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.

Age: 42
Marital Status: Married to Golden Knight Female 4-way (GKF4) competitor Jen Davidson
Occupation: Professional 4-way FS competitor and coach, software engineer
Children: 4-year-old daughter, Lauren Elizabeth
Ocupation: Competition parachutist with the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights
Pre-Jump Superstitions: I put my left glove on first. I feel a little weird if I don’t.
Life Philosophy: To share my positivity, passion, knowledge and enthusiasm freely with others
Team Name: The Golden Knights 8-Way Formation Skydiving Team (GK8)
Container: Javelin Odyssey
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Katana 97
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs  Optimum 126
AAD: Advanced Aerospace Designs Vigil
Home Drop Zone: Laurinburg/Maxton in North Carolina and Skydive Paraclete XP in Raeford, North Carolina
Year of First Jump: I started out as a static-line-progression student at age 16 in 1990. As a military dependent, I was able to make my first jumps out of Huey and Blackhawk helicopters. I made my first few jumps at Hatch Stage Field with the Ft. Rucker Sport Parachute Club and continued my training with the 82nd and Green Beret Sport Parachute Clubs at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

Licenses and Ratings: B-14701, C-21605, D-17131, AFF and Tandem Instructor, Coach, National Judge, Federal Aviation Administration Senior Rigger
Championships, Medals and Records: Multiple national medals and titles in 4-, 8-, 10- and 16-way FS (1996-2015). CISM [Conseil International du Sport Militaire] champions in 4-way FS and CISM World Record in 4-way FS (2006). Two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Cups in 8-way FS (1998, 2011). Three FAI World Championships in 8-way FS (1997, 2012, 2014). Two World Air Games Championships in 8-way FS (1997, 2015). Three 8-way FS world records: 1997 FAI World Championships as alternate, 31 points; 2015 USPA National Championships, 32 points; 2015 Dubai World Air Games,  33 points.

Total Number of Jumps: Just over 20,000
FS: 5,000-plus 4-way; 10,000-plus 8-way
Style and Accuracy: 2,500 Camera: 1,500
Demos: 800 AFF: 350 CF: 50 Tandems: 30
Freefly: 30 Balloon: Two BASE: Two
Largest Completed Formation: 100-way sequential
Total Number of Cutaways: Nine

Most people don't know this about me:
My father and I served together on the Golden Knights for three months before he was transferred to another assignment. And I was involved in theater and ballet throughout my childhood. My last performance was in 1995 during my second year with the Golden Knights.

Of all your skydives, does one stand out most?
Two stand out. The first, jumping simultaneously with my dad out of separate Stearman biplanes flying in formation over the Flying Circus barnstorming act in Bealton, Virginia. The second, a demonstration jump with the 82nd Airborne Division’s All American Freefall Team. We landed on a small barge in the middle of the Detroit River for the Detroit International Freedom Festival with an estimated one million people in attendance.

Who has been your skydiving mentor?
My dad, Mike Davidson. I started jumping because of him. His guidance in my formative jumping years and his companionship during that time is something I treasure.

What are your future skydiving goals?
Immediate: win gold at the 2016 USPA  Nationals and gold at the 2016 World Championships of Formation Skydiving in 8-way. Long term: compete on an open-class 4-way FS team with my wife Jen, ultimately winning gold at the USPA Nationals and FAI World Championships.

What safety item do you think is most important or most often neglected?
Sound judgment and its diminishment in the presence of onlookers. And an AAD.

Were you a hard child to raise?
I don’t think so. I stayed out way past curfew on occasion, but my dad would take my rig with him to the DZ and leave me at home as punishment. That was a pretty serious motivator.

What has been your most embarrassing moment at a drop zone?
Attempting to impress spectators at the Flying Circus by initiating a lower-than-usual turn in efforts to increase my swoop. That day, I learned the meaning of the phrase, “The number of people watching you is proportional to the stupidity of your actions.” Luckily, I walked away with only a grass-stained jumpsuit, minor scrapes and a very bruised ego.

What kind of skydiving student were you, the typical flailer or a natural from jump one?
Super flailer! After my 10-second delays, I kept wondering why the front and rear risers were twisted around each other. It was somewhat mysterious until a friend shot some pictures from the ground with a telephoto lens. He captured me sticking my legs out when I pulled, which put me head down as my canopy deployed above my feet. I was repeatedly flipped through the risers during deployment and had no idea how it happened.

What's your most significant life achievement?
The birth of my daughter, Lauren, and marrying my wife, Jen.

Explain Matt Davidson in five words or fewer:
Driven, passionate, caring and sincere.

What is one misconception about the Knights?
Jumpers who have the desire to become a Golden Knight tend to think they’re not skilled or experienced enough, even though they’ve met the basic requirements. Acceptance is largely based on one’s ability to be a productive member of a team and on character and learning potential. Once accepted, a Golden Knight’s skills will then be forged through training, demonstration and competition experience.

What’s best about being a Golden Knight?
I enjoy the opportunity to be an ambassador for the U.S. Army to the American public and people around the world. I love training and preparing for competition then having the opportunity to put that training to the test. I love the sense of camaraderie that comes with being a member of this team. Winning medals, achieving goals and surpassing expectations is exciting and fulfilling. For me, however, the prize is truly in the process and in the friendships formed along the way, both on the team and with all of the competitors I’ve met around the world.

What was it like flying on the 2015 8-way world records?
Breaking the 31-point world record set by the 1997 U.S. Team was something I dreamt about for 18 years. Over the years leading up to the 2015 Nationals, we failed to capitalize on several opportunities. As we watched the judges’ confirmation of the score, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and pride in my teammates.
The second world record we set two months later in Dubai was icing on the cake. We knew the jump had the potential of yielding a world-record score, but we also knew that an all-random sequence of that nature had the potential to be problematic. We were somewhat surprised to set that one.

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