Archive for the 'Skydiving' Category

Freefly Friday (or any other day!)

August 6th, 2010 by xformed

Only toyed with vertical flying a bit, but did a lot of belly flying myself. I do recall the time I intentionally treid sit flying, I found it did make you fall with a huge silly grin on your face.

Anyhow, since I’ve refrained from jumping, it seems the freeflyers have quite advanced their methods:

When I began jumping in 72, “relative work,” now called “formation freefall” was still coming into it’s own, with luminaries like Jerry Bird (it was his real name, no kidding!) were making 10 man speed stars. In Oct, 1997, on a cool and clear Friday morning, I was inside a King Air, #4 plane in the formation over West Point, VA, eyes focused on the 10 others aft of me, not blinking, so I could move the instant they left the plane, so I could be a part of what turned into the VA State formation record (87), which was only exceeded in 2009. In the air with 89 people (2 videographers), falling between 200 and 120MPH, then entering the formation on the outer edge was a long way from 10 way speed stars.

So…check out the related YouTube videos on freeflying. Oh, did I mention I packed my rig besides Olav Zipser one weekend in Eloy, AZ?

Next: The Wing Suits…

Category: History, Skydiving | Comments Off on Freefly Friday (or any other day!)

One Day, 14 Years Ago, It Wasn’t So Much Fun Skydiving

January 18th, 2010 by xformed

Uncle Jimbo did a great “kiss and tell” on his first civilian skydive, mentored by one of his SF brethren.

Part of me wants to laugh a little, as it was one of those stare over the edge and laugh at death stories, with a bit of the dark humor “we” used, but not around students.

The other part of me was drawn back to, I’m pretty sure, January 1996 (don’t have the logbook within easy reach) and the drop zone at Marana, AZ.  After 26 years of jumping, at that point, I witnessed the first jumping death, and the last one to date, in my 28 years of active jumping.

I’ll just cut and paste the comment I left on Jimbo’s post @ Black Five here:

Uncle Jimbo;

There but by the grace of God went you. In 28 years of skydiving, the only death I witnessed was at Marana, AZ. I looked up from packing to see a canopy fully inflated, hanging in the air with no jumper attached…then my eyes caught him in a stable, face to earth position, which he kept to contact about 150 yds out in the desert.

Who was he? A jumper with the Ft Carson Group. Date Jan (maybe Feb) 1996. They had been doing HALOs all week, and that Saturday was the end. The other guys were packing and loading their gear. I think it was the NCOIC and he went for a “sport jump.”

The DZ owner, having had his first death a few months before, was pissed for more than one reason. He was hollering at the man’s friend who perished, the SGT who took him up for a dive much like you described. The retort was “What more can you say, I just killed my best friend.” Haunting words. I’m sure his buddy lives with them to this day.

A difference from your jump. The fatality was a HALO jumper with about 50 jumps…all on military gear.

Breaking the rules? Not a fan, and I’m not current now, but I’m proud of getting hundreds of people up and back down safely, and, with minor exception, big smiles at the end of the jump as a Static Line and AFF Instructor.

The “jump” broke 5 major Basic Safety Regulations (BSRs – the pretty much non-negotiables in the USPA Skydiver’s Manual). Meditate on that: FIVE. Guess what? For 4 of the 5, if any one of those hadn’t been broken, he’d had most likely loaded up on a double charge of adrenaline, but he’d have been among the ones drinking his case of beer for his first “civilian” jump a few hours later.

1) AFF Level 1: TWO jumpmasters (One present) Based on the altitude his chute was open with out him, it meant his friend let go of him, also. The JMs are there to (we don’t tell you we will) to pull your ripcord at the right time, if you haven’t. The one not pulling, hangs on at the initial deployment….to react if something ain’t right.
2) Students shall be equipped with a Automatic Activating Device (AAD) (none on experienced jumper rig he was wearing…for the first time – with that, he would have had a reserve out about 1000-1200′)
3) Student rigs will be equipped with a Reserve Static Line (RSL) (none – even with his screw up (discussed later), he’d have had his secondary chute in the air and survived)
4) AFF Level 1 student will deploy by 4000′ AGL (His main must have been about 1500′ open (higher would have given him time to consider deploying his reserve, one he got the clue the main had cut away (more on that later). At 6-7 sec per 1000′ at terminal, he’d have had about 10 seconds to recover…and that’s a lot of time).
5) At the time: Ripcord (not throwout) activated main canopy. Not an issue, just more disregard for the rules.

Here we are, 14 years later, and it’s crystal clear to me, the events of that day. Why? A family and the Army lost a trained operator and the skydiving community had another death on the books.

