Vertical World Record Attempts: Melissa Lowe’s recap of day 3

Vertical World Record Attempts – Day 2 Recap (Thursday, July 30, 2015).


Day 3 – riding the wave & going for 165

Jump #1 – builds nicely, but a few leg burbles pops people out

Jump #2 – we thought we got it! Now we gotta repeat the calmness & mental focus

Jump #3 – we thought we had it again but didn’t get too excited because we didn’t get the last one. Now we have to keep the energy up & stay sharp, patient & preserve.

Jump #4 – we thought we had it. Nope. Now it’s about riding the wave. We have eliminated one slot, and the record is now 164.

Jump #5 – one person out.

Welcome to the rollercoaster! And it’s a wild one! What’s amazing is we built 160 ways ALL day long. That proves we are persevering, rising above the fatigue & frustration. That means we are world-class athletes that are working out butts off to stick this!

And we will… It’s just a matter of when.

7:30am for morning briefing & 8am wheels up – going for 164!  #WorldRecordForBreakfast

Brian Buckland has generously allowed us to share some photos from the record! Follow him on Facebook for photo updates, and check out the full album from the record on his website.

Follow Melissa on Facebook for posts or updates, or catch the live updates via Periscope app for smartphones (MelissaLowe).

Vertical World Record 2015 – it’s ON!
Vertical World Record Attempts – Day 1 Recap (Tuesday, July 28, 2015).
Vertical World Record Attempts – Day 2 Recap (Wednesday, July 29, 2015)

Mile-Hi recoups some attorney’s fees from noise lawsuit

We were pretty psyched that Mile-Hi Skydiving — and, disclaimer, my original home DZ —didn’t lose the inane lawsuit brought against them by Citizens for Quiet Skies (I can’t be the only one who’s reminded of the silly resident notifications in Sim City SimCityPetitioner right?). Anyway, we’re happy to report more seemingly good news out of Colorado: Judge: Airplane noise plaintiffs owe Mile-Hi Skydiving $48K in attorney’s fees.

In an order filed Tuesday, a Boulder District Court judge is requiring the plaintiffs in the Citizens for Quiet Skies v. Mile-Hi Skydiving lawsuit to pay nearly $48,000 in attorney’s fees to the Longmont company.

The attorney’s fees judgment comes in addition to $67,791 in damages Judge Judith LaBuda awarded to Mile-Hi earlier this month.


Of course, with this group there is always threat of appeal. I’ll say one thing for them, they’re tenacious as hell. And possibly very, very, very, very bored. So what kind of hobbies could we suggest to direct their endless well of energy into something productive? Bowling is always a solid choice, but those places can get kind of noisy and we all know how they feel about that (hint: they don’t like it). Maybe they could train to be Wilderness EMTs? That would certainly get them out in the quiet of nature. How about suicide prevention (my personal fave, obviously). Ending extreme poverty? Human rights? Trans issuesTurning lemons into lemonade that you donate to thirsty people? Or any other good cause (email me if you have something to add to that list, btw)?

That was a whole mess of links and I can’t blame you for not wanting to click each one. They all point to skydivers raising money and awareness for truly worthy causes. For people in need. To make the world a better place. For kindness and goodness and empathy. Instead of shouting at each other, let’s help each other out, eh? On the other side of the coin, name calling the members of CQS does as much good as their lawsuits against our skydiving brethren so let’s all focus our energy on the things we love, like skydiving, and BASE jumping, and flying, and each other.

Vertical World Record Attempts: Melissa Lowe’s recap of day 2

Vertical World Record Attempts – Day 2 Recap (Wednesday, July 30, 2015).


Day 2 is when shit starts getting real. The exciting reunion amongst hundred of friends is residing & the hard work begins. Now that the kinks are pretty much worked out (i.e. timing, plane formations & site pictures), it’s all about not f*cking up & riding the wave.

We did 5 jumps today, however due to a solid layer at 14,000′ on Attempt #2, each plane did a single plane pass. We need at least 16,500′ for the 166 people to have enough working time. All of our attempts have ranged from 19,800′ to 18,100. Our max altitude is 20,000′.

So darn! No record today, but that just means another day of blue skies, 7 plane shots, amazing skydiving & building awesome friendships!

Start time is 7:30am for the briefing & 8am wheels up. 5 jumps planned, but fingers crossed we get it on the 2nd jump of the day!!

