Project Strato-Jump I, II, and III

Photos by Phil Chiocchio

One spring day in the early 1960s, Nick Piantanida traveled to the recently opened Lakewood Parachute Center in New Jersey to watch people jumping and knew instantly that he wanted to get involved. He soon began taking lessons and jumping regularly. Parachuting became Piantanida’s new passion, and he earned D-778 in November 1964. Skydiving was more rewarding than anything he had done before. It started him on a journey to become a remarkable high achiever, and it altered the direction and purpose of his life in ways he never foresaw. more »

Parachutes Incorporated: The Genesis of Commercial Skydiving

Where would skydiving be without innovation? Take a look at where you jump and the equipment you use and you will begin to understand how innovators have shaped every aspect of our sport. more »

The Birth of Skydiving Photography

It took no small amount of nerve to begin skydiving in the 1950s, when the stable delay was still in its infancy and round canopies landed you less than gently. But what took real nerve back then was trying to capture skydiving on film while everyone was still learning how to skydive. Today, skydivers with GoPros record every imaginable frame of weekend geeking, uploading routine jumps to YouTube just minutes after landing; everyone seems to be a camera flyer. They have no idea how hard it was a half century ago. more »

Slim - The Little-Known Life of Charles Lindbergh

Mention the name of Charles Lindbergh in aviation circles, and to a lesser extent in skydiving, and you get instant recognition. He is perhaps the greatest and most well known aviator since the Wright Brothers. His historic flight in May 1927 as the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean made him a world-famous celebrity. Several years later, his infant son was abducted and killed, and the kidnapper was arrested, put on trial, found guilty and executed. This story was front-page news of gargantuan proportions. Fame also followed Lindbergh in the days prior to World War ll when he visited Germany and paid adulation to Hitler’s modern air force. And although he faced much negative publicity, his legend as an aviator continued, even to this day. more »

A Jump for the Ages


In a sport defined by superlatives and firsts, it is rare that a jump deserves the title “historic.” In fact, there may be only a few that deserve the distinction. One such jump is certainly the long, lonely leap Air Force Captain Joseph Kittinger made on August 16, 1960, from an open gondola suspended under a helium balloon 102,800 feet above sea level. Another—the spectacularly public Red Bull Stratos jump that Austrian Felix Baumgartner made from 128,100 feet above sea level near Roswell, New Mexico, on October 14—occurred 52 years later. more »

Starting a Tradition: The First 8-Woman Star

The year 1969 was a happy time to be skydiving. Relative work (now called formation skydiving) was uniting the men and women of the sport as they had never united before. Jumpers were frolicking in the sky, at times laughing out loud in freefall from the ultimate joy of flying free—together! Everything was new. more »

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Tales from Skydiving in the '60s: Part II

Gear, attitudes and disciplines have evolved over the years. “We are experiencing an entirely different skydiving mentality today than was present during the last part of the 20th century,” says USPA lifetime member Charles Baldauf, D-3307. more »

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Tales from Skydiving in the '60s: Part I

Do you think you have it bad, having to constantly reassure coworkers who know you’re a skydiver? Or answering the same questions over and over again to friends and family who don’t really understand what skydivers actually do? Imagine what it was like in the 1960s, when skydiving was a new sport. Today, almost every other stranger we run into has made at least one jump or knows someone who has. Parachutists back then—there were only about 4,000 to 8,000 in the entire country—really had some explaining to do. more »

Leap Year 1912

"It is only by strenuous and hazardous preparation that the aviator can fit himself to his vocation," an early aviation journalist observed. "He needs an extraordinary combination of active energy, courage, decision of purpose, a quick eye, clearness of judgment, the utmost presence of mind and great physical dexterity." more »

An Eye on the Past While Looking Ahead

In 1946, the United Nations hosted its first meeting. President Truman created the CIA. The bikini bathing suit debuted, the microwave oven was invented, and B.B. King began his musical career. In aviation, the first rocket attained 100 miles in altitude; the Civil Aeronautics Administration certified the Bell 47, the first commercial helicopter; and a Lockheed Constellation made the first non-stop transcontinental commercial flight. And in July of that year, the National Parachute Jumpers-Riggers Inc. filed articles of incorporation in the State of New York. Its board of directors numbered nine. Dues were $5. Part of the organization’s stated purpose was to “provide for the mutual assistance, enjoyment, entertainment and improvement of the members socially and physically,” and it also focused on safety, training, education and competition. more »