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    The AFF Two-Step

    Receiving an AFF Instructor rating is one of the pinnacle points of a skydiver’s continuing education and experience in the sport skydiving world, and has been a personal goal of mine for approximately two years. I was sure that the moment I had six hours of freefall time and my C license, I'd be able to knock this thing out fast.
    How wrong I was...


    This badge is likely the most expensive badge in the
    skydiving world
    When I first began skydiving, I was presented with the opportunity to spend some time in the tunnel at Perris, CA, with Ed Dickenson and Jay Stokes. I immediately took Ed up on his very generous offer to help me in my progression towards being a camera flyer. At 27 jumps, I entered the tunnel to learn some of the techniques I’d later use to fly with tandems, four-way, and fun jumpers. The video is hilarious.While I waited for Ed, we hung out at the school in Perris, and I overheard many conversations taking place between students and instructors. It was at that point I decided to become an instructor. Jay Stokes, Ed Dickenson, and Jack Guthrie all encouraged me to look towards that goal, yet six hours of freefall and a C license seemed so far away at that point, it quickly fell off the radar. I was having a hard time waiting for my 200th jump just so I could put on a camera anyway, let alone being an instructor.When I hit 200 jumps, I immediately got my coach rating. Alright! I was prepared to be unleashed on unsuspecting just-off-AFF-students.My first coach jump went great and filled me with a confidence that I had never before experienced. My third coach jump didn’t go so well with me finding myself very low, opening at an altitude that got me grounded for the weekend. Little lessons seemed to constantly present themselves. Although most of my wingsuit coach jumps have gone well, I once took a student with only 160 jumps. Bad decision; he had a cutaway (on a rig he'd borrowed from me) and I'm grateful that's all that occurred. I grounded myself for the weekend, and learned that lesson the hard way.It seems like most of us have stories like that; this one was my moment of enlightenment.
    Over the next two years opportunity to teach, be taught, sit in on teaching experiences, and grow within the sport continually presented themselves. Like many skydivers, I surely thought I “had it all” in the 500 jump range when in truth, I was merely beginning to understand how much more there was to learn. As one skydiver repeated over and over (and over), “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Well…he’s right. I was discovering how little I knew, how far I had to go, and I was finding myself on the road of discovery.Being part of the qualification process for the 71 Way Wingsuit World Record opened my eyes to what good wingsuit instruction could be. I gained information over the last year that is integral to the first flight process as well, taking instruction from Scott Campos, Scott Callantine, Sean Horton, Justin Shorb, Jeff Nebelkopf, Scotty Burns, and several other very experienced wingsuit coaches. Like most skydivers, I've experienced great coaching and not-so-great coaching in my skydiving progression.
    Being present when a friend was part of a tragic incident at the start of the year convinced me that I needed to know more about instruction, and I began looking at available AFF course opportunities. At the PIA conference, USPA President Jay Stokes informed me that Certification Unlimited (Jay’s instructional entity) was putting up a Coach and AFF course at Skydive Arizona in the following weeks. Timing was going to be tough, as I had some minor surgery scheduled, but I was excited to take advantage of the closeness of the opportunity, at one of my favorite dropzones, and in warm weather while it was freezing back home.


    Image Left to Right:
    Alex Chrouch, Jay Stokes, Craig Girard, Kelly Wolf, Nikos, Eliana Rodrigues, Douglas Spotted Eagle

