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Space Parachuting: Skydiving from the Edge

WASHINGTON -- Everybody knows it was Neil Armstrong that took that historic one small step. But now several parachutists are aiming to take giant leaps that could lead to a new form of extreme sport - spacediving. Technology and bravado are merging to create a new breed of high-altitude hopefuls - people ready to take the fall of a lifetime. The hope is to shatter a four decades old record by freefalling from the edge of space, break the speed of sound on the way down, and live to tell about it.
Vaulting into the void
In the 1950s, the U.S. Air Force took on the issue of hazards faced by flight crews bailing out from high-flying aircraft. As part of the research, Project Excelsior used a gondola-toting balloon to carry a pilot high into the stratosphere. From the end of 1959 into mid-1960, Captain Joseph Kittinger took three leaps of faith. He counted on himself, medical experts, protective gear, and a newly devised parachute system to ensure a safe and controlled descent to the ground.
On August 16, 1960, Kittinger jumped his last Excelsior jump, doing so from an air-thin height of 102,800 feet (31,334 meters). From that nearly 20 miles altitude, his tumble toward terra firma took some 4 minutes and 36 seconds. Exceeding the speed of sound during the fall, Kittinger used a small stabilizing chute before a larger, main parachute opened in the denser atmosphere.

Air Force Captain Joseph Kittinger, Jr. jumps from Excelsior III balloon gondola in 1960 test, freefalling toward Earth for over 4 minutes. CREDIT: U.S. AIR FORCE
He safely touched down in barren New Mexico desert, 13 minutes 45 seconds after he vaulted into the void.
The jump set records that still stand today, among them, the highest parachute jump, the longest freefall, and the fastest speed ever attained by a human through the atmosphere. Somewhat in contention is Kittinger's use of the small parachute for stabilization during his record-setting fall. Roger Eugene Andreyev, a Russian, is touted as holding the world's free fall record of 80,325 feet (24,483 meters), made on November 1, 1962.
Spring of our intent
Now take your own jump from the 1960s to 2001.
Several individuals are after the freefall record, on the prowl to raise millions of dollars in sponsorship funds to claim the milestone.
Rodd Millner, an Australian ex-commando is putting together the "Space Jump" project. Working with a film company, Millner's balloon ride and follow-on fall would be well documented. Taking two-and-a-half hours to balloon himself up to 130,000 feet (40,000 meters), and outfitted with the latest in survival gear, Millner would high step into the stratosphere.
Hot air balloon platforms, a team of skydivers, a Lear Jet, and other aircraft are to be airborne to record Milllner's dive into the record books.
"We have involved a special team of experts across a wide range of scientific and technological areas to ensure this project is successfully conducted with optimum safety and with spectacular visual effect," said Walt Missingham, project director of Space Jump, in a group press release from Sydney, Australia.
If all remains on track, Millner plans a liftoff in March 2002, ascending from just outside Alice Springs, in the center of Australia.
Realistic go-getter
Another freefaller is Michel Fournier, a retired French parachute regiment officer. He has made some 8,000 jumps, and is the French record holder for the longest fall, from an altitude of about 37,000 feet (12,000 meters).
"I love discovering and experimenting. I'm a realistic go-getter, a little stubborn at times, Fournier said.
Calling his effort the "Big Jump", Fournier has assembled a team of experts to assist in strategizing his stratospheric jump from 130,000 feet (40,000 meters). Within 30 seconds of departing his pressurized basket, Fournier hopes to break the sound barrier during his plummet. Equipped with a pressurized suit and special gloves, the diver expects to thwart frigid temperatures and ultraviolet radiation.
The fall itself is to last 6 minutes and 25 seconds. It will be the first big aeronautical exploit of the third millennium, Fournier explains.
Fournier points to Jean-Francois Clervoy, a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, as "godfather of the project". The tragic Challenger accident in 1986 and ESA's work on its own space plane, the Hermes, are singled out by the skydiver as early motivation for his working on the Big Jump.
First plans called for the Big Jump taking place in September 2000. The French liftoff site was in the Plaine of Crau. A website about the effort explains that Michel could not jump in France because of administrative reasons. His team is now scouting for another launching site somewhere else in the world.
Skydiving skills
The StratoQuest mission features world champion skydiver, Cheryl Stearns. She too seeks to break the Kittinger record by dropping to Earth from 130,000 feet (40,000 meters).
Stearns is no newcomer to breaking new ground in the air. A commercial airline captain on Boeing 737's, at 13,050 skydives and climbing, she has made the most jumps of any woman in the world, with some 30 world records under her helmet.
Carried by balloon to above 99 percent of the Earth's atmosphere, Stearns will wear a customized pressurized space suit. Her freefall velocity may exceed the speed of sound, heading toward Mach 1.3. Maintaining a head down position will get her through transonic, and supersonic speed regimes. But as she begins to enter heavier atmosphere, a dangerous transonic phase comes again. At this point, her skydiving skills are to be tested in order to maintain stability until parachute deployment.
The jump is tentatively set for over New Mexico, perhaps in April 2002.
Pushing the envelope
Where is all this sky jumping headed?
First of all, high-altitude skydiving is on the cutting edge, said Mark Norman, an instructor with Freefall Adventures in Williamstown, New Jersey. "Certainly, they are challenging themselves, that's for sure. They are definitely pushing the envelope without any shadow of a doubt," he told

