New German National Big Way Formation Record Set
Photo: Wolfgang Mueller
Photo: Wolfgang Mueller
Photo: Daniel Ramsbott
From November 2-11, 2006, I gathered with German jumpers at Skydive Arizona in Eloy to build a new German Record. Main organizer, Dieter Kirsch, planned a 150 (156) big way formation with the goal to beat the previous 122-way German performance in 2004 over Dubai, United Arab Emirates. After eleven training jumps in smaller groups, we succeeded in our sixth attempt and established a new record of 156. Except for the training dives, all record jumps were executed from 18,000 feet with a fleet of seven airplanes consisting of Skyvans and Otters. This achievement set the largest national record worldwide.
An outstanding organization, a positive team spirit, and a superb catering service turned this event into an unforgettable blast. Dieter got us the DC3 hangar where we briefed, packed, hung out, and took our meals. Skydive Arizona supplied several huge big screen TVs for the debriefs.
After three days of training jumps from 14,000 feet, we finally started the record attempts. Disquiet whackers, jumpers going low, or maybe even oxygen deprivation (wrong breathing) caused the the first five attempts to fail. Nevertheless, the team spirit remained high, and everybody was focused. Then, November 7th, around high noon, we took the second plunge of the day: the formation was coming together smoothly, no tension, no movements in the whackers. I took my grip on Helmut, looked around, and I saw nobody below, above, or outside of the formation. I did not see anybody tracking away either. "This is it," I thought, and suddenly it seemed as if all freefall noise ceased to exist. Everything turned quiet, yet an intense electricity ran through my entire body. It is difficult if not impossible to describe this feeling! We held the formation for three seconds before "Mausi" pulled the first chute.
After landing in the desert, everybody was cheering, hugging, and kissing. "I think we did it," was proclaimed from all sides. It took about an hour of patience and waiting before Dr. Rainer EXI Hoenle (judge) announced the 156 record to be official!
It was party time! We had our own "beer truck" inside the DC3 hangar, an iPod connected to a small stereo system, and while people were calling home to spread the news, Dieter explicitly warned not to take any beer outside of the hangar, for regular jump activities were still running. The pool at the DZ became a major attraction for many of us. Believe it or not, two jumpers managed to climb on top of the pool’s tiny service building, launched a linked side-body and then transitioned to the front in "freefall" before hitting the water. Uh yeah.
The next day we rested or, among other activities, made some fun jumps from the DC3. On Thursday, November 9th, an extensive group photo session commenced; despite the dust, the black, red, and yellow jumpsuits seemed to radiate more than before. Then we got ready for another attempt: let’s try an even number of 160!
Half an hour later we climbed back inside the airplanes and rode to altitude. We added a King Air as the eighth plane to the formation. The first attempt failed. However, we decided to make one more jump: everything came together smoothly, electricity ran through our bodies again, but the video analysis showed a wrong leg grip and a missing grip. Oh well. In other words, we completed an unofficial 158-way.
With that day our record jumps came to an end. Great memories of the past days will remain, and they will induce a never- ending internal smile. Most people prepared to return to Germany, while I got ready to head back northeast to Jumptown in Orange, MA. For the official record jump itself, it is probably safe to say that I was the only participating German permanently living in the U.S.A. It is also true that it has been a long time since I dwelled among so many of my fellow country men.
I would like to thank Dieter Kirsch and the team Daedalus for their exceptional organization and efforts. I also extend my gratitude to the staff of Skydive Arizona who ensured a smooth flowing action. Maybe, one day, we all come together again and fly a 180-way or 200-way...
Thank you all for this experience!
Blue Skies, Andreas D-21624
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