Tennessee Jumpers Set State Record
By Angela Alley
The record team gathers for a group photo.
DZOs Mikeal Stevens and Angela Alley decided that a great way to celebrate Stevens’ 40th birthday would be to fly a 40-way formation skydive at their drop zone, JumpTN in Greeneville. The pair began planning for the June 29 jump, which would also be a Tennessee state record attempt, in December 2018. Although they had no idea how big the whole endeavor would be, they stayed committed and made it happen.
First, the pair enlisted great organizers: Louis French with Heroes Skydiving to oversee the attempts and JumpTN’s own Nash Copeland as captain of the second plane. Next, they recruited 40 jumpers and a backup team, along with backup team organizer Jim Smith. Since JumpTN operates only Cessna 182s, Alley and Stevens arranged with Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois, to ferry in a Twin Otter and a Skyvan. And to top it all off, they hired stellar videographers Raymond Adams and Norman Kent to document the whole thing.
For months, the local jumpers at JumpTN focused only on formation skydiving. Since Alley, Stevens and most of the jumpers were freeflyers, they needed to learn the skills necessary to participate in the attempts. Skydive Carolina in Chester, South Carolina, flew its King Air over for one weekend to give everyone diving practice, and a group of 14 from JumpTN attended Skydive Carolina’s CarolinaFest to participate in larger formations there. A total of 24 JumpTN skydivers ended up participating in the attempts.
Once the DZOs had everything prepped and everyone had trained, the rug came out from under them. Not only had the cost of the event tripled from the original budget, but it was also the wettest year on record for their area. The bench team did not fill up, so Smith graciously bowed out. One of the local participants injured himself the weekend before the event, and the Skyvan went down for maintenance. The list went on and on. It was enough for the DZOs to ask themselves, “Why did we do this, again?”
The good news is that everyone stepped up! Dave Schwartz flew Skydive Chicago’s Twin Otter to JumpTN, and Skydive Paraclete XP sent its CASA and pilots Josh Sutton and Peter Verduyn. United Parachute Technologies and the U.S. Army provided sponsorship. Two of the hardest-working packers in the industry, Shasta Flynn and Samantha Lewis, came out to pack.
The weather turned out great, and the jumpers made six attempts to complete the 40-way. They then scaled the attempts back to a 37-way, and on the sixth try at that size, it completed, breaking the standing 34-way state record. The 37 holders of the Tennessee Record for Largest Formation Skydive are Melissa Abner, Angela Alley, Bruce Black, Bubba Brunson, Greg Bryant, Stanislaw Bukala, J.D. Colley, Donna Copeland, Nash Copeland, Lou Corleto, Crystal Diaz, Louis French, Kevin Givens, Josh Haught, Steven King, George Linton, Cory Maples, Chad Meade, John Meyer, Henry Michel, Elena Mikheda, Chris Morgan, Jed Morgan, Andrzej Nycz, Morgan Oswald, Matt Park, Bill Prout, Ben Ryerkerk, Keith Scholz, Keith Sherman, Justin Silvia, Jason Singletary, Tristan Smith, Doug Springer, Mikeal Stevens, Michael Taylor and Valerie Thal-Slocum.
Everyone brought their A game to this event. In the end, the jumpers learned that records can be broken and although goals can fall short, just the attempts push everyone to become better.
Angela Alley | D-30521