Prior to "hitting the silk", spacediver uses balloon-like device to slow down and protect against forces during initial atmospheric entry. Credit: Canadian Arrow
At Freefall Adventures, typical skydiving starts at around 13,500 feet (4,115 meters), Norman said, with a jumper paying $16.00 dollars for the aircraft ride. As one of the busiest centers in the world, the group handles upwards of 15,000 people a year, he said, all hankering for a minute's worth of freefall
Norman said that high-altitude skydivers must think safety first, with regards to oxygen and pressurization issues. "So it lends itself to a lot of difficulties and a lot of impracticalities that we don't necessarily need to deal with in the commercial, mainstream skydiving industry," he said.
Building a business on people swooping down from the edge of space doesn't seem too practical at the moment, Norman said.
Drop zone: Earth
But Geoff Sheerin, team leader of the X Prize entry, the suborbital, passenger-carrying Canadian Arrow, believes what is taking place is an early form of spacediving.
"A rocket can take a spacediver to any altitude desired in just minutes, resulting in less time exposed to the dangers of vacuum and cold," Sheerin said. "I think this will ultimately lead to suborbital vehicles being the transport of choice for spacediving. Anyone using a rocket for spacediving can demolish any balloon record ever made," he said.
To the general public, spacediving might seem impossible, Sheerin said, as most think everything coming back from space burns up on reentry.
"If you look at the lower energies involved for suborbital flight, compared to orbital speeds, you realize that material and technology of today can turn spacediving from a suicide jump into a very survivable extreme sport," Sheerin said.

By admin, in News,

Skydiving couple tell of Tandem Emergency

A SKYDIVER who plummeted 13,000ft to earth with his bride after their main parachute failed to open spoke yesterday about the accident. Kevin McIlwee, 47, said from his hospital bed in France: "I didn't have time to think whether we were going to get through it or not."
He said, however, that as he fought to control the descent over the town of Vannes in Brittany, he confided to his wife of six weeks, Beverley, 44, who was strapped in front of him: "We might not make it."
Watching colleagues did not expect them to survive, but the couple, who had regularly skydived in tandem, crash-landed on grass, escaping with severe leg injuries.
Mr McIlwee, a maths teacher from De la Salle College, Jersey, said that their main parachute failed to open at the regulation 5,000ft when they made their jump on Sunday.

He said: "I found I just couldn't jettison the chute. I tried to engage the reserve chute but the two couldn't fly side by side."
Mr McIlwee, a skydiving instructor who has made more than 4,000 jumps, said: "The parachutes were continually tangling and I was doing my best to control them. I have no idea at what speed we hit the ground. We were very lucky. We could have been a lot worse."
Mr McIlwee suffered a badly broken leg and his wife, the manager of the Seabird Hotel chain in Jersey, suffered broken bones in both feet, and a broken knee and shin bone. The couple are expected to travel home to Jersey by air ambulance in about a week.
Mrs McIlwee, who has enjoyed skydiving for about five years, told her father, Dennis Murtaugh, by telephone that she intended to give up the sport. She has had metal plates inserted in her legs and will be in a wheelchair for many weeks.
Mr Murtaugh, 67, a theatre critic from Burnley, said: "She said she felt so lucky to be alive. She's usually such a bubbly person, but was understandably talking in a weak tone. She was very shook up, and was only just starting to realise that what had happened could have cost her life."
"She said she was looking out of the window from her hospital bed enjoying seeing the daylight and the birds outside."
Mr Murtaugh added: "Kevin is a hell of a fellow, and he knows what he is doing. I put it down to his experience as a skydiving expert that they are here today at all. It's a God-given miracle that they are both alive."

