When you set your alarm clock for 4.00 a.m. to get up and dirt dive, it had better be worth it. The 40-minute drive to Lake Wales Airport is dark and cold. The coffee & breakfast at the IHOP cafe is supposed to make you feel better, well the food was good but the coffee is bloody awful. I have to get some caffeine some how. I don't want to fall asleep, and miss my call for the jump, fat chance I'm so excited this morning. I have been picked today to go for the 100-way, brilliant.
We set up the formation inside the National Guard’s Armoury, a large hanger type building, which is our home for the week. We then found out that Joe had just died, at 0400. Not a good feeling now, very low. We had a minute’s silence for Joe, a quick pep talk form Chris Gay; then we walked out to the taxiway, we did final dirt dive, and then a ‘TEAM hug’ & a big cheer to do it for Joe, and then sat by our aircraft waiting for the sun to rise.
What a sunrise it was, with our sprits lifted we boarded our aircraft around 7.00 for another crack at the 100-way diamond.
We taxied in a line to the runway; I looked out the window and saw all of the support team for the 100-way, lined up and waving us off. What a back-up Team. We lined up, engines roared, and we all took of close together. Eat your hearts out Heathrow controllers.
The 45-minuet flight was a time to reflect on how we all got here. Everyone has his/her own story to tell. The first three aircraft have oxygen on board, the lead plane all jumped with it. The last two OTTERS had to stay calm, to conserve their air. We heard the base had exited; about 9 miles & 6 minuets before we have to go.
RELAX! ‘You must be mad!’ feeling a bit of tingling in my feet. Right; slowly breathe in through the nose, fast out of the mouth. (Absorb O2 exchange CO2), I am feeling fine now. I look to see if the rest are ok, thumbs up, nervous smiles, all looking fine good.
Spirits were definitely up. The lead OTTER flew in at 20,000 feet & the base 9 exited 3 miles before the DZ. The chase CASA went over the base at 18,000 feet, and then in came the last CASA at 16,000 feet.
We looked out of the cockpit window and saw the formation building above and 5 miles ahead, wow that's big, 3 minutes to go. By 12,500 feet the thirty-six way base was hammering through the sky. AT 12,000 feet the last two planes flew in down each side of the formation.
We looked out the other OTTER on our right side, good its there, just right this time, we watched the formation building to a 49, as we flew by it just under us prefect, lets do it. We stood up, I had 10 pounds of extra lead on, low fived all on board and took a deep breath, Let’s GO! I exited the last Otter as number 80. I opened my parachute, and turned toward the formation, there was my left wing leader Annie. Right; lose some height, three front riser A-line left turns, and now line up and wait for your turn to dock on it. I heard the reassuring voice of Mike Lewis calling row sevens in, good we are not late, just right this time, The formation built to 64 quickly and relatively smoothly by around 8,500 feet, then I heard the call to arch, right this formation is going to lock out and fly fast now. Mike then called our row 9 wings in on the radio. Now concentrate; GO.
I followed my wing in, good old Reager, very smooth; it was an easy formation to catch. I docked in my slot, on to Reager & Jim next to Cliff; he said “pleased to see you here buddy”. We both grabbed hold of Ralf, put our feet in his lines and we then knew we had an 81-way at least. The row 10 wings came in shortly afterwards, and the formation built into 90+'s by the time it reached the 5,000 feet hard deck. Mike gave a "hold on" call in anticipation of the last four people docking and to the sound of arch calls we waited; and waited…and waited…. and…well, you get the picture. (On the ground every body was shouting ‘build baby build’).
And, in short, the picture was wrong. According to whomever you speak to, the starburst call came at heights between 3,500 - 2,700 feet. To split the difference, we can all safely (or unsafely) say that we were in a solid 96-way canopy formation at 3,000 feet. It was, however, healthy, and it broke down cleanly as we had practiced it, and it needed to be, a wrap now will be very bad indeed, and we were out of it at 2,500 feet. We all landed in the boonies. Us foreigners kept an eye out for alligators, and a little black caterpillar that shed’s its hairs if you touched it,and it feels like your skin is on fire. Every one got a lift back to the DZ 107 of us in total, aboard a convoy of cars, pickups & Percy’s camper van. (You should get some more friends Percy just to fill your van.) Certainly something to tell the grand kids about. (and all the big kids on the DZ).