     
    Arriving in Eloy on a Saturday, I was completely pumped to start my education then and there. After all, I have 1300 jumps, 19 hours of freefall time in a couple of years, so this was going to be a fun cakewalk, right? I mean, I’ve got more than three times the requisite hours, lots of experience teaching, how hard could it really be? I’d taught parts of many First Jump Courses, taught many wingsuit students, and sat in on several courses. I knew I was ready.
    How incorrect my thought process would prove to be.
    Jay began with the syllabus and schedule for the course. It was daunting, but still appeared to be not insurmountable.
    We did a bit of class work that night but the real class began in earnest Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. with the dew wet on the grass, sunrise barely behind us, and no coffee in sight, Jay smacked the class between the eyes with a number of videos that showed why the AFF program is so important, why the training would be very precise, and why each jump would be rated with “Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory” with no grey areas. “I’d bust my own mother if she wasn’t doing it right” is something we’d occasionally hear. And I believe it, but wasn’t intimidated by the concept. In fact, the only thing that had me intimidated was learning that repeat World Champions Craig Girard and Eliana Rodriguez were in my class. It’s somewhat difficult for a Hyundai to shine when parked between two Ferrari’s, right?
    I knew I’d nail this stuff in a heartbeat. The written test was a cakewalk, just missing one question. And that question used math.
    To say “I suck at math” would be akin to suggesting that “Omar is an OK skydiver.”I use a calculator for two plus two. True story. The ground training process is specific, but I’m used to this stuff, it’s pretty basic if you have the program down (thanks TDog, for providing some good pointers).Passing the written test indeed was a cakewalk compared to what came next... the in-air practicals.
    Game-on, kids….We were assured the first jump would be our one opportunity to experience a “good student practice jump” where the student would behave and do essentially everything instructed, exactly as instructed.True to his word, Jay jumped like a perfect student. I was on the main side, Alex on reserve side.The jump went well from the Otter; no exit problems, the student responded perfectly to my signals, even if I was a little amped and anxious on this first jump. I thought Alex and I were a solid team. Suffice it to say that Alex did an outstanding job of flying his slot, keeping eye contact with his partner (me) and of doing his part in keeping our “student” corralled.Next jump, Jay paired me and a different partner with Kelly, a newly-minted AFF Instructor Evaluator.She went out the door with legs both bent forward at unique angles, arms in every direction but straight forward, and the only guarantee we had was that she wouldn’t roll onto her back during this practice jump.
    Manhandling her into a level position without punching her required a great deal of strength. My partner lost his grip, floated up, and next thing I knew, I was alone with my student. I wasn’t going to let her go, except I was required to. And did so.She flew away, turning like a propeller just starting up and gathering speed as she backslid, turned, and orbited. I knew I had fewer than 15 seconds to catch her (which sounds like an eternity, but in truth, it’s the blink of an eye for the second jump as an AFFI Candidate). I caught up and had her blocked in a few short moments, but those same moments seemed like an eternity in themselves. She grinned and decided to go the other way. I think what troubled me wasn’t that the grin was mischievious; it was evil, clearly payback for what she had been subjected to as an AFF candidate. Cruel, cold, calculated evil. But we were having fun, right? My partner was floaty, at least 20’ up and 20’ out from where our student was spinning, but he did eventually make it most of the way back in. I ended up on the reserve side after her spins and subsequent blocks, and so the dance at the bottom was a little different; it was my first experience with dancing on the left. I pulled the handle, deploying my student and she looked at me with a grin that made the previous evil smile appear to be innocent; I’d failed to ride through the actual deployment. The triumph I’d felt at properly feeling the rhythm and cadence of the dance evaporated like palm sweat in a 120 mph wind.
    Moving on before I exaggerate more than I already am….let’s look at the third jump of the afternoon.
    It was beautiful. Stunning. The sort of sun and sky that Eloy is famous for, and it was about to be spoiled. This time, I had no partner and no one on whom to place blame for the carnage that was about to occur. Combat Wingsuiting, combat RW could not have prepared me for a single, main side exit in which my student extended arms straight forward, legs nearly as much so, almost as if she’d been laid over top of a fence to dry, face down. I muscled her so that she remained belly to earth and she obviously didn’t like that action very much. She immediately pretzeled her legs with the right leg looking like it was flying over a hurdle in a heat, and the other leg bent 45 degrees forward and bent again at the knee. It was like she was performing a classic freestyle position but on her belly instead of her toes pointing straight down. Arms were practically folded above her head, and it was all I could do to force an arch. Duh…throw a hand signal and there might not be quite so much force necessary….
    Thumb down, she arched like a pro. “Today’s skydive is brought to you by the letter ‘U’” as she arched so hard that she plummeted. Thank heaven I hadn’t asked her to wear the lead. I don’t like lead much, and my fall rate range is pretty broad. All those tandems and AFF videos have helped.
    OK, she’s settled out. Calm, flying great, she gets a thumbs up and a terror-laced grin from her instructor. I give her signals to do a practice pull and toe taps. She does great and so therefore has earned a release. I released and she backslid from the moment I let go of her harness. Damn, that girl is fast, but so am I. I chased her with a side-slide, threw her a legs-out signal. Wow….look at her move forward! Faster than she was going backwards. Now, I’m orbiting and don’t even realize it until I’m looking at her butt in my windshield. So…forward I go, and out goes the hand signal for arch; I was behind her. She didn’t have a rear-view mirror so my only option was to slide sideways, slide my left hand under the BOC as I started to slide past, and toss her another “arch” symbol. Whew! She settled out….Mr Toad couldn’t have had more of his way with me than Kelly did on that skydive.
    And that was just the first day….
    Variations on the theme make for a colorful tale; the ground experiences as we prepped to get into the aircraft were equally interesting but it would spoil the movie if I share too many of the instructor’s tricks as they acted the part of wayward students. Suffice it to say that they’re there to help you succeed, but also there to allow you to fail if you’re not on your toes and looking out for the best interests of the student at all times. The dives aren’t about you, they’re about being sure your student is getting the appropriate attentions and instruction at all times.
    I won’t bore you with further details of the skydives because they’re all about the same sort of story; carnage, deceit, evil appropriations of an examiner that demands you be able to drive forward in a sideslide while dropping like a stone to do an assisted rollover as they’re spinning with a maniacal grin, laughing at the poor sap chasing them. It’s like “Hare and Hound” with Dr. Dimento as the wily rabbit, always one step ahead. Just as you catch up, they cooperate. In the moment you breathe a sigh of relief, they’re on to the next trick. Carly Simon going through my head with “Anticipation…”
    Lest you think I exaggerate too much, grab any AFF instructor who has had Jay’s program or anyone who Jay has taught. They’ll tell you I’m not kidding and if truth be told, I’m underselling the experience.
    Lemme share a small story; If you deploy your instructor/student “for real” by pulling their hackey, it’s an automatic Unsatisfactory and regardless of whether you did everything previous right or not, you weren’t successful on this skydive due to that one fairly significant factor. “Students” wear a simulated hackey that AFF candidates are required to pull at a specific point in the skydive. AFF Candidates will hold the simulated hackey handle til they meet up with the instructor on the ground.Jay didn’t care for the fact that I kept stuffing the hackey handle down my pants when it came time for my own deployment. On my last skydive, we’re standing in the door of the aircraft and my ‘student’ is going through “check out” and in his up/down/arch mode when I realize there is no simulated hackey visible on his main-side lateral.I’m screwed. I absolutely must deploy my student at the bottom of the skydive. I must pull the simulated hackey and show the instructor that I pulled and that I rode through the deployment. That small handle is the proof in the putting that I did exactly as I was trained to do.
    In other words, those handles are important.
    What to do, what to do?
    Worry hammered me throughout this skydive, my last in the series of eval dives. With a “Satisfactory” I’ll be able to catch my flight scheduled to leave Sky Harbor in about two hours. If I get an “Unsatisfactory,” I’m not going home and believe me, the price for that would be very high. I have commitments outside of skydiving, y’know?
    The point of do or die is one that lasts for about three seconds or 500 feet. I make my decision and dammit, I’m sticking to it. Maybe.
    I reach for my student’s leg gripper, look at my altimeter and begin the process. I’m counting down. By now, the “dance” is so freakin’ ingrained in my head that I’m doing it in my sleep, so much so that I’m convinced I did it perfectly on this skydive even though video shows I didn’t.
    Reaching over to where the simulated hackey was supposed to be, I spied it turned behind the lateral.
    Gave it a yank at the last possible moment, and proudly raised the simulated hackey as I ducked my head beneath his deployment hand (the last thing you want to experience is a bridle wrapping around your neck, or having the deploying hand knock you in the side of the head; it might be construed as interfering with the student).
    And rode out his deployment. The last thing I remember seeing as my instructor lifted above my head was his look of wide eyes, pointed finger, open mouth, and the smile on his face. We got to the ground, I watched my student land, and debriefed the skydive.Mirth in my instructor’s eyes, he says “Nice job. Now tell me what you didn't like about that skydive."A grin crossed his face told me he was well aware of the location of the simulated hackey. And, I knew I’d passed the program at that point.A wave of relief passed over me and I felt like falling to my knees and crying myself dehydrated, but I doubt any moisture would have come forward. I’d forgotten to rehydrate in my excitement of this last day. I was drained. I was pwn’d. I was reduced to jelly and tissue in this last moment. No way, no how would I have signed up for this experience had I really known what was in store for me, of this I was sure. All week.
    But…
    At the end of the week’s worth of mental, physical, and emotional torture, after hearing Lou Gossett in my subconscious screaming “I WANT YOUR D.O.R.!!!,” I’m a better skydiver. I’m a better person, and I’m a more informed instructor. I now know a little more about what I don’t know. As I said before, I'm now firmly on the road to discovery. "SATISFACTORY" or "UNSATISFACTORY", anyone who endures the process will come out a better person on the other side of the hellfire. I promise.
    I now have a new respect for those that have undergone this process before me. I understand why they are looked to with a unique sense of appreciation at every dropzone, I understand that the program is as much or more about teaching the next step in the educational process of qualified skydivers as it is about providing a license to teach the uninitiated. The AFF rating is a license to teach but it’s more a license to learn. In roughly 18 skydives, I learned a lot about what students can and will do. I learned how to best manage those situations with my new found abilities, and learned that if in 18 controlled scenarios I could learn this much, how much can I learn in a year, two years, five years of teaching a variety of students? I’m excited at the prospect.
    Respect and appreciation is due where it’s due, and I’ll take the opportunity to point out that as skydivers, we all have foundations made up of the bricks of those around us. Jack Guthrie, Jay Stokes, Ed Dickenson, Norman Kent, Mike McGowan, Debbie Z, Lance B, Kelly W, Joey, Chris, Phil, Blake, Craig, Eliana, Alex (I’ll jump with you any day, kid), Nikos, Jeff, Justin, Scotty, Scott, Chuck, friends on dropzone.com…and so many others are the bricks that have helped pave the road on which I have driven as a skydiver seeking more knowledge. I don’t know how to thank you all for the inspiration beyond paying it forward and being the best instructor I can be as you have been great instructors in my life. OK, enough lovefest. Thank you.
    It's the little things that make the difference on a skydive whether for the better or worse. Taking instructon from Norman Kent's camera course that taught me to anticipate movement, taking instruction from Ed in the tunnel that helped me develop a very high range of fall rate for a heavy person, and being part of numerous FJC and FFC courses helped me develop a comfortable ground patter and rhythm. All the pre-AFF prep you can do, I recommend you take the time to do it. You'll be glad you did.
    Whether you went through AFF, Static Line, IAD, take a moment to thank your instructors; they worked hard to get to where they are, to be at a point where they can intelligently and safely teach others, including yourself. It’s a big, dangerous world out there and instructors walked just a few feet ahead of you, checking to make sure it’s the best environment within which we all learn. Buy em’ a beer, give em a smile, even if it’s been a long time passed by.