By admin, in News,

Popularity of skydiving soaring in Chicago area

When Todd Davis started skydiving, he had to scrape together every penny he could for the sport. "Once I did my first jump, I knew this is what I wanted to do, but I didn't know how I was going to do it," said Davis, 28, who started jumping 10 years ago. Now, he makes a living off skydiving as a co-owner of Chicagoland Skydiving in Hinckley.
He and friend Doug Smith, 27, bought the business in December.
Davis said he loves the sport and expects the business to grow. As an instructor and videographer at Chicagoland Skydiving for three years before taking over, he watched skydiving's popularity increase.
About 300,000 people skydived last year, for a total of 3.3 million jumps, said Chris Needles, executive director of the U.S. Parachute Association in Alexandria, Va.
Increasingly safer equipment and a wider acceptance of jumping out of airplanes for recreation have contributed to skydiving's steady growth, Davis said.
"The gear is so advanced now that anybody can skydive, anyone from you to your grandmother," Davis said.
In fact, one woman last year went skydiving on her 86th birthday. This year, a woman with Parkinson's disease jumped on Mother's Day.
Standard equipment for students at the jump site includes an automatic activation device that will open an emergency parachute if the main parachute is not deployed during a jump.
That and other equipment make skydiving costly.
A tandem jump in which a student is attached to an instructor while they share a parachute, costs $175.
Beginners jumping with their own parachute pay $275 for the required six hours of training. That compares with about 30 minutes of training for a tandem jump.
Two instructors jump with each student for the first solo jump.
For another $80, a videographer will jump too, recording still and moving images from the one-minute free fall and landing that takes place five or six minutes after the chute opens.
Lisa van Deursen, a manager, videographer and instructor at Chicagoland Skydiving, said she would like to see more people hire videographers, but they seem put off by the price.
"People can't understand why it's so expensive, but I have $3,000 worth of equipment on my head," she said, referring to helmet cameras.
Planes that can hold up to 20 skydivers cost $800,000 to $1.5 million, while parachutes and other gear for one person can cost $5,000 to $12,000.
Davis and Smith lease the planes as well as the land used for the business. They employ 25 independent contractors as instructors, pilots and parachute packers.
About 6,500 jumps took place last year at the Hinckley site; in 1999, there were 3,200 jumps, according to van Deursen.
The growth comes despite the presence of two regional competitors: Skydive Chicago near Ottawa and Skydive Illinois in Morris.
Nationally, skydiving has grown at a rate of 2 or 3 percent every year for the past 10 years, Needles said. "It's not perfectly linear at all times because we are affected by movies that come out about skydiving, so you get these great spikes sometimes," Needles said.
He said improved safety does seem to be a factor, and he noted that while there are still fatalities associated with the sport, there were only about 30 deaths in the U.S. last year out of about 3.3 million jumps.
The number of annual fatalities has remained steady for 10 years, despite jumps increasing each year, Needles said.
Davis said he thinks the sport will continue to grow because of the natural curiosity many people have about flight.
"It's the closest to flying outside of your dreams," he said.
For information or reservations, call 815-286-9200.
Chicago Tribune

By admin, in News,

Skydiver dies after hitting propeller of another plane

SAN MARCOS, Texas (AP) - A parachutist was killed instantly when she struck a plane's propeller while practicing a skydiving formation with 29 other jumpers. Michele Thibaudeau, 36, and eight other parachutists were in one airplane Sunday and the other 21 jumpers were on a second aircraft.
After jumping, Thibaudeau hit the propeller of the other aircraft and was killed on impact, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman John Clabes said.
Thibaudeau's boyfriend, who was last in line to jump from the plane, followed her body 14,000 feet to its impact in Fentress, according to Sky Dive San Marcos owner Phillip Chappell.
The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating.
"I've never heard of anything like that before," Clabes said. "You hear about fatalities when people jump out of planes and their chutes don't open, but not this."
Thibaudeau, of Cartersville, Ga., had completed more than 850 jumps.
All the parachutists had completed a minimum of 400 jumps, double the number the U.S. Parachute Association uses to determine expert status, Chappell said.

By admin, in News,

Carl Nespoli - The Unknown Stuntman

Carl Nespoli may not be a name that you associate with skydiving stunts (yet), but he has participated in some of the best known skydiving and aerial stunts ever performed. Carl is often the unknown skydiver in front of the camera or in control of the team that's working in the background to ensure the safety of the likes of Troy Hartman and others. spoke to Carl after he recently participated in a plane-to-plane jump organized by his friend and mentor, Joe Jennings. Keep your ear to the ground, believes we'll be hearing a lot more from Carl in the future.

Age: 37

Jumps: 1,000

First Jump: 1986

Rig: Javelin J5

Canopy: Spectre 170

Cypress: Yes

Residence: California

Born: Brooklyn, NY

USPA License: D

Home DZ: Perris

Favorite Discipline: Sky Surfing

Reserve Rides:7

Married/Girlfriend: Single

Web Site: So Carl, I never realized all the stuff you've been in until I looked over your homepage. What did you do with Charlies Angels??

Carl: I was the aerial stunt crew assistant to Joe Jennings. I assisted in Joe's camera work, assisted riggers, and ground control. was one of the first to report on this plane-to-plane jump you did with Joe Jennings. Tell us about that stunt and what you had to do with it.

