Profiles

Profile - Jason Russell | D-23161

by Brian Giboney

Jason Russell, D-23161, is a world record holder and a newly crowned Vertical Formation Skydiving World Champion with his SDC Core teammates, one of whom is his wife. Early in his career, he left motocross racing to compete in skydiving and now has made more than 14,000 jumps. Chalk this up as a huge gain to our sport. more »

Profile - Cornelia Mihai | D-31070

by Brian Giboney

Cornelia Mihai, D-31070, is a focused and hard-working skydiver who at the 2014 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Championships became the first female to medal in a canopy piloting event. Originally from Romania, Mihai is now a member of the Skydive Dubai Canopy Piloting Team and is regularly atop the podium representing the United Arab Emirates in international canopy piloting competitions. She is also a tandem and AFF instructor. more »

Profile - Tom Sanders | D-6503

by Brian Giboney

Legendary aerial cinematographer Tom Sanders, D-6503, has filmed skydiving scenes for dozens of movies, including “Drop Zone,” many James Bond films and the original “Point Break,” which inspired thousands of people to become skydivers. His resume also includes countless TV commercials, the award-winning documentary “Over the Edge” and coordinating filming of the 1988 Olympic Rings skydive. In 2005, USPA awarded him its Gold Medal for Meritorious Service. He is the 200th person profiled since this column began in February 2000. more »

Profile - David "T.K." Hayes | D-18764

by Brian Giboney

David “T.K.” Hayes, D-18764, manages Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida. Originally from Canada, Hayes cut away from a good career at IBM to pursue a career in skydiving. He made his first jump in 1981 at the age of 20. Thirty-five years later, he is still in love with the sport. Hayes holds almost every instructional rating there is (in both the U.S. and Canada) and is a strong supporter of canopy piloting competitions. more »

Profile - Matt Davidson | D-17131

by Brian Giboney

Matt Davidson, D-17131, has spent half of his 42 years on earth skydiving with the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights. During that time, he has accumulated countless world and national record and championship titles in 4-way, 8-way, 10-way and 16-way formation skydiving. Dedication to the U.S. military and to skydiving is a familiy affair: Davidson's father, Mike Davidson, was also a Golden Knight, and his wife Jen Davidson, is a member of the team as well. more »

Profile - Mikhail Markine | D-29696

by Brian Giboney

Mikhail Markine is a very talented and determined skydiving and wind-tunnel competitor, coach and organizer. He is so talented that 4-way formation skydiving team SDC Rhythm XP recruited him to fly tail even before he got U.S. residency and could qualify for U.S. medals. Following a few years of flying with Rhythm and earning a chest full of medals, he joined the Arizona Airspeed 4-way team after competing (and winning gold) on the Airspeed 16-way team at the 2015 USPA Nationals. more »

Profile - Paul “Pop” Poppenhager | D-47

by Brian Giboney

Longtime Florida drop zone owner and instructor Paul “Pop” Poppenhager, D-47, was born in June 1934 and became interested in skydiving at a young age while watching his father jump at airshows. Poppenhager made his first jump—a military jump prior to the Korean War—at age 19. As part of the 82nd Airborne Division, he became a military parachute rigger and test jumper. In the following years, Poppenhager became a well-known instructor and trained countless people to skydive both inside and outside of the military. He joined USPA in 1960, and in 2015, the Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame inducted him as a member. more »

Profile - Joe Jennings | D-13033

by Brian Giboney

PROFILE1605 Joe Jennings is a Hollywood skydiving legend, and his legend is still growing! Jennings gained international attention as a camera flyer in skysurfing at the ESPN X Games and other international competitions. He soon began shooting footage for films and television, as well as performing stunts himself. His talent has earned him two Emmys (for cinematography and aerial stunt coordination), and he’s worked on movies such as “Charlie’s Angels,” “xXx,” “Air Force One” and the 2015 remake of “Point Break.” more »

Profile - Marian Sparks | D-29599

by Brian Giboney

Marian Sparks started skydiving at age 51 and has gone on to make more than 2,100 jumps and set numerous large-formation skydiving records. Sparks is a breast cancer survivor who decided to use her skydiving skills to give back to The Rose, a Houston-area facility that provides breast-cancer services to uninsured women, which saved her life in 2005. She and a group of sky friends founded Jump for the Rose in 2010 to raise money for the non-profit through events and record attempts. Sparks has inspired many people, and the energy she devotes to helping others is contagious. more »

Profile - Nancy Gruttman-Tyler | D-3631

by Brian Giboney

Nancy Gruttman-Tyler, D-3631, made her first leap from an airplane in 1969. She was on the first 16-way all-female star in 1974, served on USPA’s board of directors from 1977-1981 and was one of the first female AFF instructors. After taking 30 years off from jumping—she served her country in the U.S. Army and deployed to several war zones—Gruttman-Tyler returned to the sport in her 60s. She is once again a very active jumper and administers the popular Women’s Star Crest Recipient Awards program, which recognizes those who participate in skydives that include eight or more women. more »