Profile - Richard “Rickster” Powell | D-11302
by Brian Giboney
Richard “Rickster” Powell is a professional test jumper for Performance Designs (PD). He has jumped all over the world but is now based at Skydive DeLand in Florida. Powell’s canopy piloting skills have been featured in advertisements and movie productions, including Norman Kent’s film “Willing to Fly.” He is also a skilled camera flyer who has flown camera for 4-way formation skydiving (FS) and skysurfing teams in national and international competitions.
Marital Status: Happily married to Bee
Children: Calvin, age four, and Zoe, age three
Occupations: Full-time jumper
Pet Peeves: Non-recyclers. Come on, it is so easy.
Pre-Jump Superstitions: Baah
Life Philosophy: Try to treat others as you would like to be treated
Would you rather have a hard opening or line twists? Neither, please
Are you a neat packer or a trash packer? Very, very neat
Would you rather swoop or land on an accuracy tuffet? I’d rather tag the tuffet on a swoop
Jump Philosophy: Swoop and let swoop
Sponsors: Performance Designs
Container: United Parachute Technologies Vectors
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Competition Velocity 84s
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs Optimum 113 and PD-106R
AAD: Airtec Cypres
Disciplines: All, plus camera and test jumping
Date of First Jump: August 11, 1984
USPA License: D-11302
Championships:I’ve participated in many world meets and cups, two with the U.S. 4-way FS team. [In most of the competitions I’ve been in, I was] filming 4-way, but [I’ve filmed] a lot of skysurfing, as well.
Total Number of Jumps: 20,000-plus
Balloon Jumps: 20
BASE Jumps: 10
Other/Test Jumps: 7,000
Total Number of Cutaways: Twelve that were unintentional
What was your early canopy progression?
I jumped a T-10 [a military-surplus round parachute] through my static-line progression, made a couple of jumps on a Cruislite 220 and then 500-plus jumps on my Spitfire 180.
Most people don't know this about me:
I am a Christian.
What do you like least about the sport?
Fragile egos and vehement opinions.
Who has been your skydiving mentor?
Joey D’Afflisio made me realize there was a lot to landing canopies.
What are your future skydiving goals?
To fly with my kids if they want to.
What safety item do you think is most important or most often neglected?
Canopy control was neglected for a long time, but Scott Miller helped change that.
Do you have any suggestions for students?
Canopy control is very important.
What's the most bad-ass thing you can do in the air?
Fly my canopy like it is part of me.
What is your favorite jump plane and why?
Everyday it is the Otter. Cessna 182s are great for slow days. The AN 72 jet that was available at two Vichy [France] boogies was the ultimate—to 18,000 feet in 12 minutes.
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
There are several friends no longer with us that I would love to even just see again.
If you could make everyone on the planet do something to make earth a better place to live, what would it be?
You know when the load is light and someone says, “share the love”? Apply a little of that to the world.
Someday I am going to own:
Two grown-up children!
The toughest thing to do in the sport of skydiving is:
Keep your mouth shut and listen, instead of, “me, me, me, I, I, I.”
What kind of skydiving student were you—the typical flailer or a complete natural from jump number one?
My static-line jumps were pretty scary, but then two instructors took me AFF-style and that hit the easy button.
Of all your thousands of skydives, is there one jump you would like to do over again?
I would like to repeat some jumps I did in New Zealand years ago while filming [the Patrick Passe film] “Antigravity.”
While in freefall, what has been your strangest thought?
As a 4-way camera person, I have thought some strange things. I used to watch [construction crews] building a road behind the 4-way I was filming.
What has been your greatest competition moment?
When I met my wife at the 2001 World Meet in Granada [Spain].
What has been your worst skydiving moment?
Once in a competition in Germany we exited into hail that turned into sleet and then snow. After opening it was raining and foggy. We landed off in mud.
What has been your weirdest skydiving moment?
When my cutaway canopy landed on a live tank range in Holland.
What drives your competitive spirit?
I don’t think I have one.
What quirks do you possess?
What quirks don’t I possess? I don’t like shoes; I always prefer jumping barefoot.
What makes you tick?
Filming at least eight jumps a day, flying my [Velocity] 84s and swooping anything I want.
How did you get to your current level of canopy piloting talent?
I jumped my first canopy for more than 500 jumps. I had tweaked it and flew it until I knew it blindfolded. Then I met John LeBlanc [Vice President of PD), and he said something like, “You fly that thing pretty well. Want to try one of mine?” His was a 170-square-foot, nine-cell canopy; mine was a 180 [square-foot] seven-cell. From then on, it has been easy.
What was it like helping develop the Performance Designs Stiletto and Velocity canopies?
Pretty cool for me, because I was not involved in the very early prototypes (which was the hard work) and got to help fine tune the pick of the litter.
What’s the best thing about being a test jumper?
Seeing something work better, and flying better work.
How do you motivate yourself for the constant risk of test jumping?
It is not such a risk, because PD uses good stuff and has [safety] procedures in place. Also, I do not like being trapped inside...
Explain "Rickster" in five words or fewer:
Minimalist (at heart), sensitive, chronologically challenged, perfectionist