It was August 10, 2004, one of the middle days of the World Freefall Convention in Rantoul. Low clouds had socked in the airport, and after one or two hop-n-pop loads out of Mullins’ King Air, nobody was jumping. It looked like the beer light was going to come on early. And for some, it already had.
It was also the year of the American debut of the PAC 750 XL, the first airplane specifically designed for skydiving. Todd and I grabbed our rigs and strolled over to the PAC tent. Ray Ferrell said that he couldn’t find enough jumpers to get his plane off the ground.
Todd said: “I have an idea. Offer two hop-n-pops for the price of one jump ticket, and you’ll have people begging to get on your airplane.” Ray and his crew looked skeptical, but Todd persevered. “Trust me,” he said, “If there’s one thing I know, it’s skydivers.”
The PAC tent announced over the PA system that they were offering two-for-one jumps from 3,000 feet, and as Todd predicted, jumpers came running. The PAC 750 (the one with the red-yellow-and-blue paint job) was running nonstop loads up to the cloud deck. I think they flew over fifty hop-n-pop loads, half of them from 2,500 or less. Bob Stumm did ten hop-n-pops; Todd and I ripped off five or so apiece. And the people on the ground were treated to ten reserve rides in a six-hour period (luckily, with no injuries). The PAC 750 was a hit.
The load organizers challenged the Wissota crew to prove their “alleged” accuracy skills. They set a two-foot-diameter hula hoop in front of tent #1, and Todd, Bob, and I stomped the disk--one, two, three. Then we went back up and did it again. This time, the organizers tied a string to the hula hoop, and they tried jerking it away as we landed. However, they misjudged the speeds of our approaches, and all three of us hit the target a second time. Bob even snagged his foot on the hula hoop, dragging it a few feet before stumbling to a stand-up landing. Best of all, on our second accuracy load, Todd swooped in completely naked, in front of five hundred semi-drunk and fully-drunk spectators. People were laughing, cheering, and partying like it was Mardi Gras...all because of Todd.
Todd had taken what had started out as the worst day of the 2004 Convention, and single-handedly turned it into one of the most memorable days in the history of the world’s biggest boogie. He was one cool motherfu*#er.
Coda: The next year, Todd and I were lucky enough to be part of the world’s first formation load using two PAC 750 aircraft. The 20-way took place at East Troy, WI, on October 29, 2005.
I think the 2-for-1 helicopter jumps were later that week. It was a great whirlybird...a big old Sikorsky SK58. Great fun from two grand.
Todd and I and some others did chunk a 4-way from 3,000 that day, but I think we only turned two points. Four points sounds better. You know how skydivers are...ask me again in a couple of years, and I'll swear it was eight points.
I know it's technically the 5th, but happy 1st anniversary of your first AFF-I jump!! You were so happy after that first one, and I was so proud. Skydive Superior is still waiting for your case of beer!!!
Early on in Todd’s career, before he fully converted to skydiving, he had been equally obsessed with flying airplanes and jumping out of them. One day, he asked if I wanted to do a hop-n-pop, and film him flying his favorite airplane, 20-Bravo, also known as “the school bus,” for its lemon-yellow paint job. I said hell no.
Then Todd said that I could use his canopy, AND he’d pay for the jump. I should have been immediately suspicious, but who can turn down a free jump? I said hell yes. Todd took me up to 4,000 ft. It was just the two of us. I put on Todd’s video helmet, bailed out, and deployed right away.
As soon as the canopy was open, I realized what an idiot I was. Todd was the craziest pilot I knew, and I had just made myself a stationary target...a sitting duck. I thought about cutting away and pulling the reserve low to the ground. I also considered burying a toggle and spinning down, but the canopy was Todd’s 220 sq. ft. Fury—big and slow.
I heard the buzz of the Cessna engine grow louder behind me. I winced and prepared for the worst. The first fly-by wasn’t too menacing. He flew by on-level, and waved to me as he passed. Next, he tried some funky maneuvers for the camera: loops, barrel-rolls, even an Immelmann. On each pass, the airplane seemed dangerously close to my frail little body.