Carl: I was in the porter which was acting as the recovery for the target aircraft with the jumpers. We had come up with an automatic drogue deployment system which wasn't always guaranteed to work. So I had to be the official drogue man and take it out and make sure it didn't catch on any of the catch points. Prior to exiting I had to turn on 5 pov clamshells to capture the divers coming into the aircraft.
I had to take it out backwards hold on to it's bag and make sure the static line was fully out before letting go of the bag. I had remarkable video of both the skydivers and the bag deployment. So the plane was going straight down when you exited?
Carl: No actually the plane was flying correctly when I exit then he would cut the engine and feather the prop. Did they have a cut away system?
Carl: Yes, at about 4,500 feet the pilot would use a 3 ring cutaway process similar to that of a cutaway system on a rig. Then start the engine and land safely. I noticed you helped with Senseless Acts, we are also interviewing Troy Hartman - do you have anything to say about Troy after working with him?
Carl: Absolutely, troy was the first person that put me out on my skyboard. To get the opportunity to work with him was pretty incredible. Rob Harris was obviously the main person who first inspired me but troy was the one that got me on my first skyboard. So to work with him was definitely a privilege and an honor. My duty on Senseless Acts was to oversee Troy's safety. Troy had to look good memorize lines, carry up different povs, battery packs, etc.. I made sure his board bindings were on tight, and things were safe. During the different stunts he was doing I would just simply isolate him 5 minutes before going up and just go over a couple of safety measures and bail out options.
On the burning canopy stunt Troy had to go up with 2 povs a burn suit a motorcycle helmet, knives, a flare gun holster, so many things. There were actually a few things I had to veto. There was a 3rd POV that was optioned and I had to relocate his cutaway handle to actually stick it out more because of visibility concerns due to the helmet he had on. They also wanted to put a flare gun on his wrist which I had to veto as well. How's work going? You working on anything new right now?
Carl: I am bidding on a job, waiting for an answer. There is a Leno spot coming up at the end of the month where they will be jumping into NBC Studios. There will be ground to air communication, Jay will have communications to Troy Hartman - he will be playing like a human video game. This was originally set for November but due to presidential elections and Olympics the communication systems weren't available. I don't know if it is finalized yet, but that is the last I heard.'ve been having an ongoing discussion on about having to avoid certain living things when coming in for landings. Have you ever had a problem with animals during any of your parachute jumps?
Carl: I've had obstacles but they weren't living. Shrubbery and such. That's why I jump a Spectre, it's more of a technical canopy. Do you have any skydiving role models or inspiration?
Carl: Rob Harris, Patrick, and Joe Jennings, definitely. I had about 6 jumps and saw the video. My first jump was in 86 but started back in 94 it was towards the beginning of the new year and gave it up for a few months, then started just before November and after that Rob passed away and I saw Joe's work. I was instantly inspired and started to pursue Joe. 2 years later he finally gave me the opportunity to meet him. My first project with him was IMAX where I was jumping with Joe Jennings. What is the worst injury you have had from skydiving?
Carl: I had double canopy out, had my main entangled in my reserve and landed backwards in a fetal position. I actually walked away and got back on the aircraft - that was jump 26. I was in a high spin had a slider hang-up, grabbed both handles, pulled my reserve, it was pilot inexperience and pilot error. What do you like least about the sport?
Carl: The fact that it is perceived as a dangerous sport. That people don't really know much about the sport. What is the coolest non skydiving thing you've done?
Carl: I hate to be corny, but became an uncle to my nieces and nephews. How do you go about getting selected for movies? Do you advertise yourself, have an agent, or what?
Carl: All of the above. I advertise, I'm with an agency, and I go on auditions very similar to what actors go on. ESPN Recently axed skysurfing from their X-Games because sponsors didn't feel like it had an "automatic consumer base" what do you think about that?
Carl: I am very very curious to see once the public gets wind of this how their reaction is going to be. What do you think can be done in the skydiving community to make it a more accepted sport?
Carl: Show more of the accomplishments in skydiving and less of the accidents, glorifying the negative part of the sport. It is human curiosity to want to see the accidents at the auto race and see athletes get injured but I think that is the media that just capitalizes too much on how dangerous skydiving can be. I attribute the confidence I have from skydiving to help me conquer other things in life. If you could take anyone in the world skydiving with you, who would it be and why?
Carl: I'd like to take my mother, I'd like to show her and have her experience what I experience and have her worry less for me and actually be more happy and see what I am crazy over. She has a hard time with the sport. If you could wave a magic wand and change something about the sport of skydiving what would it be?
Carl: The egos that skydivers of one discipline have towards skydivers of another discipline. For instance how the freeflyers treat the people doing RW and such. Finally, what is something not many people know about you?
Carl: I have never forgotten the people that had inspired me, Rob & Patrick specifically because they are no longer with us. Any so called fame I achieve or recognition, I put it in perspective; those are they guys that are responsible for any type of recognition that I receive.

