Golden Knights on World Record Jump

On Friday 138 Jumpers from around the globe set a World Record for the largest vertical formation in the skies over Skydive Chicago. The previous record of 108 was eclipsed by 30 jumpers. SFC Joe Abeln and SSG Reese Pendleton from the Golden Knights were honored to be part of the jump.

Training for the jump started nearly two years ago. To be invited on the jump, everyone had to attend multiple big way camps and tryout events. The camps happened across the United States and around the globe. Each tryout camp saw between 50-80 jumpers trying out for just a few invites. The Golden Knights received their invites after attending two separate camps in Sebastian FL.

On the first day of the record attempts over 175 skydivers gathered in the auditorium for a safety briefing and slot assignment. Nearly 30 jumpers were there hoping to get a slot on the record breaking jump. Organizer, drop zone owner, and honorary Golden Knight Rook Nelson had two goals for the event. Every one go home safely, and everyone go home safely with a World Record. The goal for the record was a 142 way vertical formation. The organizers only planned for four jumps for the first day to allow for extra time dirt diving and debriefing. Six airplanes, four Twin Otters, a Sky van and a Sherpa took the record team to an altitude on 17500 ft. After the first two jumps were complete the team was very close to setting a new World Record. 130 of 142 jumpers were in the formation on the 2nd jump, just 12 off. The 3rd and 4th jumps of the day saw some communication problems with the trail plane causing jumpers to leave too early or too late to make it to the formation. Still it was a great day and the team was eagerly awaiting day two.

The Second day of the camp started early as the World Record team was ready to get to work. The organizers made a few small changes to the formation to allow for more room in some tight areas. Each jump was closer and closer. The formations were now seeing the 140 mark just a couple off the record. On jump number four of the 2nd day and jump 9 of the event everything seemed to come together and the formation appeared built. Jumpers began to celebrate as they began to break away from the formation. It looked like jump 9 was the record setting jump. As everyone landed there was definitely a positive vibe in the landing area. The videographers took their footage to the FAI Judges for review. After quite a bit of time Nelson came out and told everyone to gear up the team was on a 20 minute call. This meant that the record was not complete. 142 jumpers completed a formation but unfortunately the newly repositioned jumpers had taken a grip with the wrong hand. This formation set a State record and Guiness World Record but not an FAI World Record, which is what the team was shooting for. With sunset quickly fading on the second day the last jump was close but not complete.

The third day of the record attempts was finally underway. The motivation was high despite being so close on the previous day. The second jump of the day once again looked as if we had set a new world record. Everyone appeared to have docked on the formation. Another long review and unfortunately yet again the record eluded the group. The pictures did not show all of the grips clearly and back up the team went. After the 14th attempt, the 4th of the day, the organizers made a decision to go with a 138 way formation. The team loaded up into the fleet of 6 aircraft and took to the skies. Nearly 45 minutes later and this time 18,500 ft above the ground the planes flew over the drop zone and the 138 jumpers quickly exited the aircraft. The formation began to build and with several seconds to spare. It appeared that everyone was on the formation and it was completed. No one was ready to celebrate just yet they wanted it to be official first. The jumpers landed, went inside and repacked their parachutes while the judges reviewed the photos. A long time went by and people began to wander. Nelson came back out and told everyone to get their gear and meet up on the lawn for another dirt dive. As disheartening as this was 138 jumpers headed back out to get ready the next attempt. Everyone picked up their grips on the lawn and built the formation on the ground. Nelson then came through and opened the formation up for a team photo. Everyone knew what that meant. The team set a new World Record 138 way formation. Cheers erupted, high fives and hugs spread across the drop zone.

The record breaking jump was aired around the world on various news outlets and even made ESPN’s top 10 plays of the day. It was a great honor for the Golden Knights to be part of the World Record jump. SFC Abeln and SSG Pendleton spent quite a bit of time preparing for the jumps and the accomplishment was a great pay off. A big thanks to Rook Nelson, Mike Swanson and the team of organizers and videographers, and Skydive Chicago for organizing a very successful and safe world record jump.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-08-04/skydiving-record/56768198/1

 

 

 

Blue Skies JT

 

