Not a very good shot, but with a 50mm lens…can’t expect much.
Watched one of these guys slam into a hangar as he landed. He jumped up yelling “I’m OK!” Wow!
Day one-Eloy, Arizona
After a 10 day stint in Elsinore, it was time to head to Eloy, AZ to participate in Scott Campos’ invitation-only wingsuit event. We arrived on Thursday just in time to hit the last load of the day, and then watch the Germans attempt their 204-way record event. They exited from 7 aircraft; three Skyvans and four Otters. They didn’t quite make it… Brenda and Sandy Reid were kind enough to allow me to view the formation through their excellent optics. I could read the mudflaps on the competitors! The landings were interesting, it was the first time I’d been this close to a large formation. Skydivers landing anywhere and everywhere…one crashed into the DC3 hangar on the west side of the Skydive Arizona property. He quickly jumped up to show he was fine.
Friday morning, they got the record. It was a beautiful sight to behold. I wish I’d unpacked my longer lenses, but this image does sorta show what’s going on up there.
After Elsinore, I was pretty tired, but did do a few jumps with close friends, including a great coached jump with John Bast. John has a SuperMach1 suit that was flying him instead of the other way around. We went up with one goal; smooth, steady flight and zero washiness. John NAILED it. Wow. He landed off, but it was worth it, I think….his smile was huge and lasting. He continued to fly the SM1 through the weekend, and did it very, very well.
Today was the anniversary of my son’s death and I wanted my last jump of his day to be memorable. Fortunately, enough people grabbed the sunset hour to jump, and I was able to do a solo on the sunset load. Curiously or coincidentally,AlterBridge’s “In Loving Memory” came up on my iPod moments after I exited the Otter. Flying towards the sun, it was almost epic, and a moment of epiphany for me. I can’t recall having cried so hard in a long time. Tears flowed like rain I hated to pull, because the moment was so beautiful, emotional, and focused. I miss my son very much, but it’s time to move on, whatever that may entail. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have this very special moment with my memories of Josh.
My son Josh, at the age of four.
Sunset comes, no different from the one before
Beyond the rain that fell walking through the door
Silence now the only sound is heartbeats loud
Pounding pain not felt long since, hidden no more
Moving ‘cross the sky, soul bent to ride
Hell rides with me, within, from inside
Fly with me, your name upon the breeze
soft winds arms open wide
Tension deepened, lips parted begging you
Find me here, speaking there
spirit dark against the storm
Burning wings I’m falling fast
so desperate, love might last
It never has before
I’m back once
Once more to a place I swore
I’d never visit ever more
Jaded, fated to fall and fail
The ride is worth the pain,
Doing the same thing twice
Hopeful to renew
Close my eyes and trust myself
Trust in you and no one else
Ground coming faster
So little time
An empty heart
Partner in crime
Agony in those left behind…
I’ll never forget that long flight. It was a moment I’ll cherish forever.
Taking off for that beautiful sunset load
Saturday morning, Scott had everyone there at ODark:00. Thanks to Amanda and Purple Mike, Starbucks coffee, bad doughnuts,and cardboard muffins were served as breakfast. Scott briefed everyone on the landing patterns, group divisions, and what the agenda for the day would be.
I was assigned to Mark Harris’ group. Very cool. I like Mark, he’s a very smooth guy who lives in Spain. We went up on our first jump and it was a mess….only a couple people made it to their slots, and people were all over the sky.
One of the foreign jumpers slotted ahead of me flew across my rig, nearly taking me out as he rushed to his position I wondered if that was how the weekend was going to go, then I was gonna stand down. I gave it one more try, and after one of the group chose to ignore the landing direction and turn directly in front of me at 50’, I gave it up. Just in time, too…as the winds began gusting between 9-26, so it was time to stand down. I did one more jump with a couple friends outside the formation group, and then stood it down for the day. Les, Cookie, Amanda, Scotty, and I drove to Casa Grande to see the new James Bond film. I fell asleep. Musta not been that good.
Skydive Arizona arranged for a salad, steak, and potato dinner on the patio next to the Prop; a red Budweiser wristband and a PD glass assured all the beer one could drink that night, and a few had their fair share of spirits and then some. Scott Campos gave away prizes from the various manufacturers, such as the 500.00 savings on a TonySuit wingsuit, 50% off a Birdman suit, and quite a few pairs of sunglasses from Liquid, plus the usual fare of Tshirts and other sundries. Purple Mike, Costyn, and Scott Callantine particularly looked sexy in their new shades.
Sunday brought about another day. Winds were high, but so was the desire to jump, so we did. And did….
Norman Kent set a record for two cutaways in two jumps, so he didn’t go up with us following the second jump of the day. Juan Mayer had experienced a cutaway the previous day as well, so we only had Scott Callantine and Scotty Burns as photogs, with Mark Harris backflying a camera slot for his group.
On the third load, one of the foreign jumpers decided he didn’t like the landing direction once he hit around 100’, so changed his direction. Straight on in front of me. So once again, I pulled myself from the group. It just wasn’t worth the risk to be in the air with people unfamiliar with the dropzone, it’s rules, and basic safety. This is the risk of jumping with people one doesn’t know and these risks exponentially increase when one or both of the jumpers are unfamiliar with the landing area. Gotta be careful out there.
Scott had set up the last jump of the day as a 16k jump, and we dirt-dived the formation a couple of times. I was in Rolf and Mark Harris’ group. Sure enough…long flight up and we got to 16,400 at exit. Our group was the trail plane, but we were in the air before the lead plane. Purple Mike, Chris Grey, and myself found ourselves sorta floating, looking for the other formation lead before forming our own side up. Once they got into place, our side of the formation came together nicely. Thanks Mike, for setting such a solid base.
What a beautiful afternoon jump with new friends, old friends, and a few people I didn’t know.Photo by Scotty Burns
Most of us landed off. I was horrified to see Veggie Reggie landing into the wind, putting him in the path of the nasty, prickly cotton field and heading towards a fairly deep irrigation ditch. He put down in the cotton and began the delicate task of pulling his lines and wingsuit from the cotton hulls. I heard him yelp a time or two and moved over to be sure he wasn’t hurt. He was yelling; but they were yelps of joy….
“Didja see me, Spot?? I was in my slot all the way. I was there and I love my new Raptor. I flew with you guys, it was so cool to look over there and see you! Man, I wanna do that again!”
Once Veggie was out of the cotton, we hooked up with Chris Gray, Ivan, and a few other wingsuiters and began the journey to a crossroads where we could be picked up. The irrigation ditches somewhat limited access to the road, so we had a half mile or so to walk before we could hop in the back of a passing truck for the couple-mile ride back to the DZ.
After counting returned heads, Scott Campos declared the event a success, thanked everyone for attending, and we all said our heartfelt goodbyes. The very fast weekend was a terrific bonding experience for many of us.
Thanks to Betsy of Skydive Arizona, the terrific pilots there, and Scott Campos for hosting and organizing this event.
Look at all those squirrel suits! Photo by Scotty Burns
Now I sit at the airport with yet another new friend. Funny how a simple thing like a single electrical outlet in a sea of wall space can unite two computer geeks. The guy sitting next to me keeps sneaking peeks at my computer screen and finally asked “Are those squirrel suits?” here we go again….
Man, I love my new Voodoo from Rigging Innovations!