Brian Buckland has generously allowed us to share some photos from the record! Follow him on Facebook for photo updates, and check out the full album from the record on his website.


Previous posts: 
Vertical World Record 2015 – it’s ON!
Vertical World Record Attempts – Day 1 Recap (Tuesday, July 29, 2015).

The Right Stuff

Online Reprint

So, just what makes a good jump pilot? The truth is, there’s no real set answer to that question. As you can imagine, there are as many factors that go into a good jump pilot (some more important than others) as there are factors for a good skydiver, so let’s do it backward and list a few things that make a really shit jump pilot.

While on the road and flying for a really nice Midwest drop zone, I had the opportunity—or misfortune, if you will—to fly alongside a Caravan flown by the worst jump pilot I have ever met, seen or heard of. The DZ got stuck with this guy we’ll call “Tool,” after their two very accomplished jump pilots had moved on to bluer skies as it were, leaving them in a tight spot.

Tool had interviewed with the DZOs of this unfortunate operation and told them that outside of what I’m sure he explained was an amazing corporate career, he’d been quite the successful jump pilot as well. He told of his 500+ hours flying jumpers back when you had to spot with your eye, not the GPS, and that with everything available to him in their beautiful aircraft, the job would be as easy as could be. So, as any DZO would, they checked him out in the Caravan, ensured that he knew how to go up and back while keeping the rubber side down, and strapped him in the cockpit with very simple instructions: Go up and down, fast.

Cut to just under two weeks later, and my arrival. I’d had the chance to fly for this particular DZ the year before in the Chicagoland Otter, and knew the operation pretty well. It’s a drop zone full of great people, very accomplished jumpers, an airport willing to bend over backward to please them and an all around great vibe.

Perhaps it was because they recognized me from the previous year, perhaps it was because more than a few of them had read my articles in Blue Skies Mag or perhaps it was just my considerable charm and devilish good looks, but for whatever reason, I ended up getting an earful about Tool right away. They all said it in slightly different ways, but in a nutshell, Tool was an asshole that couldn’t spot for shit. I decided that I’d try to have an open mind, keep an eye out, and see for myself throughout the day. It didn’t take long to form my own opinion.

Strike One: While chatting with Tool on the ground before load one was even manifested, I tried to discuss a discrete radio frequency for us to be on so we could talk between ourselves. His question, without even a hint of sarcasm, was, “Why do we need to talk?” I thought about trying to explain to him that while running a multiple aircraft operation, it’s imperative for the pilots involved to be in constant contact to avoid dropping jumpers on top of each other, aircraft collisions, spotting corrections, jump-run separation, checking out the blonde tandem student with the amazing rack, etc.—but he walked away before I even had the chance to get the dumbass look off my face.

Strike Two: I was taxiing out for load five and getting ready to depart off runway 23. I heard the Caravan make a two-mile, 3,000’ final approach call for the same runway, so I made my call. “Middletown traffic, 2ST rolling for an intersection departure off 23.” I instantly got an almost panicked response from the Caravan with Tool yelling into the mic, “But I’m coming in HOT, I’M COMING IN HOT!” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud into the mic and respond “You’re in a Caravan that’s two miles away Tool, you’re NOT coming in hot!” Then, just for my own personal satisfaction, after he landed and once he called clear of the runway I announced, “Middletown traffic, 2ST climbing thru three thousand five hundred and WELL CLEAR of inbound HOT traffic”.

Strike Two and a Half: This strike was for the dozen jumpers that Tool put off the field on a light-wind day with mild jump-run speeds, having done so AFTER the jumpers on board asked him for multiple corrections and after I’d told him what direction jump run was, the distance prior to the field he should turn on the green, and how far he could let the last one exit at. It turns out that his favorite word every time a jumper asked him for anything was “WHY??” Jumpers land off, it’s a fact. Many factors can go into an off landing, but when you have all the information Tool had at his disposal it just shouldn’t happen.

Strike Two and Three Quarters: This one I didn’t get to see in person because I never flew in the Caravan with him. It turns out that on every single load he was on, he would go out of his way to announce that he’d give extra altitude if any of the girls on board would show him their tits. That’s actually how he did it as well … “I’ll give you more if you show me your tits!” He also attempted to institute a rule that only women were allowed to sit in the co-pilot seat; that way the tits were more accessible. Now don’t get me wrong, BIG fan of tits here, but in my opinion, asking for them is a lot like paying for sex. If you have to do that, you’ve got real problems!

