Above photo by Dan Dupuis.
In 1969, a group of firefighters in Vernon, California, were relaxing between calls by watching the popular TV show “Ripcord,” which depicted the radical activity of jumping out of planes for fun. Inspired, they all agreed to make their own jumps together at the nearby drop zone in Elsinore on March 12. Firefighter Pat Moorehead was part of this group. After making his first jump—a static-line from 2,800 feet—he never looked back. He was the only one of the firefighters to make a second jump that day. Now, more than 50 years later, he has made nearly 6,700 jumps, including nine on November 20, his 90th birthday, at Skydive Perris in California. At the event, Moorehead reminisced about his first jump, saying, “At the age of 37, I was the oldest guy at the drop zone … and I still am!”
The November 20 birthday event—dubbed TEAM-90—was a fundraiser for the International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame (into which Moorehead was inducted in 2016); a tribute to the Parachutists Over Phorty Society (POPS) and its subgroups Skydivers Over Sixty (SOS), Jumpers Over Seventy (JOS), Jumpers Over Eighty Society (JOES) and Jumpers Over Ninety Society (JONS); and a celebration of Moorehead’s extraordinary skydiving career. A recipient of the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award, Moorehead led the high-profile demonstration team California Aerial Circus, appeared in numerous television shows and commercials, performed movie stunts and set various large-formation records. He even met Alicia, his wife of 37 years, on a Twin Otter during a jump vacation in Mexico in 1984. One of his enduring legacies is the founding in 1992 of SOS—an offshoot of POPS (founded by Lenny Barad in 1966)—shortly after his 60th birthday. He and Alicia have held various leadership positions in POPS and SOS, organizations that celebrate skydiving and aging well, something at which both Mooreheads excel.
When it came time to plan the big 90th birthday celebration, who better to turn to than James Davis, the current U.S. Top POP whom Alicia Moorehead had nominated in 2017 to succeed her in that role? As event coordinator, Davis convinced Pat Moorehead—who made 81 jumps on his 80th birthday during the TEAM-80 event—to aim for nine jumps (one for each decade) rather than 90! After two years of planning, a couple thousand emails and several hundred phone calls, the event came to fruition.
Photo by Randy Forbes.
Before the jumping started, the Top POP gathered everyone around to remind them of Moorehead’s wishes for the day: Have fun, and no hurry. Moorehead started jumping at 8:05 a.m. and completed all nine jumps by 12:05 p.m. Everything went remarkably smoothly, due in part to most of the team having participated in the TEAM-80 jumps 10 years earlier. Experience counts, especially with a project this involved! Jay Stokes performed the reserve pack jobs and the original main pack jobs prior to the event; Lynn Fogleman prepped the gear; Scotty Gallan helped with gearing up; Davis performed the pre-jump gear checks and drove the golf cart to the plane; Fess Edwards and Alan Norquest traded off on-plane safety, spotting and door duties; Kent Lane helped remove gear after each jump; and Michael Teague prepped the lines and parachute before handing off the gear to Naomi Oshri and her daughter Leeor, who repacked it for the next load. Duffy Fainer, “the voice of the dropzone,” kept everyone up to date on the ongoing event; DZ Safety Officer Sean Hughley juggled the various loads; and Linda Witte kept timesheets, logging each takeoff, exit and landing so that Moorehead could claim the first JONS Record for Most Jumps in a Day. Randy Forbes and Tom Sanders provided in-air photography and video for the event, while Dennis Sattler captured the happenings on the ground.
Following the nine jumps, everyone proceeded to the pool area for a catered lunch. On the next load, Davis got out on a low pass to make a flag jump in honor of Moorehead’s military service (he served in the U.S. Navy and the Air Force Reserve). The plane then continued to altitude with Skydive Perris General Manager Dan-Brodsky Chenfeld’s 19-way group, which performed a formation in the shape of a 90 with Sanders filming. Later in the day, Stephanie Baptiste organized a group of wingsuit flyers and Eric Gallan organized a group of canopy formation skydivers to fly similar 90-shaped formations.
The Conatser family (Skydive Perris’ DZOs) were fabulous hosts. Melanie Conatser brought out a beautiful cake, complete with 90 candles, that her brother Pat Conatser lit with a blow torch. He then asked Moorehead to put out the candles with a fire extinguisher in recognition of his time as a fire chief! (They then provided a real cake for everyone to enjoy.)
Twenty-one members of Moorehead’s family attended, spanning from his 2-year-old great-granddaughter to his 91-year-old sister. Most of his family members have jumped, and several are even members of POPS and SOS! Naturally, skydivers from around the U.S. flocked to Perris for the momentous occasion. Firefighting buddies came, as well as members of the California Aerial Circus demo team. The Mayor of Perris even made an appearance and presented Pat with a certificate of achievement!
Photo by Dennis Sattler.
Donations to the International Skydiving Museum—funded by T-shirt sales and cash donations—are still rolling in, but should reach about $20,000, surpassing the amount raised by TEAM-80. Alicia Moorehead, along with Sandra Drahman, Louise Gallan, Chris Schilpp and Jan Works, coordinated sales of the TEAM-90 merchandise that Dave Sanders helped design. Sanders, who always goes above and beyond, even showed up the day of the event with a wind blade that he placed at the location of the ninth landing.
Along with raising money for the museum, the event provided terrific positive publicity for the sport. Skydive Perris Marketing Manager Céline Pelletier did an amazing job coordinating the media, and obtained interviews for Moorehead that received national attention, including one with the Wall Street Journal! With his engaging personality, Moorehead’s interviews both showed the sport in its best light and provided an example of what can be accomplished at any age.
Pat Moorehead is now focused on doing at least one jump for his 100th birthday. Mark your calendars now!
The Sponsors and Supporters Who Made Team-90 Possible
Diane, Ben, Pat and Melanie Conatser
Rigs and Reserves
International Skydiving Museum and Hall of Fame
Windblade, Banners, Stickers
Jumps and Party
Skydive Perris Organizers
Automatic Activation Devices
Hours of Support
… and all of Pat Moorehead’s skydiving friends at Skydive Perris and around the world
About the Author
James “Guido” Davis, D-28216, is the U.S. Top POP and was the coordinator of the Pat Moorehead’s TEAM-90 event. Those who wish to join the Parachutists Over Phorty Society or any of its subgroups can visit pops-usa.com for more information.