By admin, in News,

Oakland Skydiver Dies After Losing Consciousness

Lodi, May 27 - The San Joaquin County Sheriff's office reports that an Oakland man died Saturday after jumping with a group of parachutists, possibly from a mid-air emergency that might have started on the ground. "It appears that the decedent suffered some sort of a medical emergency during the jump which incapacitated him, disallowing him to properly and safely complete the landing," said spokesman Joe Herrera of the San Joaquin Sheriff's Department.
An autopsy will be needed to determine the cause of death. The man has been identified as 52-year-old Daniel Paul Skarry, of Oakland. He was discovered by occupants of a home after he landed in the back yard, crashing down with his parachute between some trees on the property.
Other jumpers made no mention of noticing anything unusual at the start, according to subsequent interviews with deputies.
"The parachutist had been jumping for at least 15 years. He was one of 22 jumpers who had left Lodi Airport to jump in formation. The initial jump went fine and the decedent joined a group held together at the wrist," said Herrera.
According to one of the jumpers holding the man's wrist, Skarry's grip became weaker, then gave way. They had started from an altitude of 15,000 feet.
The group watched helplessly as Skarry got below them and seemed not to move, except where pushed by the wind, Herrera said.
When he reached the 1,000-foot level, the parachute's automatic activation device switched itself on. He fell to the ground amid trees in a residential yard, Herrera said.
The occupants of the house called for help. Skarry was taken by helicopter to the hospital at UC Davis, but was pronounced dead at 11:48 a.m. after medics unsuccessfully performed CPR, Herrera said.
The Federal Aviation Administration will be notified of the incident, and the coroner's report may be conducted in Sacramento County, Herrera said.

Skarry may have already had hypertension and diabetes, Herrera said.

By admin, in News,

Troy's Senseless Acts and Others

"They thought she had just paralyzed me, it was very frightening " Hartman is best known for his appearances on MTV's Senseless Acts and numerous television commercials. In this candid interview he talks about his broken neck, Senseless Acts, and various other skydiving (and non skydiving) related issues. So who was she and was she worth almost getting paralyzed? Read on to find out....
Age: 29

Current Number of Jumps: 4500+

Year of First Jump: 1992

Rig: Javelin NJ w/PD113 reserve
Main Canopy: Velocity 96

Cypress: yes

Current Residence: Sherman Oaks, CA

Highest USPA License: D

Home DZ: Perris

Favorite Discipline in Skydiving: Base Jumping

Number of Reserve Rides: 4

Web Site: Troy, you recently had a pretty bad accident while doing a stunt - you ended up breaking your neck while performing it. When did all of this take place?
Troy: April 29, 2000 How are you doing now?
Troy: I'm fully recovered actually. How long were you out of skydiving due to this accident?
Troy: 3 months That's it?
Troy: Yeah, the doctor wasn't happy he wanted me to be out for 6 months but I was doing stunts again within 3 months. When can we expect some new episodes of senseless acts?

Troy: Well, MTV is claiming they are going to pick us up for fall but I'm not sure yet. Well then, what kind of exciting things are you working on now?
Troy: Just trying to sell the show concept to other networks, channels - trying to continue my field of expertise in another format. I'm not sure what that format will be. So MTV is history?
Troy: Yeah, they have pulled the plug due to money You are in May's edition of Playboy with E!'s Wild On host Brooke Burke - what's that like?

Troy: It was cool, great exposure - much bigger article than I expected. In my opinion it was really well done. I feel the writer portrayed me in the correct light, so I was satisfied with it. You know Brooke did a tandem for a Wild On episode, did you have anything to do with that?
Troy: Yeah I heard about that, I think I saw it but no I didn't have anything to do with it. So you haven't met her eh?
Troy: Nope. I heard about this plane vs cow incident that cost you your Air Force career. What kind of plane did you crash? (In Playboy's May interview)

Troy: A T-41. A modified cessana. I was out screwing around with a buddy of mine. We could go check out the planes whenever we wanted and I got a little carried away with buzzing things. Speaking of hitting cows, have you ever had a problem with animals while landing under a canopy?

Troy: Huummmm.. not really. Well, indirectly, I landed in Colorado one time, and they had these electric fences for the cows which I didn't know were electric, I tried climbing one of them. Well I'll just say I learned a lesson from that. Ouch! That must have been a shocking experience. Your girlfriend is a jumper, has she shown any interest in doing stunt work?

Troy: Yeah she has, her take on it is that she would do it if there was a reason to do it. If there was a format she was able to learn. How would you feel about her getting into it?

Troy: I know that she is very concerned about her safety & conservative, she never gets over her head. I've never seen her say she wants to try something that was completely beyond her ability. I wouldn't even worry about it. I'd be like go for it, do your thing. She'd be more conservative than I would. It must be every skydiver's dream to have their jumps & gear paid for, but also get to appear on national TV on a regular basis. How has all this fame affected you?

Troy: Well, it's um. I don't know - it hasn't too much. The biggest thing that has affected me, for a while there I'd show up at the DZ and my main concern was having jumpers look at me and say "this is the guy that is going to make our sport look bad" my main concern was that other skydivers would say "oh yeah he did that stunt that he shouldn't have" I would show up at the DZ feeling like I should hide for fear of people coming up to me and telling me that I shouldn't have done a particular stunt. I'm finding out now that just about every skydiver that watched the show liked it & respected it. When you become a public figure, people want to see you a certain way. I'm just starting to realize most things people have to say are positive. I've found out that I'm still accepted with people in the sport. So do people notice you on the streets?

Troy: Yeah I don't get that very much. I get that from younger kids, the real demographic. I'm certainly not a public figure head. Most people don't even know my name. They say "oh, you're that guy!" Have you heard from any skydiver wuffos? Or stories of people you inspired?