Finally, Todd flew towards the runway, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I had somehow come through unscathed. I began thinking about how good the beer was going to taste that night.
Then I heard the Cessna again. Todd was coming back for one last fly-by.
He approached from directly behind me, in my blind spot. I swiveled my head left and right, trying to catch sight of him. The airplane zoomed under my dangling legs and pulled up right in front of me, showing me the tops of the wings. Maybe it hadn’t been that close, but I actually lifted my feet so they wouldn’t hit the propeller.
After that last death-defying pass, Todd raced the plane to the ground. When I touched down in the landing area with shaky knees, Todd was waiting for me. He ran up and patted me on the back, laughing his ass off at my pale, sweaty face. I was too scared to be mad, but I swore I’d never let him trick me like that again...until the next time.
One winter at the DZ, I was bragging about my plans for a new rig. When I mentioned that I was going to have “666” embroidered on one of the mud flaps, Todd’s eyes lit up.
A few weeks later, Todd's new Javelin arrived in the mail. He opened up the package in front of everyone like it was X-mas morning. On the yoke, it said, “The Last Limey.” (long story) And I was shocked to see that he had a neon-green “666” on the mud flap. Todd had stolen my idea! The bastard!
However, this story has a happy ending. It was a couple of years later, at the WFFC in Quincy. We were riding to altitude, and I noticed that there was a priest sitting next to Todd. We were on the same load as a freefall wedding. The groom wore a black rig and a tuxedo jumpsuit. The bride was dressed in white lace, including veil, and her custom white rig had lace sewn onto the container.
The priest was a middle-aged skydiver with a normal black jumpsuit, into which he had inserted his white priest collar. He had a purple silk scarf around his neck, some kind of holy vestment. He firmly clutched a bible in one hand.
I pointed the priest out to Todd, and then reminded him that he had the Number of the Beast on his mud flap. For the first time in my life, I saw Todd become uncomfortable in a social situation. His face reddened. He covered the “666” with his hand.
I upped the ante and introduced myself to the priest. He told me a little bit about the marriage ceremony he was going to perform in freefall. Tom Sanders was shooting the video. I told the priest that my friend Todd had the Devil’s Number stitched onto his rig. Todd stared daggers at me. The priest started laughing, and Todd started breathing again. We soon realized that the "man of the cloth" had a great sense of humor.
Todd put on his full-face helmet, which had a $500 paint job of an evil dragon, with rows of teeth around the face shield. We got some hilarious pictures of Todd and the priest arm-in-arm, looking at each other. The priest is holding up his bible, and he has a mock-frightened look on his face, pretending to be afraid of the heathen scum. You could easily see the “666” on Todd’s rig, and through the tinted visor of his helmet, you could just make out his grinning face and squinty eyes.
A couple of years later, I discovered that it had been a fake wedding. The groom was Harry Parker, noted skydiver and B.A.S.E. jumper. They were creating an advertisement for Sun Path, makers of the Javelin. But it didn’t lessen the enjoyment of the story one bit for Todd and I. I used to have some photos of Todd and the priest...I wish I still had them.
Postscript—Years later, when Todd started working with students, MB (chief instructor) made him go over the “666” with a black magic marker to lessen its visibility.
Hi all, It is great to read your posts about Todd, good memories. He was always an inspiration to me in my flying career, and we shared the same passions of flying and skydiving. I editied a photo of his ash dive, and added three still shots from our last skydive together, and his last skydive ever. I think everyone will like it- I am going to give it to Chip in memory of Todd- because that is where his heart is. I got my medical back yesterday, so I can finally start flying again there, it wont be the same without Todd, but I know he would have been happy for me.
When freeflying was in its infancy, I told Todd that they would build a 100-way head-down formation someday. He said I was crazy, and that I didn't understand the aerodynamics of flight. At the time, the head-down record was an 8-way or 10-way.
Guess what, Toddley? They did it! They built a 108-way in Chicago. It feels good to rub it in, even if you can't defend yourself!
