May 24-27, 88 elite formation skydivers from more than a dozen countries and a team of five in-air videographers (Niklas Daniel, George Katsoulis, John Lyman, Jim Stengell and David Wybenga) came together at Skydive Arizona in Eloy to participate in the 23rd annual Arizona Challenge and celebrate the 25th anniversary of world-renowned formation skydiving team Arizona Airspeed.
Current and former members of Airspeed organize the unique, high-end invitational event each year. For the first two days of the Arizona Challenge, the participants test their skills at complicated sequential skydives in small groups. On the third day, the small groups combine into larger groups, and the overall theme of the event begins to emerge. On the final day, everyone comes together to attempt a supremely challenging formation based on the concepts they practiced in the preceding days.
This year, the skydivers spent the first day and a half performing 22-ways out of two aircraft. Midway through day two, in anticipation of the wind that cut day three short, the four 22-way groups combined into two 44-ways. On the final day, Memorial Day, the group tried for an 88-way lace-like formation based around 12-way compressed boxes and donuts.
Despite the combined talents of Airspeed coaches Craig Girard, Niklas Hemlin, Mikhail Markine, Ari Perelman and Eliana Rodriguez, and founding Airspeed members Mark Kirkby and Kirk Verner—as well as a final attempt from 18,200 feet—the group was unable to complete the final formation. However, participants still enjoyed 20 challenging skydives over four days, and challenge plus fun equals a successful event! There really is no speed like Airspeed!
The staff of Skydive Arizona—the pilots, ground crew, manifest ladies and packers—admirably managed the wicked-early start times, changing calls and crowded skies to keep the Arizona Challenge running smoothly. The excellent crew of camera flyers beautifully captured the event. Additional photos and videos of the Arizona Challenge skydives are available at skydivingphotography.com.
Erin Orwig | D-35756
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