Troy: I get a lot of those actually, I get a lot of emails from people who say I started skydiving because of you. For the sport it's a good thing. The jumpers under 100 jumps have no problem coming up to me and asking me about things. Experienced jumpers can do most of the stuff I can do on the show anyway, but they aren't going to go "woah" because they know how that stuff works. What is the wildest thing one of your fans has done?

Troy: I would say pretty much most of the time its people emailing saying "wow that is awesome, I want to do that." I tell you what, one time I was signing some autographs in Redondo beach for the IMAX film I did- I was in my neck brace, clearly had a broken neck - this one girl tackled me - just took me out, it scared everybody. They thought she had just paralyzed me, it was very frightening ... I was like "oh my god" you just don't know - you can't predict what someone will do.I felt helpless, there was nothing I could have done. She was just like "I love you" she looked like she was like 17. I have no idea what she did it for. That's nuts! Looking back on the stunts you've done aside from the broken neck fiasco, is there any one that you thought "I shouldn't have done that" ?
Troy: Yeah. The only one, believe it or not, I would do any of them again - even landing on the train, the one I wouldn't do again was when I landed on the roof of sahara hotel in Las Vegas. It wasn't really considered a stunt, it was just something to open up the show with - it wasn't even something we pumped up. This was a very tight landing area, smaller than the pro rating. There were many obstacles, air condition ducts, etc... I have people from basic research check out the place to see if it is safe or not so I hadn't even seen the area up close very far in advance. The only hotel that would have let us was sahara, and out of all of them it was the worst one. When I came in to land, the wind shifted and the head wind turned into a tail wind. I was under a big canopy, but it could have been much bigger. I sprained my ankle - that was the worst of it but it could have been so much worse. Why don't you check your own places out instead of having others do it for you?

Troy: A lot of times it is a time issue, I'm working on one stunt and I have a scout team out preparing for another one. They don't' want to waste my time. Once they do get clearance, then I do get to take a look at it but that is after they've made a decision on it. I can back out up to the last minute but I've felt that if all the conditions are right, and if the ground crew says it is safe if you do this then I would do it. I'm actually not a super confident skydiver - I have less confidence in my abilities than what my abilities probably are, most of the stunts I did I would probably do again because I do know now that I can do them - but sometimes I need these guys to have an outside look to tell me I can do this. I sorta have to rely on them to give me that extra confidence. I feel that at this point in the game I feel like I need to make some of these decisions. I don't think the show would have been quite as good if I had been the one making all these decisions, because I would have turned down most of these stunts. How do you come up with an idea for a stunt? Does MTV suggest it or what?

Troy: Yeah, 90% of the time MTV the producers.. they're sharp, they know what can and can't be done. They do a lot of research, they will approach me with an idea. If it is even remotely possible, I will just say "yes, that can be done - now lets talk to the right person" How long does it take from when they come up to when you do it?
Troy:Sometimes it's 2 months, the parachute that we lit on fire was actually planned the day before. On that jump, did you have two reserves or what?

Troy: On that jump : Yeah, that was my second reserve. It was a typical 3 canopy rig. Has there been any stunt that you wouldn't do?

Troy: Yeah, it's funny because the only one that I clearly said no was they wanted me to ride a bull. I know there are plenty of people that would say there were things that were way worse than riding a bull. I don't know, the control variables are so limited when riding a bull. With skydiving most of the things that go wrong are under my control, but with riding a bull it's not like that. So what do you think about riding horses?
Troy: I don't have a problem with that. I've ridden them since I was a kid. Even though they have a mind of their own as well?
Troy: Well, You're not strapping their balls up.. you don't know how they will react in that type of environment. True.... With all the snafus going on with skydivers and health insurance, do you know if MTV will stand by you if something goes wrong with a stunt?
Troy: Well they took care of me for my neck injury, but it was the bare minimum - they paid me workman's comp, it's just a standard procedure. They took care of my hospital bills. You would pretty much expect that in any situation. If I lost my arm or became paralyzed I don't know how far they would stand behind me. I think when you get involved with production companies I'm sure it says somewhere in the fine print it says they aren't responsible for anything. I'm sure it could get very ugly. I had plenty of people tell me I should sue MTV because it was their negligence. I just said forget it, I'm fine - I don't want to make a stink about it. Has there ever been a day where you didn't want to get up and "go to work"?