    Receiving my rating from Jay Stokes, Certification Unlimited (and current President/USPA)

    In the event you’re wondering by now, students are a little less safe; I squeezed through my AFFI course. It’s an expensive patch and logbook endorsement, but one I urge towards anyone with an inkling to teach.
    I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.
    Blue skies and puffies....
    ~dse

    By DSE, in News,

    Dean Potter and Graham Hunt Killed in Yosemite BASE Accident

    Dean Potter's Moon WalkWorld reknowned extreme athlete Dean Potter was among the two people killed this weekend during a BASE jump in Yosemite Valley. Potter and Graham Hunt passed away on Saturday when attempting a night time wingsuit jump from Taft Point, a 7,500 foot exit point within the Yosemite National Park. The incident occurred on early Saturday night, and at 21:00, after both Potter and Hunt failed to respond to radio calls, the park officials were informed. Shortly after search and rescue crews had begun searching. The search crews were able to deploy aerial assistance on Sunday morning, when a search helicopter then spotted the bodies of both Potter and Hunt, reportedly with their parachutes undeployed.
    At the time of publication, there was still little information as to what may have happened during the flight that would cause both individuals to suffer the same fate, with both parties having extended knowledge of the area and geography, though it is speculated that the two BASE jumpers had undertook a more challenging line in their wingsuit flight from Taft Point, where it is currently illegal to BASE jump.
    While both Potter and Hunt were well known for their climbing and BASE jumping adventures, Potter was often seen as a face of the Yosemite climbing community, having established himself as a leading climber over the years and widely being considered one of the greatest climbers of his era. He dropped out of college to persue his climbing, where he grew his love of free climbing, speed climbing and slacklining. He later began BASE jumping, and became well known for his close relationship with his dog Whisper, who he would BASE jump with. Potter had an impressive record of first ascents and some unbelievable free solo climbs under his belt; it would be hard to argue that he was one of the best at what he did.
    Potter was no stranger to controversy and both his BASE jumping and climbing decisions landed him in some hot water. His BASE jumps with Whisper lead to an outcry by some, while sponsor Clif Bar severed their sponsorship with Potter, because they wanted to distance their brand from BASE jumping and the associated dangers that is poses. He caused the biggest stir when he free solo climbed Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.
    Douglas Spotted Eagle wrote a piece on the life of Graham Hunt which is published on Basejumper.com, an excerpt of which reads:
    "Graham was a skydiver and BASE jump/wingsuit pilot, but what he was also well-known for, is his climbing ability. Whether climbing a rock carrying a chainsaw as a firefighter, or simply needing to get to the exit point, Graham excelled as a freeclimber. His strength seemed almost inhuman.
    He first came to Skydive Elsinore in 2012 with a tracking suit in hand, and was a machine. Jump, pack, jump pack. Graham didn't socialize much, but always had a smile on his face and was very approachable. His girlfriend asked me to help her pick out a birthday gift for him, and he received an L&B; Altitrack for his birthday that year. He asked me to help him figure out how to look at the data, and in the same conversation, asked about a first flight course. Graham seemed extremely heads up during his first flight course, and I attributed that to him being a very aware tracking suit pilot. Later I learned that he'd previously had a first flight course before he had 200 jumps, at another dropzone. I asked him why he had asked for a first flight course with me, and he answered "I heard you do it differently, and I'm looking for all the knowledge I can find." Read More
    Tributes for the duo poured in over social media:




