Thursday, February 09, 2006

Speaking of Records....

The "World Team" successfully completed a 400 person formation in skydiving in Thailand! Oh, yeah, just in case it has always been a burning question for you, here's the answer: THIS IS WHY YOU JUMP OUT OF PERFECTLY GOOD AIRPLANES! To be certified as a record, the formation has to be held intact for at least 3 seconds, and every jumper must be in the "slot" where they were planned to be, it's not just grab on someone as you get there. They use CAD/CAM programs and good old common sense as to figure out what the formation will look like and who belongs where (combination of experience and also body size). Flying about the sky, after exting from aircraft in close formation, with 32 ft/sec/sec taking effect, and the brain having to take a some time to register, it gets exciting. They plan and practice the routes from the planes to the entry into the formation. The break off plan is staged and executed at various departure and opening altitudes. People in the practice jumps that aren't paying attention to their surrounding (and therefore become a danger to the other jumpers) are "cut" from the load and the people "on the bench" are called in and briefed about the position they are filling. As the formation builds, the aerodynamics begin to slow it down, so those who have joined the formation need to keep their collective fall rate up, as once it gets too slow, single jumpers will end up falling faster and then not make it in while they "go low." Once you're in, you have to watch the subtle signals of the movement of the mass, for ripples can flow thru it like a wave if people don't keep there individual fall rates matching the rest of them. If they take a second or two to react, rather than anticipating, the waves can remind you of a "crack the whip" game, only at about 120MPH. The formation can break apart as a result. It's an activity that takes intense mental preparation and focus, all the way to a safe landing. Consider 400 jumpers and 8-10 camera guys all looking for the coolest place to land and swoop the crowd on the sucks to ruin a prefectly good record attempt with a collision before getting down to celebrate. Additional technical note: The jumpers not "attached" happen to be camera flyers, most likely doing stills and digital video. There's a little of the background on what's my "resume" to discuss such things, in case you need to check me out. It's exciting times in the skies! Check this post out about the 85 way canopy formation over Lake Wales, FL in December...the record for that part of the sport. Update 2/10/2006: Read a first person account of the jumps here from Luke Oliver. He mentions his mentor in "Big Ways" was Sandy Wambach. She organized both record attempts I was on. For a women barely standing 5' and maybe 98 lbs soaking wet, not only did she dream big, but she did it big... Thanks to Mudville Gazette for the Open Post! Thank you, also, to Blue Star Chronicles, Bloggin' Out Loud, Adam's Blog, The Real Ugly American, Black Five,Argghhh! The Home of Tow Jonah's Military Guys, Little Green Footballs and Jo's Cafe for the Trackback!

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