Troy: Oh yeah, sure... I was good with doing a couple of days of stunts a week, I never minded going to the office or going on scouts. I love my job as long as it didn't overload me with 3 stunts in one week. When I had to do 3 stunts in one week I just didn't want to wake up for the 1st day because I knew I had 3 full days ahead of me. The 1st day was always the worst. It seemed like such a long tunnel to make it to the end of the week. There were only a few weeks like that, Vegas, Tahoe, and the Grand Canyon - I did 4 stunts out there. It was a long week, a very long week. If I can focus on 1 thing very well and even smile on cue I do good, I've learned to relax - the one thing I had a hard time doing was thinking about 3 stunts and not getting overloaded. I did 45 stunts last year, I don't know many stunt guys do 45 different stunts. If they do - they are doing a lot of the same thing over and over again. I'll just say I was on heavy sleeping pills the last 6 months before the show was over because I was so concerned. Do you have any skydiving role models or inspiration?
Troy: Patrick. I started to see his weaknesses as I got to know him. I found a few of his weaknesses in skysurfing. It made me think "oh this guy is human, he isn't immortal" He was like a god to me. He was one of the most talented out there. The thing I most respect about him was no matter how much he jumped he never got burned out. He would always do a sunset jump, he would jump with whoever it didn't matter. He would just keep on going, I couldn't believe his persistence. I think he took some dumb shortcuts that caught up to him, and I try and learn from those because I get lazy too. What is the worst injury you have had from skydiving?

Troy: Knock on wood, I haven't had anything bad. Just sprained my ankle early on when I was skysurfing. I had a binding come loose so the entire torque of the board was on my one ankle. What do you like least about the sport?
Troy: Sitting in the airplane. So packing doesn't bother you?
Troy: Packing I don't mind, because I have space - for me it's like mowing the lawn, it's a thoughtless thing - it gives me time to think, most of the time it is on fresh cut grass, I'm outside. But I can't stand getting on an airplane with turbine fuel blowing at me being all cramped up with everyone, that's why I turned to base jumping. What is the coolest non skydiving thing you've done?
Troy: Humm.. gosh I'm trying to think. I absolutely love snowboarding, nothing has given me the incredible feeling of back country sking and snowboarding really does something for me. Speaking of skiing, I read somewhere that it was because of your skiing friends that you got into doing stunts. Do you keep in touch with those same friends ?
Troy: Oh yeah, I see them every winter. I go up to the mountain and hook up with each other and put in a day of skiing. They still live in mammoth which is where I'm from. Do they skydive any?
Troy: I had one friend that got into it did about 60 jumps and then quit doing it. I got my sister into it as well but she got out of it. How do you go about getting selected for commercials? Do you advertise yourself, have an agent, or what?

Troy: In this business you almost don't even need an agent with the skydiving stuff. It's good to have an agent to negotiate a deal and not get ripped off, if you don't have an agent they will make you feel like you are getting a lot of money - skydivers with your talent you're worth a lot more than what an ad agency would pay you. They do casting calls where they call the DZ and get people to come out to the casting call. I've seen it a lot of times where people were at the DZ when they called, they went down by the truck load and 2 or so got picked. Then again a lot of the production companies find the aerial cameraman and then they have the camera man send them a group of people to select from. In my opinion that is the best way. Joe Jennings and I do a lot of work together, he suggests me right away, but I do feel that also limits other people.. so I see that as a negative as well. ESPN Recently axed skysurfing from their X-Games because sponsors didn't feel like it had an "automatic consumer base" what do you think about that?

Troy: I saw it coming. I really did, I was in the sport from the beginning. It was so strong in the 1st year and 2nd year, but the 1st year was so exciting - it never grew after that. The way they produced it and aired it and the moves, yes it grew in skydiving but failed to grow outside. Vic and I struggled our assess off to get a sponsor. We wrote to every company - sports drinks, sunglasses, everyone that might could benefit from having a skysurfing team.. we hammered them for years - we'd keep going back, they kept saying no though. I said you know what, if they don't want it - the sport is going no where. You had the 14 year old rollerbladers making millions then you had us - we were at the top of our sport, a much more difficult sport - we were spending more money to get into it and we were having to spend our own money to compete. What do you think can be done in the skydiving community to make it a more accepted sport?

Troy: Um... I think skydiving needs to be more accessible, I don't know how that can be done - I think that is a too good to be true kinda statement. It would be great if DZs were in the center of cities, it would be great if tandems were 100 instead of 200. I've seen skydivers feel they were different than the rest of the world.. I don't know if it lends newcomers to feeling like they could get into it. Skydiving isn't easy, but it certainly isn't the most difficult thing. Until a bunch of the barriers are broken down, I don't think they are going to buy the product. The general viewing members don't relate to the product. If you could take anyone in the world skydiving with you, who would it be and why?

Troy: Awe man. You know what, my dad. I'd take my dad but he won't go with me. Only because the way I grew up, in doing things his way - following him for so long, I know he is proud of me I feel he did all the right things for me growing up but I feel I need to enlighten him a little bit. Let him see my environment. If you could wave a magic wand and change something about the sport of skydiving what would it be?

Troy: These questions always get me.. I try to come up with some deep response but never do. I'd have to say, I just wish it could be done in more places. It was more accessible, like I said before. You've got some shirts called Oddbird what's the story behind those?

Troy: Well it was a company I started, we liked the name - we started to promote the shirts, it was kinda a failed venture. We just didn't put enough effort into it. I never have had dreams of owning a DZ, I'm not a big business man. I like the way I'm making my living now, I don't want to oversee a bunch of things. We are also planning on interviewing Carl Nespoli, who worked with you on senseless acts. What do you think about him?

