Building Castles in the Air—An Overview of Canopy Formation

Canopy formation (CF) skydiving, also known as canopy relative work (CRW or “crew”), is a discipline of technical ability that is largely misunderstood. Some perceive the discipline as being extremely dangerous, but the small, dedicated group of jumpers who practice it are rewarded by becoming better, safer canopy pilots. CF jumpers generally channel their interest in one of two directions: recreational CF (which includes parabatics) or competition. CF is also the only remaining discipline for which USPA offers performance-based awards—the 4-Stack, 8-Stack and Canopy Crest Soloist (for docking eighth or later on a formation) Awards. more »

The Secrets of D.B. Cooper, Part Two - Evidence of Absence

A single man, an immense amount of cash, four parachutes and a jump from an airliner. Where does the largest manhunt in the United States lead when authorities don’t have a clue as to who the suspect might be? more »

The Secrets of D.B. Cooper, Part One - Notorious Flight 305

Would you jump into a mountain forest for $1,052,000? In the dark? In the rain? In November?
In 1971, one man did. Unfortunately, the cash was stolen and the aircraft was hijacked Boeing 727 with fighter jets and FBI agents in a helicopter following it.
Was he an experienced skydiver or an ordinary criminal attempting an extraordinary theft? Did he survive and escape, or perish in a forest in Washington State? Thirty-nine years later, no one knows for sure.
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The Safest Year—The 2009 Fatality Summary

To find a year in which there were fewer U.S. skydiving deaths than 2009, we have to go back to 1961, when there were 14. Considering that USPA membership is more than nine times what it was in 1961 (and that 2009’s members almost certainly made more than nine times the number of jumps), the 16 skydiving deaths that occurred in 2009 indicate that our sport has made real advances in safety. However, anyone who has been touched by the death of a jumper knows that a single fatality is one too many. When we consider the loss that these deaths represent—and the fact that most could have been easily prevented in ways identified years ago—it is clear that we still have a lot of room for improvement. more »

Getting Down to Work—The USPA Board of Directors 2010 Winter Meeting

The USPA Board of Directors gathered for its winter meeting February 19-21 in Phoenix. In a departure from Arizona’s usual sunny skies and arid climate, a cool rain fell outside while the directors got down to business inside, working smoothly and efficiently to complete a full agenda in near-record time. more »

How to Teach Your Brain to Skydive

You may not realize it, but you probably spend a lot of time teaching your brain how to skydive. Dirt dives, creeper practice and touching emergency handles on the ride to altitude are some of the ways we train our brains to direct our bodies what to do while jumping. Since performance is only as good as the training we give our brains, knowing a little about how the brain learns might improve our skydiving. more »

The 2009 USPA National Collegiate Parachuting Championships

USPA welcomed jumpers to the longest continually running skydiving competition in the U.S.—the USPA National Collegiate Parachuting Championships—December 28 through January 2. Skydive Spaceland in Rosharon, Texas, hosted the 52nd annual collegiate competition. It was the second year in a row that the DZ hosted collegiates, and more than 100 jumpers competed in a total of 12 categories encompassed by four disciplines (formation skydiving [FS], vertical formation skydiving [VFS], classic and sport accuracy). more »

Climb Out, Freak Out, Chill Out—A Guide to Filming 4-way

This article is for jumpers who already have some experience flying camera and are trying to expand on their knowledge of how to film formation teams in a competition setting. I will focus mainly on 4-way, because I believe it to be the most difficult FS discipline to film (aside from VFS), due to the many different exits and faster key speeds. However, once you have a firm grasp of shooting 4-way, the same principles can be applied to 8-way and larger formations. more »

Point Break—20 Years Later

photos courtesy of Tom Sanders/ Aerial Focus

The filming of “Point Break” began in early 1990; the movie opened the summer of the following year to mostly positive reviews and left the audience hungry for more skydiving. Never mind that some critics, such as Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly, mused, “’Point Break’ makes those of us who don't spend our lives searching for the ultimate physical rush feel like second-class citizens. The film turns reckless athletic valor into a new form of aristocracy." Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but for many people, the speedstar over Lake Powell touched their souls and made them want to jump out of planes. Ultimately, “Point Break,” starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, ushered in a new era for the sport of skydiving. more »

Flying a Flag

Demo jumps made with flags and banners can be great publicity for the sport if done correctly. Although there are a number of different setups, the most popular for demo jumps is known as the "drop flag," so called because the flag is dropped down on a lanyard for display below the jumper’s body. Drop flags are pretty awesome to see, make great symbols of pride and can be very effective advertising. more »