    By admin, in News,

    GRAVITAS - LED Wingsuit Video

    Regardless of how you feel about the sponsor giant, Redbull have continued to show what a large budget can do in terms of both stunt orchestration and production quality of video footage. One of Redbull's latest productions, titled GRAVITAS, puts together the ingredients of wingsuit pilots, drum and bass and LED lights to create some stunning skydiving eye candy.
    According to Redbull.com, the pilots, Marco Waltenspiel, Georg Lettner, David Hasenschwandtner and Dominic Roithmair exited at 13 000 feet with LED lit wingsuits. Once in flight they began their choreographed maneuvers to the music of Camo & Krooked.
    Other companies involved in the project include Paranormal Unicorn and Frame Fatale.

    By admin, in News,

    The Journey of an AFF Student - Part 3

    This article follows a previous article of an AFF journal submitted by John McDarby. We hope sharing this series of articles detailing the experience of his journey may be able to provide some insight into those looking to do their AFF course, while also entertaining those who have been through the process.
    AFF2 – Sunday 10th May

    Awesome - even better than awesome.
    That’s the best jump ever.

    Better than the tandem and miles ahead of AFF1.
    Very nervous during the climb - I was surprised how much so - much more so than AFF1. My instructor spotted this and told me to slow my breathing, deep breaths and just relax.
    Once we got to "2mins to door" I was actually in great form and ready to nail it.

    I got a super exit, good COA and then a 90 degree left turn, then a bit of forward tracking. All good and a nice, clean deployment - mellow canopy ride down and soft landing skidding onto my butt, not a bother.
    The wind was a different direction, southerly and our landing area is E-W so it means we're landing short ways rather than with the length of the runway.

    That just made me a fraction more nervous coming in - but even short ways, there was tons of room - which my instructor told me afterwards and I agreed - it won’t be a concern the next time.
    All in all, I am utterly delighted with that jump - it was fantastic!
    Damn, this is fun.
    AFF3 – Sunday 24th May

    I had almost zero nerves on the climb – very strange – if on a scale of the dentist 100% being dentist scared, on AFF2 I would have been about 35% - nice and nervous but not wetting myself – for this, I’d say I was about 5% - I was very confident that I knew my job and what was required – “now just do it”.
    Again, my instructor said during the climb “just do your job – nothing else” – it’s all very matter of fact – there is no pissing about when it comes to the task at hand – there is lots of laughing and messing – it’s a fun sport after all – but when you’re one on one, its do it by the numbers and do it right.
    When you go to the door “ok John, to the door please” you already have switched off all thoughts of “Jesus man, I’m jumping out of a plane” you just shuffle to the door and get into position and then start your drill – it’s that simple – in fact, it’s kind of surreal – you’re not really there – it’s like you’re looking at yourself from a distance or something – maybe like being a soldier where they just follow orders without question.

    I think, once you get on the plane, that’s it – you’re not coming back down in it – I think if you did, you’d have to leave the club – nobody would rip you to your face because you can’t really laugh at someone for NOT leaving a plane – but you’d definitely be the talk of the hanger – for five minutes anyway until they all rip on someone else – haha.
    So we exit, get stable and after a short time, my reserve side instructor backs off, I’m still steady, then main side pulls away. I make an unintentional left turn which I work out and bring back.
    Then the guys come in again for deployment.
    Deployment was fine, did my 4 count and looked up – total line twists – oh no – I don’t need this. There was no mistaking it. It was exactly as we’d been shown in class. I didn’t panic or freak out. That’s not really my nature in any situation. And I’ve been in some snowy mountain situations that were not pleasant.

    So I did exactly as I was taught to do. I commenced my post deployment checks – canopy, cells, lines, slider – all good. Check for line twists, full on twists. Damn. I’m not sinking or spinning in any dramatic fashion, I’ll come back to them.
    Harness checks – all good. Quick look around for traffic, all clear. Now, let’s deal with these twists.

    I wasn’t happy with them and I wished they hadn’t happened on just my third jump – but they had, and I needed to deal with them, and now.
    Reaching up with both hands, I grabbed the lines by groups and began pulling apart. A little movement but needs more. I tried again but this time along with some kicking in the opposite direction.
    Moving...moving...and we’re clear! I popped into the normal position and all was good above me.