Strike Three: While flying through about 4,000’, I heard the Caravan call two minutes to jumpers away. About four minutes later, as I was calling my two minutes to jumpers, it dawned on me that I hadn’t heard Tool call jumpers away, nor had I heard him communicate with approach that he was dropping. I hopped on the discrete frequency I’d finally gotten him to go on and asked where he was. By the time he answered, I was under one minute and about to give the door light. He explained to me that he was about one minute to the green light and was too busy to talk. The worst of many problems with this situation was that Tool was dropping fun jumpers from 13.5, and I was dropping tandems from 10.5, a fact that both he and I were aware of. When I leaned forward and craned my neck to look up, I’ll be damned if I didn’t get a great look at the belly of the Caravan about three thousand feet directly above me, totally ready to drop right on my head. Even worse than this was the fact that when I explained the whole thing to him later, he didn’t seem to really grasp what the problem was.

Even if you take the different jump altitudes out of the equation this is still a big deal. Two aircraft dropping at the same time and not talking could potentially put jumpers from different aircraft jumping into each other without even knowing. Imagine a tracking dive out of one aircraft, inadvertently blasting straight toward a tandem from the other aircraft … There are just too many possibilities for death and destruction to list.

In my personal opinion, and that of many other people I know, the best damn jump pilots out there start out their careers as jumpers. As a skydiver, you should already have a damn good grasp on issues like spotting, jump runs, group separation, wingsuits versus tandems or big ways, etc. The things that jumpers take as basic knowledge, your average general aviation pilot is completely clueless about. I honestly believe that it would be easier to take a non-pilot skydiver and turn them into a jump pilot, than to take an accomplished pilot and do the same thing.

What makes a good jump pilot? A little skill, a little luck, and the realization that your responsibility starts the moment you fire up the engine, and ends when the last jumpers are on the ground, and the aircraft is all tied down. It’s taking and giving corrections when needed, communicating both with other aircraft and air traffic control and with the jumpers. It’s knowing your responsibility not only to the jumpers, but to the operation as well. It’s about protecting the jumpers by giving them the best spots and the most information possible. It’s also about trying your hardest, every damn day, on every damn load to keep from being a complete and total fucking TOOL.

Lastly, if you’re a Midwest Skydiver wondering how to make sure you don’t end up in Tool’s aircraft, you need not worry. He got canned a few days after my weekend with them! (I’d like to think I was part of the reason why he got tossed.) So take yourself a drive down to Start Skydiving in Middletown, Ohio, and tell ‘em “The Fuckin’ Pilot” said to say hey!

The Fuckin' Pilot

Monthly Columnist

About the author: The Fuckin’ Pilot has more than 8,500 hours of flight time; 5,000 of those have been piloting jump ships for skydiving.

Get more like this!

Vertical World Record Attempts – Melissa Lowe’s recap after day 1

Vertical World Record Attempts – Day 1 Recap (Tuesday, July 29, 2015).

Attempt #1
I can safely sum up the day up as a “working out the kinks” kind of day. On Attempt #1 the planes gave a short “2-minute call” that barely gave everyone enough time to put up benches, stow away oxygen hoses and line up for exit.  This effected the divers/floaters timing in approaching the formation, causing some traffic issues. Attempt #1 was the foundation of figuring out the sight picture and a few got lost.

Attempt #2
After debrief, the organizers realized that the planes needed to tighten up their formation even more, to help with traffic and timing as jumpers approach the formation.

Attempt #3
We are building it!!  As Rook (Nelson) stated in the debrief: “We are all there. Now it’s just coming down to the fundamentals: referencing your cross partner, flying quiet and on level.”

We only did 3 out of 5 planned jumps as we waited out a few afternoon hours of weather. Wednesday’s forecast isn’t entirely promising, but we are hopeful we will get in a few jumps. Meeting at the dropzone at 7:30 AM sharp for a briefing – likely including some changes and as always, reinforcing the basics.
As the organizers (Mike Swanson, Alaska Jon DeVore & Rook Nelson) said, “It’s looking really, really good!”!!

Follow Melissa on Facebook for posts or updates, or catch the live updates via Periscope app for smartphones (MelissaLowe).