attended the event and got the chance to not only see but experience for himself how far the XRW discipline has advanced. During one of the event’s later jumps, Craig Lambton and James Russell—two of the best slow-flight wingsuit flyers in the world—docked on Pesa while he was flying his Performance Designs Valkyrie 103 loaded at 2.78:1. Almost superhuman!
Blacklist showed what the parachuting community can do when it gathers together. The jumpers—experts in different disciplines using various types and brands of gear—shared their knowledge and ideas with one another, which contributed to the safety of the event and strengthened the knowledge base for skydiving as a whole.
What is next? Well, the jumpers at Blacklist tossed around some really crazy ideas. The future is indeed limitless.
About the Author
Scott Lazarus, D-31602, works in research and development for Fluid Wings and competes in canopy formation skydiving with the U.S. Parachute Team. Lazarus holds multiple USPA instructional ratings, teaches canopy piloting and organizes CF, XRW and flocking events worldwide. He loves to teach and learn. Find him if you want to fly … he’ll make the time.