Profile - John Leming | D-11593

by Brian Giboney

PROFILE201512John Leming started skydiving in 1984 with his best friend and future teammate, Kirk Verner, while they were still in high school. He developed his formation skydiving skills, and in 1993, with little camera experience, he became the camera flyer for what would be the most successful formation skydiving team ever assembled: Arizona Airspeed. The team—Leming and longtime friend Verner, Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld, Jack Jefferies and Mark Kirkby—made thousands of jumps together and won numerous national and world championships. Leming filmed it all. More than 30 years after his first jump, Leming still actively skydives and also finds time for BASE jumping, scuba diving, snowboarding, paragliding and photography.

Name: John Leming

Nickname: Johnny Mac

Age: 47

Birthplace: Carbondale, Illinois

Marital Status: Single

Children: One daughter, Ashlee

Occupation: Instructor at Tactical Air Operations

Education: High school

Life Philosophy: Have fun. Don’t be a jerk.

Jump Philosophy: If you’re not having fun, stop doing it.

Team Name: Not currently competing. Previously: Quantum Leap, Arizona Airspeed, Synchronicity.

Containers: Sun Path Javelin

Main Canopy: Performance Designs Stiletto 107 and Spectre 120, Precision Aerodynamics XAOS 89

Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs PDR 113

AAD: Airtec CYPRES

Disciplines: Formation skydiving and freefly, but these days I mostly like to fly my wingsuit.

Home Drop Zone: Skydive San Diego in Jamul, California

First Jump: A static line in 1984

Licenses and Ratings: D-11593, AFF and Static-Line Instructor, Federal Aviation Administration Senior Rigger

Medals: USPA Nationals gold: canopy relative work (now called canopy formation skydiving) 8-way speed in 1991, 20-way formation skydiving in 1991, 4-way FS in 1994-1997
World Cup gold: 4-way FS in 1994 and 1996, 8-way FS in 1996, female 4-way FS in 2005
World Championships gold: CRW 8-way speed in 1992, 4-way FS in 1995-1997, female 4-way in 2004

Total Number of Jumps: 16,000-plus
Camera: 10,000
FS: 3,000
AFF: 3,000
Freefly: 300
Wingsuit: 200
CF: 50
Demos: 50
Balloon: 15
BASE: 100

Largest Completed Formation: 100-way

Total Number of Cutaways: Five

Are you a neat packer or a trash packer?
Trash. Back when I was team training, I could pack in under three minutes.

Most people don't know this about me:
I was adopted.

Of all your skydives, does one jump stand out most?
Being pushed out of a Skyvan while seated in a Honda Civic with three of my teammates.

What do you like most about the sport?
The amazing friends from around the world I’ve made over the years.

What do you like least about the sport?
“Skygods.”

Who has been your skydiving mentor?
There have been many, but my first and most prominent would have been Dave Verner.

What are your future skydiving goals?
To continue to be able to make a living in this sport while having as much fun as possible.

What safety item do you think is most important or most often neglected?
The AAD.

How did you become interested in skydiving?
My best friend’s, Kirk Verner’s, father owned a drop zone.

Do you have any suggestions for students?
Put proximity flying on the back burner for a few years.

What has been your most embarrassing moment at a drop zone?
Walking to the plane without a rig on. Don’t think it can’t happen to you.

What is the toughest thing to do in the sport of skydiving?
Afford it.

What kind of skydiving student were you, the typical flailer or a complete natural from jump one?
Absolute flailer. I spun violently on more 10-second delays than I can remember.

Of all your skydives, is there one jump you would like to do over?
Round seven of the 1995 World Championships. I missed an exit and caused a re-jump. At the time, I thought I might have cost us the meet.

What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
My daughter.

Do you have any suggestions for USPA?
Contribute more to the U.S. Teams.

What has been your best skydiving moment?
Getting a slot on Jerry Bird’s 40-way team, then winning the meet at Z-Hills [Zephyrhills, Florida] in ’89, I believe it was.

What has been your greatest competition moment?
Winning the ’95 world meet.

What has been your worst skydiving moment?
Engineering an exit from a Skyvan, which caused it to stall and nearly collide with one of the trail Otters.

What drives your competitive spirit?
I’m probably the least competitive person I know.

What is your best memory of forming the original 1994 Arizona Airspeed team?
Being asked to be a part of it. I wasn’t a camera flyer at the time, so it came as a bit of a surprise.

We had our first team meeting with [drop zone owner] Larry Hill shortly after we all arrived at [Skydive Arizona] in Eloy. There had been an article in Skydiving magazine a couple years prior where Mike Truffer had asked Jack [Jefferies] what he thought about the Nationals being moved from Muskogee, Oklahoma, to Eloy. His answer was, “I don't see the point of moving it from one s**thole to another.” Well, after we all sat down with Larry and had gone around the room thanking him for his very generous sponsorship and telling him how thrilled we were to be there, Larry turned to Jack and said, “I hope you aren't too disappointed you had to move to this s**thole.” We all just got silent and looked at each other for a moment. Then the other four of us leaned back slightly as to distance ourselves from Jack and his remark. At that moment, Larry began to laugh, as did the rest of us, and Jack turned bright red. I think it was at that moment that we all realized we'd made the right decision in taking the team to Skydive Arizona.

Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld talks about butting heads with Jack Jefferies as Airspeed formed. What was your view of the team’s origins?
Jack and Dan were certainly the cofounders of the team, but what I think made Airspeed work was the fact that it was a true team in which everyone's input was welcomed and encouraged. I think the real unsung hero of the team was Kirk Verner. Had it not been for his having worked with both Jack and Dan, I don't believe the two ever would have been brought together. As for stories about the two of them butting heads, that was something I stayed out of. I think what they liked about me as their cameraman was that I was seen and not heard, for the most part. I certainly didn't possess the 4-way skills to comment on the technical side of things.

What was the most difficult thing being the camera flyer for the best FS team on the planet?
Simply the pressure of competing at a world meet where your team was very likely to win. Videoing FS isn't that technically difficult apart from the exit. I'm not a very competitive person by nature, and until I joined Airspeed I hadn't been a 4-way cameraman. This left me sorely lacking in competition experience... especially at that level. Looking back, I'm not sure why in the world I was their pick.

Please explain how it felt to beat the heavily favored French team on its home turf at the 1995 World Championships?
Amazing! Being a kid growing up on a drop zone and seeing the French dominate the event for the previous 10 years, it was absolutely indescribable to dethrone them at their home DZ.

What’s the best thing about being an original member of Arizona Airspeed
That I was part of an organization that is still alive and flourishing 21 years later.

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