The Golden Knights proudly and humbly memorialize Jonathan Tagle with the letters JT flown in free fall above Laurinburg NC. Home of the Golden Knights. The initials he was famously known for. He was more than just a skydiver. JT was an inspiration to all of those that put on a parachute. He was a professional canopy pilot, a pioneer and an ambassador for a country in a discipline that has no margin of error. One which is not for the feint of heart. Flying parachutes at speeds nearing 90 miles per hour inches from objects and from the ground. His smile was infectious and his attitude was glorious. In an individual sport he was one of my biggest adversaries. With his small stature, but his larger than life personality which was only matched by his incredible talent. I have been teammates with him several times as we represented the United States in international competition. He pushed me to want to be a better pilot. His mere presence made everyone perform to the best of their abilities, because if they didn’t he was unbeatable. He was, several times over a National Champion and a World Champion. We were competitors together we were competitors against one another, we were team mates but most of all we were friends. With a heavy heart and my deepest condolences to his family, his friends and fellow teammates on the Performance Designs Factory Team, I say good bye to a true friend.

Blue Skies JT

(written with deepest simpathy and warmest regards by Greg Windmiller)

 

GK Canopy Team brings home medals and a World Record

Over the last two weeks the Golden Knights Canopy Piloting team were in the midst of an epic battle.  The team started out at the final FLCPA meet of the season on June 9th.  The last meet brought the top canopy pilots in the country to the competition.  Everyone was trying to get in one last meet before US Nationals. The final meet also turned out to be one of the longest days of the FLCPA’s history.  The competitors started out with a 0700 safety briefing followed by the mandatory practice round.  A light tail wind helped the jumpers through speed course and led to some blistering fast times.  After the two rounds of speed were complete the light tail wind turned into a strong and turbulent wind putting the competition on hold for over five hours.  As late afternoon hit the winds started to die down slightly.  At 1730 the Caravans cranked up and jumping resumed.  The only question was how many of the four rounds would be able to be completed before the sun would set.  The judges, competitors and staff moved as quickly as possible changing the course, packing their parachutes and flying the aircraft and with two minutes before official sunset the last jumper landed to complete the competition.  The judges sorted out the results and late Saturday night, 15 1/2 hours after the safety brief the awards ceremony commenced.  SFC Greg WIndmiller had an amazing meet and finished 1st in Zone Accuracy, 3rd in speed and 2nd place overall for the meet.  After announcing the winners of the meet, FLCPA director Albert Berchtold announced the overall standings of the league.  Again it was SFC Windmiller standing on the podium.  After four meets that saw between 30-60 competitors he took home the 3rd place trophy.   SFC Joe Abeln competing as a PRO for the first year finished in 9th place overall, 5th out of the Pros. 

 Just five days after the end of the FLCPA, US Nationals of Canopy Piloting started out just the way the last meet did.  A light tail wind seemed to be the trend for the winds in North West GA.  This year 41 Open competitors battled it out for a chance to make the top 8 and represent the US at the World Meet in Dubai later this year.  An additional 15 advanced class competitors made up the meet.   The competition started early on Thursday with a 0700 wheels up time. This year the meet director chose to run two rounds of each event on the first day of competition, then finish the last round of each on the 2nd day.  The tail wind proved very challenging for the first event, Zone Accuracy.  Competitors must drag their foot through four water gates then stop their parachute and stand up in a scoring zone.  In the distance event the jumpers must drag through an entry gate then stay under a 1.5 meter high course for 50 meters.  Once the jumper passes the exit gate they try to fly as far as the can with the first point of contact with the ground marking their score.  The final event of the first day was Speed.  The speed course has the competitors flying for 220 ft below a 1.5 meter course marker and carving 70 degrees.  With two aircraft flying the first six rounds of the meet were finished fairly quickly and after the judges posted the days scores the competitors were released for the day.  Friday morning started out yet again with a tail wind and competitors took advantage of the winds in the speed and distance rounds.  SFC Windmiller set a new World, National and State record with an amazing time of 2.404 seconds.  The speed event this year was the tightest competition ever with the top three being separated by less than 6/10th   of a point after three rounds.  SFC WIndmiller took the Silver medal in speed.  The distance event also saw a new world record as Nicholas Batsch flew over 150 meters.  This years competition was the closest one folks can remember with the lead changing nearly every round.  No one was certain who would stand on top until all nine rounds were in the books. In the end Curt Bartholomew stood on top the podium as National Champion.  Close behind Curt was his Alter Ego Teammate Nicholas Batsch.  SFC Windmiller as selected to be the US Team Manager for World Meet in Dubai.    Performance Designs Factory Team member Tommy Dellibac took home the bronze.  USPA, the judging staff and Skydive the Farm did an amazing job running the 2012 USPA National Championship of Canopy Piloting. 

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