    Releasing the toggles, I performed a couple of flares, determined we were all good, and my first “major drama” in skydiving was passed!
    In hindsight, it was good that this happened as it demonstrated to me that the instruction is good and to be taken as fact. That if you do what you are taught to do, you will reduce the risk and make a favourable outcome more likely.
    If I thought AFF2 was good, then this was miles ahead!
    So much so, that I went and bought the hardback logbook, goggles, helmet, altimeter and gloves!
    I’ve now made the commitment!
    Part 4 will be published shortly, keep an eye out on the dropzone.com homepage to follow John's journey through AFF

    By admin, in News,

    Eliana Rodriguez - As Bright as the Sunshine

    Eliana’s huge smile is nearly as bright as the sunshine here in Arizona. Although she may be shy, she shares that smile on a daily basis. The warmth of that smile is inviting and uplifting to those around her. Most that have flown with Eliana would say they find her to be a gentle spirit in what is predominately a male sport filled with "A" type personalities. Her easy manner makes her approachable. Oh, and did I mention that smile…?
    My first experience jumping with Eliana was a real treat.
    Age: 29

    Height and Weight: 5’6 140lbs.

    Birthplace: Passaic, New Jersey

    Marital Status: Single

    Team: Arizona Airspeed

    Position: Tail

    Jumps: 4,000+
    Neither of us at the time were proficient free fliers, but we managed to pull off a three way. We had a lot of fun doing it and captured the jump with stills and video. I am happy to report that both of our skills have improved over the years, and we can actually be in the same skydive together! Not too long ago, Eliana, Craig Girard, Omar Alhegelan and I all went out and played a game of 'follow the leader.' We all giggled watching Omar and trying to imitate his flying, with us looking like fish out of water as he performed loops, spins and twists with ease. There is much to be said about this woman from New Jersey who had big dreams and made the sacrifices to achieve them. The following is a brief overview of that journey.
    Eliana was born in Passaic, New Jersey on Oct.1, 1974. Her parents, both from Colombia came to the U.S. in hopes of finding a better life. From the age of two to twelve her father moved the family back and forth from Connecticut to Rhode Island, always in search of a better job. After multiple trips to visit family in Colombia, Eliana’s father decided he wanted to move back to his homeland. The family took one final family trip to Florida to see Disney World, and her parents loved it so much that in 1988 they moved to Kissimmee, Florida rather than Medellin, Colombia.
    During Eliana’s senior year in high school she was unsure about what career path she wanted to follow so she decided to join the army rather than attending college like most of her friends. She said the army offered her financial aid for school which she really needed, the opportunity to do some traveling and also the opportunity to take airborne training. She asked her recruiter about it and he suggested Eliana request airborne school after basic training.
    Eliana was stationed at Fort Bragg in 1993 and it appeared as though airborne might finally become a reality. Upon her arrival to her unit she requested airborne school and it was approved. Unfortunately, shortly after she had her physical the army realized that she had less than a year left in the military. Eliana would need to re-enlist in order to be sent to airborne school. Eliana declined the offer, as she wanted to attend college.
    Eliana still wanted to skydive and so did some of her co-workers. After many attempts to try and get a group of people together she finally decided to go to the drop zone by herself. On October 1, 1995 she did a tandem jump in Raeford, North Carolina. While leaving the drop zone a member of the army parachute team who had been on the same plane ride up to altitude asked her if she enjoyed the jump and if she was going to go through the AFF course. She told him she loved the jump but couldn’t afford the course due to the fact that she was only an E-4 in the military. He told her about the 82nd Freefall Activity which is a military skydiving club. He said they had a static line program which was less expensive than the AFF program and that the jumps were discounted because it was a military club and she was in the army. Eliana told him she was definitely interested and he introduced her to one of the head instructors that happened to be standing just a few feet away. And so it began.
    On April 24, 1996 was discharged from the military and returned to Kissimmee, Florida where she attended Valencia Community College in Orlando jumping as much as she could afford. She worked in a few different places but finally settled down in a restaurant as a waiter and bartender. Eliana would make the trek to Titusville every weekend even if she could afford to make only one jump.
    In 1998 a Skyventure wind tunnel was being built in Orlando about 20 minutes from where she lived. A friend of hers from the drop zone suggested that she apply for a job there. Eliana felt that she was too inexperienced, but her friend insisted that she would be great for the job. When she gave the General Manager her resume the next day, she was immediately hired. While working at the tunnel Eliana became friends with the managers’ girlfriend who was also a skydiver. She was starting a 4-way team both for fun and to improve her skills. Eliana mentioned that she thought that would be fun and some day that she too would like to do the same. In December, 1998, Eliana started training with team Illusions, which consisted of Cecilia Ferrer, Cathy Hodge, and Rachel Vivier. Kurt Gaebel was their coach. They made about 50 training jumps together and had attended a few Florida Skydiving League (FSL) meets when Eliana’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Eliana quit the team, jumping, work and school and took care of her mother for the next four months until her mother’s death.
    In September, 1999, Eliana resumed her work at Skyventure and once again the opportunity to get on a team presented itself. She declined due to financial restraints, not having worked for four months. Team Kinetisis was still short one team member as the season started. When asked if she could fill in for the first meet of the season, she did and was hooked again. After the first two training camps some personnel changes needed to be made. Two of her tunnel co-workers joined the team and they became Deland Tunnel Rage (with Thomas Hughes, Glenn Mendez, and Kyle Starck).
    Deland Tunnel Rage was a very unique team because most of the members had very few jumps, with little to no experience in 4-way. Since most of the team worked at the tunnel and Glenn flew there regularly they all had very good individual flying skills. What they needed was to learn to fly as a team. The team agreed to hire Shannon Pilcher as their coach and they made 100 jumps throughout the year, did some tunnel time as a team, and competed at a few of the FSL meets. In October 2000 they competed at the US Nationals in Perris, California and won the gold medal in the intermediate class with a 15.3 average.
    A few weeks after Eliana returned from nationals, she received an invitation to jump with another team that was forming. The team was being considered for the US women’s 4-way team and would serve as the trial in that category. Lilac Hayes and Sally Hathaway from Skydive City in Zephryhills, FL and Sally Stewart from Skydive Arizona in Eloy, AZ were looking for a fourth member. Meanwhile, The World Cup of Formation Skydiving was to be held at Skydive Arizona in the U.S. Since there were no women’s teams that competed in the open class at the nationals, this meant that the US lacked representation in the women 4-way division.
    With only 30 team jumps together in November 2000, these women competed as Synchronicity at the World Cup and won the gold in women’s 4-way with an 11.8 average. Although they had only talked about doing this one competition for fun, they were now eligible to compete at the World Championships in Spain in 2001. The team agreed that if they were going to compete at the World Championships, they would have to train more. A plan was formed and they trained to go to Spain, hiring Joey Jones as their coach, making 300 jumps in a six month period, in addition to spending time in the tunnel. Their efforts paid off as they captured the gold with a 14.7 average.
    When Eliana returned from Spain a conversation ensued with Alan Metni of Arizona Airspeed. Alan had decided to retire, leaving a slot open on the team. Eliana jumped at the chance to try out. December 2nd Eliana received the call of a lifetime. She earned the slot and became the first and only female member of Airspeed! She started training with Airspeed Zulu that week which consisted of Gary Beyer, Chad Smith, Kirk Verner and Jeremy Peters.
    The plan was to make 1000 training jumps in 4-way and compete at the U.S. nationals in Chicago in September, 2002. The team experienced many difficulties throughout the year. Gary injured his shoulder while snowboarding, Chad quit the team and Eliana broke her ankle one month before the nationals so she was unable to compete. It was a disappointing set back.
    Since 2002 was the selection year for the World Championships in 2003, the national champions of 4-way and 8-way would get the U.S. team slots and would have the opportunity to compete at the World Championships representing the United States in Gap, France. Airspeed qualified in 8-way, and Eliana was selected as an alternate. By the end of November her ankle was strong enough to train with the team. In December 2002, 300 skydivers including Eliana attempted a 300-way world record in the skies over Eloy, Arizona. After 12 attempts they accomplished their goal.
    In January, 2003 the team began training 8-way. The team consisted of John Eagle, Craig Girard, Todd Hawkins, Neal Houston, Mark Kirkby, Steve Nowak, Dennis Rook, Kirk Verner, and Eliana. They made 800 training jumps by the end of August.
    In September, 2003, after a very exciting competition and a jump off round the team placed second behind the Russians. The team averaged 20.2 after 10 rounds and 20.1 after 11 rounds. Airspeed tied the Russians even on the 11th round, but the rules state that if the teams are still tied after the jump-off round, the gold medal goes to the team who had achieved the highest scoring round of the meet. Airspeed’s highest score was a 24 and the Russians highest score was a 26.
    In October, 2004 the venue for nationals was Lake Wales, Florida. The team competed in 4-way even though they hadn’t trained 4-way throughout the year. Airspeed Vertical with John, Craig, Neal, Mark and Steve came in 3rd and Airspeed Dragon with Todd, Dennis, Kirk, Jeremy Peters, and Eliana came in 4th.