It’s hard to believe that Todd no longer exists, that his body has been immolated and his ashes separated, half buried in an undisclosed location, the other half scattered in freefall. I can still picture his smile, his goofy laugh, and the way he’d scratch his head when he was thinking hard. I remember his infectious enthusiasm for the sport, and the funny sound effects and hand gestures he’d incorporate into his stories.
It seems illogical to be shocked by his death. He lived a very full, but very dangerous life. Todd used to tell a story about a dirtbike accident when he was sixteen years old. He claimed that a tree branch went through part of his head, and he “flat-lined” two or three times in the ambulance (Todd-speak for “heart stopped”). Sometimes before a crazy stunt, he’d bring up the incident, saying, “Hey, I can do this. I’ve already been dead once.” Todd was utterly convinced of his invincibility, despite evidence to the contrary.
I was on the ground when he made his first B.A.S.E. jump, from a 2,000 foot radio tower. He almost died three times on the jump, nearly hitting the same guide-wire in freefall, upon deployment, and during landing. He also had numerous close calls performing hook-turn landings.
In 1998, he had a traumatic landing accident. One of his toggles came untied on his Jedei 105 on final approach. Todd bounced hard enough to snap a femur, crack some vertebrae, and shatter his pelvis. During exploratory surgery, the doctors removed his pancreas and god-only-knows what else. They also drilled holes in his head to relieve the pressure. He was in a coma for two weeks. I was in Todd’s room the first time his mother visited after he awoke. She said to Todd, “That’s it now, right? You’re done skydiving.” I will never forget Todd’s response. He said, “I will get back in the air as soon as possible. I will never quit skydiving until the day I die.”
I went through the rehabilitation process with Todd. I watched him learn how to walk again. When he took his first steps and fell down on his face, I started laughing. The physical therapist looked at me like I was a monster. I told her that if she knew Todd better, she’d understand.
You see, the accident had profoundly altered Todd’s personality. It was such a visible change that us skydivers called it Old Todd and New Todd. Old Todd had been cocky and egotistical, making many enemies in the sport. New Todd had a poor memory, which caused him to brainlock, and he sometimes had difficulty finishing his sentences. But in other ways, New Todd was an improved version. He became more tolerant, more humble, nicer to strangers, and more helpful to students. Most importantly, New Todd was a safer and more conscientious skydiver. About the only holdover from the old version was Todd’s inherent distrust of whuffos (even more than most of us).
And of course, New Todd still liked to swoop canopies. He was addicted to speed. Some people said he had a death-wish; I prefer to think of it as a life-wish. Todd had more metal in his body than most foreign cars. And in the end, it was the high-speed landings that got him.
It seems ironic, viewed in light of his first bounce, that on the jump on which he perished, he once again lost a toggle, this time while trying to perform a rear-riser landing. Todd’s death should be a teaching moment for other high-performance canopy pilots. Rule #1 of swooping: toggle security is paramount. DO NOT DROP A TOGGLE ON LANDING!!
Todd Jacobson died one year ago today. My monthly postings have been cathartic, but also painful to compose. It is time to move on, hopefully with a sense of closure. I will still post a comment or funny story every year on August 8th. Someday, I would like to find a way to give back to the sport that Todd loved so much. Perhaps I could put together a memorial boogie or swoop competition, maybe even a scholarship fund for poor student skydivers. Todd would have liked that.
I send my deepest condolences to Todd’s widow Lynn, a great woman who deserved more time with him. My heart also goes out to his extended family, to his friends, skydiver and whuffo alike, and to his ex-wife and two children, Skyler and Alex. Luckily, Skyler was old enough to have glorious memories of her father. Alex, on the other hand, was not so lucky. Hopefully, when Alex is older, he will have the opportunity to hear some stories and watch videos of his father’s skydiving exploits. Like Todd, I also hope that his children give skydiving a try someday; it’s definitely in their DNA.
Todd was truly one-of-a-kind. He made me the skydiver I am today, and the one I hope to be in the future. He was the best friend I ever had. I will never forget him.