What happened? On a HALO rig, the main deployment ripcord is on the upper right main lift web. It’s the 50 jumps of repetition that drilled that into his head. On a civilian rig, the handle on the upper right is the main riser cutaway handle (for use when the main, on trying to open, malfunctions). Training, it’s a powerful thing, and sometimes un-training needs to be verified first for fun, and not disaster.

At time to pull, his military HALO pull sequence, didn’t open anything, it actually set the main risers up to be detached as soon as there was any pressure on them (3 ring release). He had a Homer Simpson moment, then reached to his right thigh area and deployed his throw out pilot chute. It did, and he was now lower. It deployed fine, but the 3 rings were undone. He kept going, the chute, which I first saw, was fully deployed there, alone. Had had about 5-6 seconds to the not so AGL impact point. Not really enough time to recalculate, and improvise, overcome and adapt.

Civilian skydiving is very lightly regulated by the FAA, because the PCA, and now the USPA proved worthy of doing it right all these years, without massive oversight.

Don’t want to be peeing on your parade, but you were lucky. In this case, it wasn’t so much fun for the men involved, and their family and the unit affected with a “training” loss.

Rules, the ones written in blood, are my kind of rules to stick with. Like Mom said: “It all sounds like fun until someone gets an eye poked out.”

Not a good day, but…in my world, a testament to having jumped 26 years before I saw something that ended it all for someone doing what I loved to do.  It really is safe to skydive.  The sport is very well advanced, and there are lines to cross in safety, but, thankfully, most don’t and more thankfully, many who do are around to tell us about it.  Some are not, but it’s still a small number, when you consider your chances of dying skydiving are pretty minuscule. It’s about wisely managing risk.  To those not familiar with the sport, it all looks dangerous from the outside.  To those who have made more than just their “Bucket List” tandem jump (it’s a pony ride, fer gawd’s sake!), you know there is plenty of thought about keeping us alive, so we can do it again, put into the process.

Uncle Jimbo was a good sport about it, and also admitted he did by his case of beer (for any first you admit to, or are known to have “committed” in the sport), and he gets he was lucky.

So, bottom line:  Let’s be careful out there.

Category: Army, History, Military, Skydiving | Comments Off on One Day, 14 Years Ago, It Wasn’t So Much Fun Skydiving

Hanging out with your friends…107 of them

August 20th, 2009 by xformed

At 170MPH…7/31/2009: New World Record in Skydiving: Head Down Formation of 108.   Done at Skydive Chicago, with jumpers from around the world, and the head down craze inspired by a dude named Olav Zipser (I watched him jump in 1996 at Skydive Arizona...he and his team of 4…had a packer working for them so they made many, many jumps a day).

Looked like 5 Twin Otters (DHC-6) which hold 22 each, so…room for two videographers.

You know…they make it look easy, don’t they?

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Category: Skydiving | 2 Comments »

News You Can Use – 100 Way 11/21/2007

January 7th, 2008 by xformed

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More “gouge” here. Teaser from a blog entry:

11/21/2007 Sarge and Wendy’s Daily Blog

When you set your alarm clock for 4.30 a.m. to get up and dirt dive, it had better be worth it. The drive to Lake Wales airport is dark and cold. The coffee at IHOP on the way begins to make it bearable. Bleary eyes start to open and smiles begin to creep across tired faces. The smiles always become wider as you walk past Alan Gutshall who somehow manages to be first up, coffee in hand and always ready with a “Good morning, sir, good to see y’all” as you make your way to the 5.30 a.m. circle up.

In short, today was worth getting up for.

We set up the formation inside the armoury which is our home for the week, walked it out on the runway outside and boarded our aircraft around 7.30 for another crack at the 100 diamond. Spirits were definitely up. The chase CASA went over the base at 18,000 and by 12,500 feet the thirty-six way base was hammering through the sky. The formation built to 64 quickly and relatively smoothly by around 7,500 feet and the row 9 wings were called in. The row 10 wings came in shortly afterwards and the formation built into 90’s by the time it reached the 5,000 hard deck. Mike Lewis gave a “hold on” call in anticipation of the last four people docking and to the sound of arch calls we waited. And waited. And waited…and waited…and…well, you get the picture.

With stuff like this to do…why wouldn’t you want to jump out of a “perfectly good airplane?”

The Mechanik trailer

Category: Skydiving | Comments Off on News You Can Use – 100 Way 11/21/2007

Before Parachuting from a Aerial Vehicle, There Was a BASE Jump…

December 26th, 2007 by xformed

Dec 26th, 1783. Louis-Sébastien Lenormand was the man who did the deed. From Wikipedia:

After making a jump from a tree with the help of two modified umbrellas Lenormand refined his contraption and on December 26, 1783 jumped from the tower of the Montpellier observatory in front of a crowd that included Joseph Montgolfier, using a 14 foot parachute with a rigid wooden frame. His intended use for the parachute was to help entrapped occupants of a burning building to escape unharmed. Lenormand was succeeded by André-Jacques Garnerin who made the first jump from high altitude with the help of a non-rigid parachute.