    In 8-way competition the team fared better. They took the gold and Eliana became the first women to win a gold medal at the U.S. nationals in 8-way Opens.
    As 2003 was also a selection year for the 2004 World Championships in Croatia, the 8-way team qualified to represent the United States. Teammates John and Mark decided to retire from the team and were replaced with Andy Honigbaun and Mike Inabinet. The plan for 2004 is 800 to 1000 training jumps before September and to win the 2004 World Championships in Croatia.
    January, 2004 Craig, Dennis and Eliana traveled to Tok-li, Thailand to participate in the 372-way world record attempts. On January, 6 a 357-way completed and became a new world record thus adding a second world record to her credit.
    I asked Eliana what was the most difficult aspect of her journey. She offered that financially it has been extremely difficult, but she also offers that if you have a dream you need to find a way to make it happen.

    By admin, in News,

    President of FXC Corporation and Guardian Parachute Passes Away

    François (Frank) Xavier Chevrier, 81, President of FXC Corporation and Guardian Parachute, passed away suddenly on September 17, 2012.
    For over 60 years, Frank had been very active in the military life support equipment industry.
    Frank, from Montreal, Canada, joined the Canadian Air Force in his teens. He came to the U.S.A. in 1962 and began working in the aerospace industry in Southern California.
    In 1973, he founded the FXC Corporation in Santa Ana, California, which bears his initials. With his FXC team, he immediately addressed an upswing of industry interest in parachute safety and advancing escape system technology.
    FXC Corporation developed and became a world leader in Automatic Parachute Ripcord Releases for the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, NASA and foreign militaries. FXC Corporation is also a designer and manufacturer of critical components for military ejection seats and aerial delivery applications. In 1976, Frank acquired the Guardian Parachute product line. Today, the Guardian Parachute Division is a qualified manufacturer of all parachutes for U.S. militaries and a designer of High‐Glide Tactical Parachute Systems for Special Forces and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Recovery Parachute Systems.
    Frank had been a long‐time corporate supporter in the military aircrew life support equipment community of the SAFE Association and the Parachute Industries Association. In recognition of his business leadership, industry service, and commitment in delivering life‐saving product innovations, Frank was recently informed that he was selected to receive the 2012 SAFE Association Career Achievement Award at its Annual Symposium in October 2012. The company will celebrate its 40th year of operation in 2013.
    Frank was a resident of San Juan Capistrano, California and is survived by his wife Irene and four children: Sylvia, Rick, Anna and Francois, Jr. He also has five grandchildren and five great‐grandchildren.