Troy: Carl in my opinion is the one person I would absolutely want to have at every stunt. His job might not be 100% necessary but his personality is - just having him there for his attitude just makes all the difference. He does look at the small things others would oversee, but I could just get away from everyone else and sit down and just talk to Carl. You almost choose skysurfing as your favorite discipline but changed to base jumping, why was that?

Troy: I love skysurfing, when I'm out of the plane. Maybe the reason I didn't like the plane ride was because I skysurf. That is the one thing every skysurfer hates because of the plane ride up and putting the board on on the way up it inconveniences the other jumpers, I really don't like to do that. Finally, what is something not many people know about you?
Troy: Um... hmmm. The first thing people don't realize about me, well the thing is people don't realize about skydivers. Skydivers aren't daredevils, they come from every walk of life, but the rest of the world doesn't know that - there are so many people that think I'm just crazy & don't care about anything, but the truth of the matter is when I'm not out doing this stuff I'm very into going to movies, hanging out at home. I have my cat. I'm not a out on the town big partier. I'm so entirely not, I much more enjoy going up to the mountains and going up and hiking and being by myself. I' love to spend a lot of time alone. For me it's therapeutic.

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Second Skydiver this Month dies in South Africa

A 35-year old Pretoria man died in Eugene Marais Hospital last night (13 May), hours after plunging several hundred metres to the ground in a parachuting accident at the Wonderboom airport late yesterday afternoon. Mark Farrell was the second man to die in a parachuting accident at the airport in the past month.
Police spokesman, Superintendent Morné van Wyk, said Farrell had plunged to the ground when his parachute apparently became entangled at about 5:30pm.
A hospital spokesman said Mr Farrell sustained serious injuries to his head, face and chest. He died at 7:25pm, almost two hours after the accident. Van Wyk said an inquest would be held to determine exactly what had gone wrong.

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Army investigates paratrooper mishap

Army officials are investigating why a jumpmaster's reserve parachute activated inside an airplane Tuesday night causing him to be sucked out of the aircraft.Sgt. Yusefiman Wright was released from FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst on Friday, a spokesman said.
Wright was being treated for fractured ribs and a cut on the chin, U.S. Army Special Operations Command officials said. The 28-year-old soldier from New Bern is assigned to the 528th Special Operations Support Battalion.
"He is doing real well," said Barbara Ashley, a USASOC spokeswoman. "He said he has received a lot of support from his family and his friends in the unit and the Special Operations Support Command."
The accident happened about 8 p.m. aboard a C-130 Hercules cargo plane flying over Moore County, officials said.
"He was ejected from the aircraft due to the activation of his reserve parachute inside the aircraft during an airborne operation," said Sgt. 1st Class Pamela Smith, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations command.
Wright's main parachute opened during his fall, officials said.
The battalion is reviewing safety procedures in airborne operations and the proper handling of reserve parachutes in aircraft, Smith said.
"Being a jumpmaster is dangerous," Smith said. "The command regrets that this type of accident happened." Wright is declining interviews, Smith said.

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Kapowsin Air Sports gets 2nd setback

Operators of a skydiving school at Kapowsin Field, a residential airport in rural Pierce County, recently received their second setback in eight months when an administrative law judge recommended against renewal of a liquor permit.
Kapowsin Air Sports owners Geoff and Jessie Farrington had been ordered last August by a Pierce County Superior Court judge to scale back their thriving skydiving business at the airport, 10 miles south of Orting. The Farringtons have gone to the Washington State Court of Appeals to contest that land-use-permit decision.
The more recent rebuff came in the form of a permit ruling released April 25. Administrative Law Judge Ernest Heller recommended the state Liquor Control Board deny a permit renewal requested by Kapowsin Air Sports. The board is expected to issue a final decision in a month or so.
The Class 4 special permit is the type required at a private banquet. It doesn't allow alcohol sales but permits the school to serve alcohol for free.
"It appears that consumption of beer following a day of skydiving is the expectation of many skydivers," Heller said in his ruling. "The beer consumption seems to have developed into an uncontrolled potluck party."
Jessi Farrington disputed that description. She said a few drinks at the end of a dive day is a 50-year tradition among skydivers.
"People who are making decisions are not experiencing any of what's going on here," she said.
Arguments on the subject were heard last December and in March after Pierce County land-use officials objected to the renewal request. County officials said a liquor license is not allowable at the airport, which is zoned for rural residential use.
The skydiving school has been controversial among airport residents for the past few years. Some residents, as well as Pierce County officials, think the 23-year-old school has outgrown what it set out to be.
The Farringtons bought 110 acres in the rural area, built the airport and opened the school. Over the years, pilots and skydivers bought portions of the airport, which now features 27 residences. The skydiving school started in 1978 with 2,000 jumps a year and the level of activity has grown to 20,000 jumps.
Farrington said Heller's ruling won't affect her school, but said, "it's going to affect the social aspect of it."

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