BASE jump? It stands for someone who jumps from Bridge, Antenna, Structure (building), Earth.

Category: History, Skydiving, Technology | Comments Off on Before Parachuting from a Aerial Vehicle, There Was a BASE Jump…

10 Years Ago (Cont)

November 17th, 2007 by xformed

I wrote the post in Oct, about the time the ValOUR-IT Once movie full fund drive was kicking in and I hadn’t figured out how to pull video off a DVD that was made from a video tape of the event.

Now, I have successfully managed to import and edit a clip out of the movie, showing the Virginia State Freefall Formation record jump.

Bonus points if you can find me in the camera frame.

Category: Skydiving | Comments Off on 10 Years Ago (Cont)

10 Years Ago, the Wind Was Light, the Skies Clear, a Record Was Set

October 24th, 2007 by xformed

It was cool, but not cold. The skies were beckoning. Four aircraft sat fueled, waiting for the turbines to crank.

89 jumpers, two of them camera “flyers,” milled about, discussing the 5 jumps yesterday, or other things, or the upcoming jump, while sorting through gear bags and extracting various pieces of “business equipment.”

With the smell of the kerosene based jet fuel exhaust in the air, sometime around 9AM, the geared up jumpers climbed into their assigned aircraft for the lift to 15,000 ft AGL (which, being on the banks of the York River, was effectively MSL, too).

They taxied, some nodding off, some already asleep, despite the din of the high pitched jet engines with propellers attached, some shifted to see out the nearest door or window to watch the ground pass by enroute the runway. Finally, off the ground they went, the Super Casa, two Twin Otters and a Beech King Air.

Jump run was roughly south, with the 5 minute and 2 minute standby to jump signals were radioed between pilots and yelled at the occupants of the cargo areas. We rose, feeling the connection points of our harnesses, pushing the pilot chutes into their pack or leg mounted containers, careful to make sure the attached hackey sack was still protruding for easy gripping at the moment needed later on.

Shuffling into positions, doors opening, “floaters” carefully getting their grips and placing their toes on door frames before swinging outside of the cabins, all eyes, from any vantage point in the trailing three planes, on the rear ramp of the Super Casa in the lead of the four ship “V”, with the King Air aft and starboard to make the “V” look more like a check mark.

In the Super Casa, at 15,000 feet over West Point, VA airport: “READY! SET!!!!! (the photographer lets go and gets big) GOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!” and the bodies give into gravity, followed instantly by those “stacked” further forward. Cascades of humanity from three other planes join the “base,” eyes seeking the expected color pattern of jumpsuits and rigs as briefed and seen on the ground. Subtle and not so subtle movements begin as people move to their assigned quadrants, facilitated by the placement in the various aircraft, to minimize the possibility of collisions. The floaters from the Casa, who had been hanging on the side of the door frame by their hands, legs bent at the knees inboard to avoid the airstream outside of the shape of the boxy fuselage, hover above and aft of the formation on the line of flight, ready to pounce their “slots” when they see the base stable out.

“Divers” aggressively close the small, fast falling formation, moving to within feet of where their position will appear, if all goes as planned. Those from the other planes are all in this category, maneuvering quickly to a quadrant, then checking to see how to refine their position relative to the base, and to keep a straight, clear line of flight when it’s their turn.

Meanwhile, within the “base,” which includes “The Queen,” (that’s Carol Clay’s nickname, not a formation position), and Larry Pennington (read the linked post..his name is there), along with some big boys, who, not only will fall fast because of their size, but also because of their demonstrated discipline to not relax their arch and let the core slow down. They have to keep the base falling “down the pipe” (straight down), faster than the average freefall speed and on heading, as the rest of those inbound to their slots can’t be sliding around the sky all day to get to a target location moving in several dimensions simultaneously.

People are bleeding off speed in their transition from a delta body position to a modified “frog” body position. If you watch closely, you can discern the waves working in towards the base, people a few feet apart, “sheep dogging” their slots. The base grows quickly, as successive rings of jumpers find their grip points and attach themselves. The photographers drastically change their fall rate, going “low” to get upward looking shots, then spreading the wing area under their arms to slow and get back above the formation to get other angles.