Postscript – In the early 1990s, when Todd and I and the rest of the skydiving world were first learning how to swoop our canopies, Todd and I made a bet. Whoever died first, the survivor was mandated to piss on the grave of the one that “burned in.” This wager became infamous at our home DZ. Based upon Todd and my antics under canopy, others would adjust the odds and debate the outcome. Sometimes I was declared the front runner, but more often than not, it was Todd who was considered the “safe bet.” And now, though the wager is over, the winnings have yet to be collected. For some strange reason, no one will tell me the location of his gravesite.
Wow, hard to believe it's been a year already. The DZ's not the same without you. No one tries to sneak in a down-wind landing while Bob and Mary are up on a load anymore. I loved watching your landings, almost as much as I think you loved having landings that were worth watching. I remember my last jump with you. It was a 3-way with you and Bob. I was relaxing behind the pilot's seat on the climb to altitude listening to you and Bob chat. You said something that echoed my own sentiment perfectly. I don't remember the exact quote, but it was about how you had lived more life and done more things in your 39 years of life than most people would ever do if they lived to be 139. Reading all these wonderful stories about you and knowing what I know of you, I would say you summed it up pretty well. It reminds me of the line from the movie Braveheart, "Every man dies, not every man truly lives." You my friend truly lived! Blue skies brother!
One year, six days ago...in some ways seems like last week and in some ways seems like decades ago. I miss Todd like crazy mad and it seems like there isn't a minute that goes by that I still don't think about him.
I spent tne one year "AT" (After Todd) with the 3rd competition of the NPSL, flying inside center for Gang Green. Gang Green was Todd's team. I thought I'd never fly with Gang Green because it was Todd's team, Wissota's "A" team, but none the less, Todd's team. I wasn't particularily thrilled that a meet was scheduled for "that day". I imagined, and in some ways prefered, that I would spend that day alone with my head burried in a pillow and enough tears to later require me to change at least the pillow case. The meet was a blessing in disguise. Instead, I spent marking one year "AT" among family.
When couples are together, the age old bullshit saying about "what's mine is yours and what's your is mine" gets thrown around. Todd has his family, and I had mine, but truly, the skydivers were OUR family.
I am ever so grateful for what my and Todd's family have done for me, but it was good to be among our family on that day.
I'm not sure what tomorrow brings, but for today, I love all my families, and I love skydiving. And today, don't forget to hug the ones you love, for today isn't soon enough and tomorrow might be too late.
When Todd burned in, I searched the dz.com forums for posts written by him under his profile name "L.O."
At the time, the posts were too painful to read. Now, almost two years after his death, I have finally gotten around to reading all 446 of them. It was a truly amazing experience, sort of like time travel, as if Todd was speaking to me from the grave. He had me laughing, crying, and gnashing my teeth at the cruelty of the universe. Thankfully, due to Todd's offbeat worldview, I was mostly just laughing.
Here are a few classics:
Question: Will you jump Easter Sunday? Todd: It's on the weekend right?
Question: Have you been hurt jumping? Todd: I hit my head kinda hard once. Nothing a month in an induced coma didn't fix.
Question: Death is overrated. Who has been there and back? Todd: No bright lights. No flames and pitchforks. Just dead a little. No bigs.
Question: Is skydiving an extreme sport? Todd: The sport is mind-bendingly extreme. Of course for me, the drive to the end of the street is extreme.
Question: When did you stop being nervous? Todd: I feed on the fear of others. It's fun. If you're not afraid, you'll wreck my day.
Question: What should I do if I experience a side-by-side? Todd: Promise God you will start your CRW training as soon as you land safely.
Question: The doctor said I can't jump anymore. Todd: I don't have a spleen, my leg and wrist are held together with screws and bolts, and I have four plates in my head. So why can't you jump anymore?
Question: I can't believe I went five months without jumping. Todd: I spent sixteen months off because I couldn't walk. My first jump back was intoxicating like a good drug. Never take it for granted that you can skydive. It can be taken away so easily.
Question: After twenty years of jumping, I'm bored. Todd: This is not boring. Sometimes I wish it was. Let us know when you bowl your first perfect game.
Question: What are your thoughts on farting in the airplane? Todd: The only time I hold back is when everyone on the plane has more jumps than me. Viva la fart.
