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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.
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.
When it happened, Chief Petty Officer Kenton Stacy, a Navy explosive ordnance disposal operator, had already been serving his country for a dozen years. Those years had been good, full, strong years. On the day in question, the mission at hand was most certainly not Stacy’s first. All the way back in 2010, the USO presented its Service Member of the Year award to CPO Stacy for his key role in more than 50 combat missions while he’d been deployed to Afghanistan. Over the course of that decade-plus, Stacy had destroyed improvised bombs, trained both Afghan forces and U.S. Special Forces members on delicate clearing techniques and helped ensure the zero-casualty rate in the province where he was doing the good work.
Instructor, coach and champion Christy Frikken hardly needs an introduction. If you’ve been in the sport over the past 16 years—or watched formation skydiving podiums since 2007—you’ve certainly seen her. Unfortunately, dozens of major wins and one of the most highly respected names in 4-way coaching apparently only gets you so far.
Valinda Mitchell and her husband, John, are vacationing in France. These lovebirds travel a lot … a month in Ireland here, a long stint jetting around Australia there. When your childhood sweetheart and the mother of your four children says her final goodbyes to the family from a hospital bed and manages to claw her way back, such forays are understandable and maybe even necessary. Wandering hand in hand around Paris is the only way to respond, n’est-ce pas?
Nick Barson doesn’t just say he loves animals. He proves it. In fact, more than 700 animals owe their lives to Barson and his nonprofit rescue operation charmingly named “Paws Landing.” Barson’s plan is to keep that number growing.
Jump 4 Joy’s program is called “Dream, Plan, Do.” The foundational idea behind Jump 4 Joy is that kids are really easy to inspire. They’re inspired by athletes, celebrities, actors and movies, but since they don’t necessarily know what to do with that information, it’s very quickly lost. Amonson built his program to help give them the tools to keep it going.
The 50-staters are indeed an exclusive group, and each has a unique story peppered with meeting dozens of new people while traveling thousands of miles across the continent.
Let me ask you this: When was your last aircraft emergency?
A main parachute that opens quickly and hard can be extremely dangerous. A hard opening can break suspension lines, tear canopy fabric, and injure, kill or incapacitate the jumper.
JaNette Lefkowitz starts by saying, “There’s just so much to it, so many stories leading up.”
First things first: There’s a lot of debate surrounding this topic. Global climate change remains a charged topic, season after season … especially since those seasons seem to be, well, changing.
Over the years, Austin’s unique mix of hard-charging and grounded doesn’t just make its mark on the marketing side of the skydiving industry.
Think about the skydivers you’ve met over the years who drifted away. Nothing happened, per se; they just ... well ... disappeared. Some of this attrition is natural. The pressures of finances, family and career come into play. But have you wondered how much attrition owes directly to repetitive stress injuries on these athletes’ minds?
So, late in the fall of 2014, you watched Alan Eustace get tugged 25 miles into the stratosphere by a balloon that for all the world looked like a big, white map pin.
Sebastian Alvarez, D-32538, was a pro surfer and a Chilean Air Force pilot (flying helicopters and planes alike) in his home country before he donned his first wingsuit.
Thank you very much for the wonderful and informative article and interview of Dr. Anna Hicks by Annette O’Neil (“Thin Air—Busting Lingering Myths About Hypoxia,” May 2019 Parachutist). It is indeed very important to inform our fellow skydivers about the risks of hypoxia.
A good helmet once seemed like just the ticket to escape such a fate. The reality, unfortunately, is that helmets simply aren’t designed to protect people against traumatic brain injury. They can’t.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you so much for publishing “We’re Not Here for Tandems” (by Annette O’Neil, February Parachutist). That title alone was eye-opening and impactful. I am proud to see that our organization takes racial (and other discriminatory) issues seriously and is active in working to combat racial bias in our sport. I am a white guy with a black son, and I hope my son grows up to be a skydiver and can be part of Team Blackstar.
It was the best worst idea (or, perhaps, the worst best idea). It came, as all the best worst ideas do, over coffee.
It bubbled up one wintry Slovak afternoon as my partner, Joel Strickland, and I were taking a mid-tunnel-camp break. As I snuggled down into a beanbag chair with my thermos, I checked my phone. A dear friend—the inimitable Melissa Dawn Burns—popped up to invite us to visit her in Alaska, where she and her husband have been flying planes over the wilderness at the world’s end. I’d never been to Alaska. I’d always wanted to go.
Suddenly, a thought occurred out of the ether. I turned to Joel.
“Hey, do you want to jump in all 50 states?”
“No,” he said, without missing a beat.
A few moments went by. I kept scrolling.
And suddenly, it was real.