Profile - Sandy Grillet | D-10938

by Brian Giboney

PROFILE20116Sandy Grillet, D-10938, is a legendary organizer and coach from the Midwest. Grillet expresses his love of the sport by organizing and mentoring jumpers—teaching freefall and canopy control skills—all free of charge. Organizing is such a part of his life he often dreams of skydives and will wake up in the middle of the night to make notes on new formations. Grillet also founded the Northern Plains Skydiving League (NPSL) and directed it for 10 years.

Age: 57

Marital Status: Married 32 years to my totally awesome wife, Shirley

Children: Brandy, Andrea and Nick

Occupation: Independent insurance broker, actor, skydiver

Pet Peeves: People who ask questions and then don’t shut up long enough to hear the answer. And people who interrupt you, while you are coaching someone else, to give unsolicited and usually incorrect advice.

Life Philosophy: I have two: I’d rather be sorry for something I did than be sorry for something I didn’t do. And the most important one: The thing people remember most about you is how you made them feel.

Hard opening or line twists? No thanks, I just ate.

Team Names: Microburst, PD Ninjas

Sponsors: Advanced Aerospace Designs, Cookie Composites, Firefly Suits, Performance Designs and Skydive Iowa

Container: United Parachute Technologies Vector 3 Micron

Main Canopies: Performance Designs Katana 120

Reserve Canopies: Performance Designs Optimum 143

AAD: Advanced Aerospace Designs Vigil II

Medals and Records: Multiple gold and silver medals in 4- and 8-way at USPA meets in the ’70s and ’80s. Several gold and silver medals in 20-way sequential and 40-way speed at meets in Zephyrhills, Florida, in the ’80s. Multiple gold and silver medals in NPSL meets. 300-way world record in 2002 at Skydive Arizona in Eloy. Co-organizer of the unofficial [since it pre-dated the state records program] Iowa state record 60-way. (At a boogie, using jumpers from Cessna drop zones, we completed the record in three attempts.)

Other Skydiving Accomplishments: Coaching and mentoring a current member of the Army Golden Knights. Coaching and mentoring my son Nick (and then knowing when to encourage him to move on to a level of skydiving beyond my skill sets).

Year of First Jump: 1973

Total Number of Jumps: 7,300-plus
FS: 6,000
Camera: 500
Hop and Pops: 300
Freefly: 250
CF: 250
Accuracy: 125
Demos: 75

Total Number of Cutaways: Three unintentional and one intentional (Skyhook®)

Do you have any pre-jump superstitions?
Check your threes. Check your threes. Check your threes. [three rings, three handles, three straps]

Did you start out as an AFF, static-line or tandem student?
Static line was all that existed. But then, when I started jumping, the Dead Sea was only sick.

What kind of skydiving student were you?
I was a flailer. It took me 11 jumps to get cleared for freefall (the average was six to seven). Some of the instructors were starting to talk about bowling. I don’t know if they ever went bowling or not, but I kept jumping.

Who has been your skydiving mentor?
I made 30 160-mile round trips to the DZ to make my first 10 jumps. If it weren’t for Bob Roach, I’m not sure I would have survived that frustration.

Most people don’t know this about me:
I’m an awesome rapper.

What do you like most about the sport?
I love the fact that we jump with people because of who they are as people and who they are as skydivers and not because of their economic status. I’ve met some incredible people. This sport has given me the confidence to do anything I decide to.

What do you like least about the sport?
It really concerns me when I see new jumpers who think their skills will allow them to cut corners, especially when it comes to canopy flight, downsizing and wing loading. I wish there was an effective way for us to get through to them without them having to see the carnage and death some of us have witnessed.

What safety item do you think is most important?
Our ability to question and reason. When people give you advice or an opinion on how something should be done, I believe it’s our duty to ask them to explain how they came to their conclusions. It won’t take long to figure out whether or not they’ve given any original thought to what they are saying or if they are just regurgitating what they’ve heard from someone else.

How did you become interested in skydiving?
My first parachute jump was actually off the roof of our two-story house. I was nine. My buddy, whose dad had an old surplus round, held on to the canopy while I put my arms through the risers (no harness). He then tossed it into the 20-plus-mph wind, and off I went. Combined with Truman Sparks-style cutoffs and a gravel driveway, it was enough to [dampen] my curiosity for a few years. Then when I was 20, I was drinking with some friends, and one of them mentioned that his brother-in-law was a jumpmaster. Within 20 minutes, we were enrolled in the following Saturday’s class. You gotta love alcohol.

Do you have any suggestions for students?
Take a breath. Slow down. And jump, jump, jump.

If you could do a “fantasy 2-way” with anybody, whom would it be with?
It would be a 3-way with the Wright brothers.

Most embarrassing moment while at a drop zone:
Organizing a 30-way and forgetting to put my name on the list. The dive went great while I watched from the ground.

The toughest thing to do in the sport of skydiving is:
Remember we’re just skydivers. We’re not curing cancer.

What do you consider your most significant achievement?
Raising three unbelievably great kids who are passionate, compassionate, respectful and humorous.

Suggestions for the USPA:
Be mindful of who you are representing.

What has been your best skydiving moment?
I have two. Watching, in freefall, my son’s reactions during his first jump. Being in the peas when my daughter landed from her one and only tandem and witnessing her elation.

What has been your worst skydiving moment?
Realizing after landing that the guy who lined up right behind me on a big-way went in.

What has been your weirdest skydiving moment?
I once fell asleep in the DC-3 at Zephyrhills, Florida, on the way to altitude. During climbout, my group started yelling at me to wake up. I was in a really deep sleep and was startled when I awoke. I jumped up and ran to the door and pushed my way out to the center-float slot. It was only after I got outside that I realized I was supposed to be in the back of the inside line. It was the most surreal moment I’ve ever had while jumping. But everyone had a really good laugh, especially since I was the organizer.

Explain Sandy in five words or fewer:
Focused, empathetic, passionate, humorous (some would say smart-ass) and contrarian (my daughter insisted on this last one, but I have no idea why).

What are your future skydiving goals?
Keep current. Keep relevant. Keep surviving.


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Diana Marie "Grillet" Howard
Fri, 10/28/2011 - 11:02

I just found this new profile on you love all the information. Still trty to keep up with you and Bens Skydiving activity. The next time you are in the Philadelphia area let me know I would like to come see you jump. I have always envied your courage and skill in skydiving. Miss you and love you your sisted

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