I have landed a few diamond formations in my time, and had to break a few up low when it got a bit bumpy on a Demo, but this formation was the most rock solid one I have ever been in. But even crazy old me had to think twice about landing this one. (Tempting though; I was thinking; are their 95 other lunatics around me?) We repacked our parachutes, made a few changes at the bottom of the formation, put baggier clothing on some of the outside wing jumpers, riggers taking a inch off a line here and there, re-charged the O2 bottles, re-briefed the pilots & wing leaders, a bit of extra lead in a weight belt, dirt dived it, and tried it again.
The next formation broke off a little higher with more people on it. Four more to be exact. Ninety-six plus four equals……………..’A WORLD RECORD’. Celebrations and high fives and a group hug were in order. The mood was, in general, that we always knew this team would break the record. It was always a question of when? Then it was an agonising wait for the judges to review all the photos and videos of the complete formation, to see if that all the grips that where holding it all together, were in the right place? ? ? After a one hour wait; Judy the chief judge came out and said unfortunately……. we have got a……… NEW WORLD RECORD’. Huge cheers went up all around the armoury. Then we went for lunch. We turned up again in the late afternoon to dirt-dive a second hundred-way formation to include those of the hundred-way team who had not already been on a world-record dive.
In the fading sunset over Lake Wales, another 100-way built
again but, critically, a couple of heavy docks were made on a jumper, who
was not locked off from above, and as we all know; once that happens it's
almost impossible to close the gap. As it turned out, a grip that needed to
be taken on the A line could only be made on the skin of the canopy. There
were inches in it, literally, ‘but that don't make it legal’ as they say in
The formal aspects of the day ended with all the jump planes, doing a very low pass at dusk in ‘the missing man formation’ in tribute to those in our small close-knit community who have passed on since we started this very long adventure and a very rewarding journey.
To quote the transmission made to the world record hundred way on break off, "Joe Lambright, Scotty (Fiore and Cowan), Joel (Zane), Tas and Q...that was for you...".
It has been a long dream of mine, to build a ‘large’ canopy diamond, since my first CReW hook up in 1977 with a crazy American called Jack, and doing my very first 4-way diamond in 1978, with my fellow team-mates, Graham, Ray & Nish. How large? Well nobody thought that we could build a four-way diamond, ‘your all MAD’, let alone nine or sixteen………………….ect!
When I was in the World Record Formation, I heard Mike say “complete” my dream had come true at last. I looked for that little boy on the ground, with a piece of string, flying his kite in Brockwell Park 50 years ago; and it was not me down there, there where lots of children looking up at this one, and flying it. Now ‘I am’ that Jumbo sized, 100 person, £500,000 multi coloured kite. WOW! big kids toys, oh yes, and I’m not dreaming its real. You do not get a chance to fly one of these every day, do you? And we flew two of them today. So it was not just a fluke.
What’s next? 121? Or even 144? No……………never! Well just maybe! One day; one day soon, and at a DZ near you? Its up to you and your dreams young skywalker, they may just come true!
Ian Marshall BPA11128, D1577, CReW #C80, Big Kid#100
A new world record has been set at the Florida Skydiving Centre at Lake Wales, Florida USA on November 21st, 2007. One hundred parachutists linked up under parachute to form the largest parachute diamond formation ever created. The parachutists came from 14 countries to participate on the record skydive.
The skydivers utilized five aircraft, the first dropping nine jumpers from an altitude of 20,000 feet. The second dropped the next 27 jumpers from an altitude of 18,000 feet. The third aircraft dropped jumpers from 16,000 feet and the final two aircraft dropped the remaining jumpers from 13,000 feet. The formation took approximately 11 minutes and 30 seconds to build and was held for 12 seconds. It was completed on the fifth attempt and captured on HD video by seven videographers/photographers.
The formation was 290 feet (88 meters) tall and 175 feet (53 meters) wide. (The size of a football field) The formation weighed 20,388 pounds (9,230 kilos), about 10 tons. In comparison 6 Ford Mustangs weigh only 19,500 pounds. A 747-400 jet is only 231 feet long. The Wright brother’s first flight was almost one-third the distance as the formation is tall. Miami Air Traffic Control Centre could monitor the formation on radar to keep other aircraft from coming to close to us.
56 x United States, 7 x Australia, 7 x Germany, 6 x Netherlands,
6 x Great Britain, 5 x Russia, 3 x Canada, 2 x Brazil, 2 x Egypt,
2 x France, 1 x Argentina, 1 x Belarus, 1 x Belgium, 1 x Finland.