    By admin, in News,

    Alistair Hodgson - Overcoming Obstacles

    Everyone has some kind of disability; some seen outwardly, while others are not readily visible to the naked eye. Some live with the notion that the only limits we have are the ones that are self-imposed. This was clearly evident in my interaction with Alistair. Alistair came to spend a month at Skydive Arizona, his goal to become a more proficient freeflyer.
    I was so inspired by this young man that I decided to have a word with Craig Girard. I asked Craig if he would consider making a jump with him, Craig's response was a resounding yes! I then spoke with Greg Gasson about doing a photo shoot with him and Greg informed me that he had met Alistair in Sweden at a freefly festival. They had been in contact via email prior to Alistair's arrival in Arizona. Greg had taken the time to ensure that there wouldn't be anything that would prevent Alistair from jumping at the DZ, and of course he would certainly jump with him. Small world. Needless to say, Alistair is exuberant at the prospect of jumping with these two world- class skydivers that are now on his growing list of friends.
    One morning while waiting for the first lift, I asked Alistair how long he had been skydiving and why he partakes in the sport. He told me that his legs were "blown off" twelve years ago by a land mine in Ireland. He took up skydiving three years ago to experience life. In his easy manner he looked at me and posed the same question. I answered simply that I had found freedom and a sense of community. His response was a quick: "Exactly!"
    Alistair resides in England and according to him, is the first double amputee to take up skydiving in that country. He began his journey by experiencing tandems, three to be exact, and was then offered a course in freefall. Although he had static line experience from serving in the military, it was nothing compared to what he is doing now. Alistair says that he has tried everything from rock climbing to kayaking since his amputations, and found skydiving to have been the best rehabilitation. He states that he is better physical shape now, and his life much richer than before he lost his legs. Alistair went as far as to say that he even drinks less than he used to since he wants to feel his best for the next day's jumping.
    He offers that skydiving has given him his life back, and it is the only thing that he is interested in doing. His travels have taken him to several countries, and Alistair has found that the people in skydiving are generally approachable and open- minded. They are quick to offer him a hand up by lifting him into the airplane, other than that he isn't treated any differently. He feels as though he is accepted in this community, he belongs. There is of course, a curiosity that goes along with seeing a skydiver without legs, but for the most part he says that people are just glad to see him participate.
    During his visit here he was approached by one of the camera flyers for "Pieces of Eight" and asked if he was interested in flying with them. Alistair responded by saying he appreciated the inquiry and would get back to him.
    Alistair jumps in a custom made Merlin Suit that has small pockets on the legs to help catch air. He says that the suit has made all the difference for him in his freeflying. Alistair managed to maintain head-down all the way to break off for the first time while here, and is excited to learn to fly his body in this new orientation.
    I asked him if he had one piece of knowledge to impart to his fellow skydivers, what would that be? He said: "If you think you can't do something, you're right, you can't! Can't isn't something that I recognize in my vocabulary." Alistair has nearly 600 jumps to date and hopes to add an additional 100 before returning to his native England.

    By admin, in News,

    Worlds Longest Touchdown Catch (VIDEO)

    Just before the Super Bowl 50 yesterday, an ad was aired on CBS that no doubt had a lot of skydivers sitting back going "Hell yeah". For those that jump, and happen to be a fan of football, the two and a half minute video was a hybrid of awesomeness. As 7 skydivers (Marshall Miller, Steve Curtis, Jesse Hall, Travis Fienhage, Jonathon Curtis, Chris Argyle, Mike Chapman) in full football gear begin a game at altitude.
    Using people jumping out of planes to sell products is nothing new, but this project seemed distant from the generic mid-air product placement. Instead, we got to see what it would be like if a group of skydivers exited the plane and engaged in a game of in-flight football.
    The cinematography was excellent and it's not too often we get to see aerial footage shot using the illustrious Red Dragon, filming at 6k.

    "A huge thanks to Pepsi and Papa John’s for supporting us in creating this epic moment!


    A huge thanks to the Whistle Sports team for all their support on this project. Whistle Sports is made up of sports creators, brands, leagues, teams, events and athletes who make content for the new generation of fans.
    Music is called 'The Darkness (Remix)' by Built By Titan.
    Film by Devin Graham and Tyson Henderson

    Produced by Carter Hogan

    Edit by Tyson Henderson using Adobe Premiere Pro CC
    Sound Design by Dan Pugsley
    Aerial Cinematographer: Jon Devore
    Super thanks to Temp Media for providing the amazing aerials with the C-130. They were all captured on the Red Dragon in 6K with the Shotover.
    If anyone is interesting in aerial services they can go to our website www.temptmediafilms.com
    Skydive Team - These guys are AMAZING athletes and were complete ninjas in the sky!
    Marshall Miller

    Steve Curtis

    Jesse Hall

    Travis Fienhage

    Jonathon Curtis

    Chris Argyle"


    A behind the scenes video was also made available on youtube, and can be watched below...

    By admin, in News,

    The 5 Most Inspiring Skydiving Videos of 2012

    Each year the boundaries of skydiving are expanded, giving way to new avenues of progress and to endless possibilities. The year 2012 was a big year for the sport, with a number of records being set. But aside from the records, there are also groups or individuals who slowly push the standards up with a display of skill. Other times we're inspired more by the surroundings and the cinematography of the video. We take a look at some of the most inspiring skydiving related videos from 2012.
    1. Felix Baumgartner jumps from the edge of space





    One doesn't really have to say anything about this video, I'm sure everyone reading this knows all about it already, but for those that don't; on the 14th October 2012, millions of people around the world were fixed to live streaming of a world record attempt by Felix Baumgartner to set the highest ever skydive. The final confirmed exit height was 128 100 feet, allowing Felix to reach speeds of 833 mph during his freefall. Whether you love him or hate, one cannot deny the magnitude of this jump.


    2. Gary Connery lands a wingsuit without a parachute









    This jump had a lot of media hype, not as much as the previous video - but the idea of skydiving without a parachute was obviously a subject that brought a lot of attention. The idea has been something that Jeb Corlois had been talking about for years prior, though his idea for landing was and still is quite different. Some argue that Gary Connery's jump was less landing without a parachute, and more just crashing into a pile of boxes. Though the technicalities of the jump aside, there is something liberating about the idea of being able to exit a plane without a rig on. Over the coming years, we will not doubt see further attempts to perform the act of landing without a parachute, and this first step - was definitely a jump worth the attention.