Question: Are you an exhibitionist? Todd: I consider skydivers my brothers and sisters, so they don't count.
Question: I had line twists on my first Mr. Bill. Todd: Good job surviving.
Question: Where do you want to travel the most? Todd: Anyplace with a nice DZ.
Todd: I am drunk, and take no responsibility for this post. It may be the truth, but I know it can never be.
In the early years of Todd's skydiving career, he was also one of the DZ's primary pilots. On weekdays, he often had to fly one of the Cessna jump planes to the mechanic's shop in a nearby town. On such occasions, Todd would invite me along for a free jump and some memorable aerobatic maneuvers.
During one of the transport flights, Todd said to me, "I'm going to break my record for most barrel rolls!" He ripped off about twenty spins, pinning me to the floor of the aircraft. Then he said, "Now I"m going to break my record for most loops!" We did at least five or six loops in total. After we landed, Todd told me that he wasn't supposed to do loops because a Cessna is not rated for negative g-force, and the tail could snap off. Good to know.
Another time, Todd climbed onto the step of a Cessna and shut the door behind him. He was wearing his camera helmet, as usual. Then Todd hung onto the wing strut for dear life while the pilot performed a barrel roll with the airplane. It was stupid and dangerous, but it made for some incredible video footage. He used to play the video at the DZ every weekend, but only after the students and whuffos had left for the evening.
I don't think anyone that met Todd for more than a few minutes could really forget. He always had a story about something that many skydivers would call crazy, but that he had actually done. He sure made the dropzone and anywhere he was at the time more fun for everyone. I always enjoyed his antics. When on a long car ride with Todd and a couple other jumpers; we came up with some interesting ideas on how to solve some of the worlds problems, to put it in non-offensive words. (AFB)
When on a long car ride with Todd and a couple other jumpers; we came up with some interesting ideas on how to solve some of the worlds problems, to put it in non-offensive words. (AFB)
That conversation went about an hour and a half too long, but none the less was a great and relevant conversation. I think Todd made referece to the AFB in his signture line on dz.com.
For just $99 today...
Thanks for bringing up that memory, Paul.
And Erik, that video footage of Todd on the strut during the barrel roll...One of the first videos I every saw when I started jumping (along with the tandem you did with the school principal where you bite his hand). They're both on the computer in the student room, and are watched several times a year.
Most people that I have met or will meet dislike me immediately. I am smarter than most people but I can't do most crossword puzzles or make change in my head. When I go most people will not acknowledge ever meeting me but the operative word is "go". I am going to stick around until I can beat old George Bush at jumping. I don't like most people and they don't like me, even my wife says she can't stand me except on payday. I ave made a couple thousand jumps but neve with a friend.
That's sad hymandd732, I have made jumps with those I love, have made jumps with those I like, and I have jumped with those that can annoy the hell out of me, I have jumped with those I do not know and I have jumped with those that love me and I have jumped with those that do not know me but I have always considered them a friend in the air. Todd- not sure why this was posted on your thread, but bsbd and I did want you to be my rigger but never got around to it. :-)
Three years ago today Todd cutaway from this dimension and tracked off to the great beyond. It's still hard to believe that he’s gone...when I think of the drop zone on Lake Wissota, he's the first person that I think of.
As stated in earlier posts, Todd was a big fan of naked jumps. One day we were doing an 8-way formation load from two Cessnas for Amy Plagge's jump #400. Todd and I were in the chase plane, and Amy was in the base plane.
On the way to altitude, Todd and I talked about how we should have done a naked 8-way. Then, just a few minutes before jump run, we decided to do just that. We both removed our rigs, stripped off our jumpsuits, and then put our rigs back on just as the door was coming open. Talk about last-minute planning. It was awesome seeing the looks on the faces of the four people in the base when Todd and I came swooping in buck naked. Bob, the guy wearing the camera helmet, tried his best to keep Todd and I out of frame and just film the 6-way. It was one of the funniest jumps I've ever been a part of.
Blue skies, Todd. We all miss you. This dimension is less exciting without you.