My slot is now there. The other edge of the formation a few feet away from where I have been lurking since diving out of the King Air, with only three others coming out behind me. A fast dive, while sliding laterally to my quadrant and then to about the 4:30 position of the formation, followed by a flare and a relatively fast belly to earth fall position. I move forward and reach with my left hand for my single grip on the right knee of the jumper. I failed to keep my symetry and bobble a bit. I drop about a foot below the formation as a result, then flatten out my arm and get back up, now being within the proper distance to take my grip. I am in. A few more of the total of 87 jumpers enter and I get to look across the backs of those in front of me to the other side of the basically circular formation and notice lots of smiles.

It is not time to relax. We still have to keep our attention to the small trends in fall rate we note, using those around us as a reference, and quickly anticipate the the changes in body position we need to take to keep the formation flat and intact.

11 seconds. No waves of differing fall rates rolling across the bodies, resulting in a crack the whip like effect on the opposite side. The record. We only needed to hold it for 3 seconds, with everyone in the planned place. We got it together high enough to enjoy an extra 8 seconds of flying a “big way.”

At 5000 feet, the base begins to kick their legs, signaling the departure of the first wave of us on the outer rings of the formation. We will track away, and wait until 2500 feet to open our canopies. Subsequent groups leave in 500 foot increments, and will pull at 500 foot higher altitudes, to give each wave two dimensions, at a minimum, of separation. The base group stays together for a few more seconds, then tracks apart and opens at 2500 feet.

What next? Clear your airspace below (the low person has the right of way) and open at the assigned altitude. Commence hooting and hollering once you have a good canopy, head for a safe area to land, clearing other canopies as you need to.

Head back to the clubhouse, toss your gear on the packing mat and commence to congratulate those who did it. Smile with huge grin.

Find Sandy Wambach and tell her thanks for all her prep work to make this happen. Sandy, sadly is gone, but she was a special lady who just loved jumping and getting others together to do really big things. This was but one of many, many efforts she undertook for the love of the sport and the love of fun.

I think the record for largest formation for the state still stands.

I would have had some video clips, but have to capture them off the DVD recording from the original VHS tape. So far, my video editing software isn’t gonna cooperate, but one day…maybe the evidence will be here.

The next best part? The rest of the day to “fun jump” with lots of very experienced jumpers from all over the country.

Category: History, Skydiving | 1 Comment »

Technology Tuesday

October 23rd, 2007 by xformed

Someone had to test it….

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It’s not in English, but…when they hold up the < href=””>Icarus VX-39 canopy, it’s the one Luigi is jumping…

That number, 39, you ask? Stands for 39 square feet of surface area….if you must know.

Once I “trusted” my life to a “square” in the late 70’s, my first one was a 230 sq ft “Strato-Cloud.” Went to a 200 Sq Ft Pegasus, then a 150 sq ft Performance Designs Sabre 150 and (so far) ended with a Sabre 120. When I made that transition, I was doing about 160+ jumps/year and I was loading the wing up nicely, thank you. Exit weight was…how shall I say this…more than the “tail tag” said, but I flew it well and have no injuries, or even close calls, because of problems handling the canopy to discuss as a result.

Parachute technology in the civilian sector has come a long way since guys with hot knifes and a few C-9 (28 ft diameter) surplus military parachutes (still with lines, they didn’t chop them off back then) could slice out a few panels to see how they flew. My first “owned” parachute was in fact, a C-9, formerly white, but dyed maroon by the prior owner.

When “squares” appeared in the mid-70s, they had 5 “cells” (chambers). Most jumpers today have 9 cell canopies, but the “extreme” jumpers, who love the “swoop,” some of them use 21 cell versions, to get a thinner wing, and more “stiffness,” to generate better lift and speed. Some canopies have air locks, which, once the air is rammed in during the opening sequence to shape the cell, is trapped within, also providing a stiffer wing to the air, with improved performance.

“We” have come a long, baby!

Oh, and when you’re bored with your canopy’s performance, then you can strap on a “wingsuit” and have a “come to Jesus” experience…

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Helicopter not included…

Category: Skydiving, Technology, Technology Tuesday | 1 Comment »

And What a Glorious Day it Was 210 Years Ago

October 22nd, 2007 by xformed

Oct 22, 1797… The modern parachute is born as Andre-Jacques Garnerin makes the 1st human parachute descent from the air. Garnerin jumps from a hydrogen balloon at a height of 2,300 feet in Paris.

Hmmmmm….the development of a safety system for inherently dangerous modes of travel that defy gravity.

Now, just look at how it’s no longer the domain of surplus C-9 28′ canopies modified by a few brave and adventurous souls with hot knifes, but an industry of it’s own.

Category: History, Skydiving, Technology | Comments Off on And What a Glorious Day it Was 210 Years Ago

Aviation Quotes Online

October 15th, 2007 by xformed I’ve met a few who thought they were…anyhow…aviation quotes by category…

Category: Public Service, Quotes, Skydiving | Comments Off on Aviation Quotes Online

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