    3. Vertical Skydiving World Record









    While this video was technically uploaded in early 2013, the footage is from 2012 and comprises of a record setting 138 person vertical skydiving record. The video was created as a marketing strategy by GoPro for the Hero action camera - and regardless of your POV camera preference, it's hard to argue that they didn't put together an absolutely amazing video. While only lasting just over a minute, it's a pretty awesome minute of viewing.


    4. Skydive Dubai - Part 2







    This video was a follow up to an extremely popular video that Skydive Dubai released originally in 2011, the original video has over 11 million views on youtube, and if you're looking to attract potential clients, what better way to do it than using viral networking to show just what an amazing place to jump Dubai is. While the footage may not show all too much groundbreaking skydiving, you can't help but want to head there immediately and get on a plane when you look at the view. If the point of a video is to get you up in the air, this video accomplishes that flawlessly. The best way to describe it, is fun!


    5. Soul Flyers tear up wind tunnel







    Something for all the tunnel rats out there. Soul Flyers always manage to get one amped with any video they're in and this wind tunnel video is no different. There's some absolutely amazing flying in this video and for anyone who hasn't stepped inside a tunnel yet, it may well get them wanting to. The cinematography is also extremely good for a discipline that's notoriously difficult to get good footage of.
    Which of these videos inspired you the most. Let us know, or share your favorite skydiving videos of 2012 in the comments section below.

    By admin, in News,

    Skydiving Gift Ideas for Christmas 2016

    It's that time of the year again, where we pull out the credit card and bite the bullet to bring some festive joy to our friends and family. But we've spoken to the guys over at Para Gear and ChutingStar and had them send us over some options for Christmas gifts that will get your family or friends grinning without breaking your bank.

    Golden Sky Closing Pin Earrings - $40
    These custom Golden Sky Closing Pins Earrings are like no other.
    Available in Sterling Silver, 14kt Yellow Gold and 14kt White Gold. Earrings are 1" in length.
    Sterling Silver earrings in stock. Turnaround time for the 14kt Gold closing pin earrings is approximately two weeks as these are made to order by Golden Sky Jewelry.
    Available at ChutingStar


    GoPro LCD Touch Bacpac - $79.99
    The LCD Touch BacPac™ is a removable LCD touch screen for GoPro Hero3, Hero3+, or Hero4 cameras. (*Limited compatibility with original HD Hero and HD Hero2 cameras, requires firmware update. Touch functionality is not compatible with HD Hero2 and older cameras).
    As a removable accessory, the LCD BacPac keeps your camera as small and light as possible, yet provides the convenience of an LCD screen when attached. Camera not included.
    *US Only
    Available at Para-Gear


    LEGO Skydiver / BASE Jumper - $9
    The perfect companion for the home or office of any skydiver or BASE jumper.
    This LEGO minifigure is all geared-up to jump, and that adrenaline is coursing through his body. Time to jump!
    This is an official LEGO Skydiver/BASE Jumper Minifigure. The packaging has been opened to verify it is the skydiver, but the item is brand new.
    Available at ChutingStar


    Limited Edition Robin's Egg Blue Alti-2 Altimaster Galaxy Altimeter Gift Package - From $161
    Unique . . . Thoughtful . . . Perfect!
    Every gift giver wants to hear those words from the skydiver they love after the present is opened and the treasure inside is revealed. Just in time for the holidays, we have made your shopping effortless! This limited edition galaxy makes a perfect holiday gift.
    Fresh out of the Alti-2 workshop: a Limited Edition Altimaster Galaxy. Crafted exclusively in Robin's Egg Blue with a Swarovski Crystal pointer setting, this once in a lifetime offering is limited to 100 altimeters. It comes elegantly wrapped in a matching color gift box to add style to any occasion.
    Available at Para-Gear
    Available at ChutingStar


    Cookie G3 Helmet - $379
    Welcome to the G3 headgear, Cookies latest release full-face headgear and a result of significant refinement of the previous full-face headgear.
    The G3 features the original VMech Visor Locking System that works unlike any other in the industry. The system makes for easy opening and positive locking of the headgear visor.
    The visor is 2mm polycarbonate and features a complex curved design for extra strength, unsurpassed field of view and an anti-fog coating.
    The headgear's cinching system is simple and secure, adjustment can be made to customize the headgear fit and once locked down just throw the headgear on and jump.
    Available at Para-Gear


    ChutingStar eGift Card - From $25
    The ChutingStar eGift Card is the perfect gift for your buddy, family member or sweetheart! Available in any denomination and it never expires. The ChutingStar eGift Card is sent via e-mail and can be used at anytime for any products online at ChutingStar.com.
    Vouchers available from $25 to $1000
    Available at ChutingStar


    PG Headgear Bag - $35
    The PG Headgear Bag is designed for today’s full-faced headgear. Made from cordura. It features a padded contoured shape to snugly fit most full-face headgear, a clip strap for easy hanging, strong zippers, and a protective pocket for gloves, goggles, altimeter, etc.
    Available at Para-Gear


    Parachuting Flipping Santa Musical Christmas Ornament - $19
    This large parachuting Santa Claus sings Jingle Bells while he performs front flips and back flips under a round parachute! The perfect skydiver Christmas ornament!
    Available at ChutingStar


    Kroops I.K.91 Goggles - $24.95

    The I.K. 91 is an ultra lightweight and very comfortable goggle. The multilayer foam sinks into your face like a soft pillow making it very easy to wear for long periods of time. The spherical lens gives you a great distortion free view with totally unobstructed peripheral vision.
    The mirrored blue and the red lens color is a gradient to provide sun protection from above while still allowing you to see the ground clearly below. The narrow headband easily fits over or under your headgear.
    Available at Para-Gear
    Happy shopping!

    By admin, in News,

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