i61: January 2015

The first issue of 2015 is out!

If you are not a current subscriber, you can change that right here, right now. You can also buy copies of this issue without a subscription!

Please give it until February 1 for the postal service to get your mag to you. If you still don’t have it by then, let us know by emailing Kolla at kolla@blueskiemag.com and she’ll get you sorted.

Blue Skies Magazine issue #61: January 2015 | blueskiesmag.com

i61: January 2015 | Belgian FS team NMP Pch HayaBusa during the recent Dubai International Parachuting Championship. Photo by Bruno Brokken www.brunobrokken.com

On the Cover

Moe blows bubbles and Bruno photographs a photographer.

Featured Photo

We’ll just let the caption speak for itself. “The gentlemen of Bay Area Skydiving geared up for a load on the annual Speedo Day. • Photo by Jessie Brownlow”

The FlyBy

  • Reader Question: What’s your jumping weather window?
  • Comic Relief: Take It DZ by Nadene Beyerbachadventurecreative.ca
  • Best Maps Ever. Former tunnel god Derek Percoski is a cartographer. Who knew? bestmapsever.com
  • Miracle 11’s Continuing Miracles by Mike Robinson

    Read the full story online at blueskiesmag.com.

Ridiculous Maneuvers: An Interview by Missy Keough

Ridiculous fun, more like.

Early on you could tell that these guys were badass. I liked their commitment, discipline and tenacity. So I casually said, ‘You guys need a cameraman?’ They said yes so fast I had to duck! Were they desperate or did they just have a keen eye for talent? I like to think they chose the latter.

New Days at Skydive Taft by Christopher Rosenfelt

One step at a time and are doing it 100 percent organically, so it will take time. Long term we want to build a healthy, sustainable business that is an awesome place to be and hang out, whether in the air or on the ground.

Bridge Day ’14: A Photo Essay by David Cherry

Centerfold by Randy Swallows

Blue Skies Magazine issue #61 | Centerfold by Randy Swallows | blueskiesmag.com

Heroes of Skydiving builds the base of their 100-way sequentials over Skydive Lake Wales. Photo by Randy Swallows randyswallows.com

Download Wallpaper (1600 x 1200)

Get the Shot by Tony Hathaway

I always think of using the camera settings to control the background lighting, and the flash to control the foreground lighting.

Full reprint coming soon!

Super Sky Sleuth

Gotta find them all!

Tunnel Got You Stiff? by Emma Tranter

So, if you stretch and strengthen your legs you will access more freedom in your back.

Full reprint coming soon!

SkyCouples: Montana & Mario by Eli Godwin

We got set up through a good friend of mine, Dan BC, who set me up as her playercoach. Best blind date I ever had!

Full reprint coming soon!

Pivot! by Sydney Owen Williams

With the help of some of my more seasoned friends, I want to talk to you about the pivot point. The idea that if you set a good foundation from the getgo, you’ll have a much better chance at success throughout your career in the sky.

Full reprint coming soon!

New Music in Dubai by Kurt Gaebel, NSL

It was a great start for Canada into the musical part of international formation-skydiving competitions, and it may not be the last time that “O Canada” is played.

Read the full article online at skyleague.com.

Viewer Mail by the Fuckin’ Pilot

Until pilots actually stand up for themselves and demand the treatment they deserve for all the training they’ve suffered through and responsibility they are given, they’re gonna get fucked.

Full reprint coming soon!

If You Want to Make Money … Stop Worrying about Money by James La Barrie

Everyone needs to dream, but focusing exclusively on
money can be a creativity and passion killer (the two elements needed for massive success).

Full reprint coming soon!

The Bigger Pursuit by Melanie Curtis

Who were you before you went skydiving?
Who are you now?

Full reprint coming soon!

Dear SkyGod

Seems like if you’re not flying a brightly colored G3 with hipster glasses and an elasticated wristband alti under your fucking armpit you aren’t cool enough to skydive with.

Full reprint coming soon!

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Wicked Wingsuits

Miracle 11’s Continuing Miracles

Online Reprint

Originally printed in issue #61 (January 2015) of Blue Skies Magazine.

Editor’s note: Last January the 11 survivors of Skydive Superior’s midair crash seen ‘round the world told you about how it all went down [“Gone with the Wing” Blue Skies Mag issue #50, January 2014]. Totally unrelatedly, I personally ran a half marathon a few months later to raise money for a nonprofit cause; one of the members, LaNaya Bonogofsky, was also passionate about it and organized a fundraising bicycle ride to match my race. The “Miracle 11,” the nonprofit set up by the survivors, matched our fundraising efforts to the tune of $1,000 to each of our charities. We here at BSM learned the Miracle 11 has been quietly spreading the awesome like this with royalties from their crash videos the whole year.

by Mike Robinson

After the crash, all of us were sitting around in a circle on the DZ floor talking about the events of the day and sharing a few beers. Barry Sinex was the first to realize the crash essentially put our DZ out of business. We lost both airplanes (one totally destroyed and the other needing very expensive repairs) and they were only insured for liability, not collision. He recognized there was significant value in the video footage five of us had shot of the crash and aftermath, so that started the negotiations with national TV outlets. The next day (Sunday), we and the DZ owner flew to New York City at the expense of NBC. Negotiations continued Monday, and a deal was reached that afternoon; NBC would have exclusive rights to our videos for a 2-week period (it was ratings week) and they would pay us $100,000 for those rights. We also appeared on the Today Show and Dateline of that week.

We all agreed the initial $100,000 from the video rights would be a gift to the DZ to cover part of their loss of the aircraft. None of us received any of that money. It was our hope that the DZO would reinvest the money into another aircraft so we could continue jumping, and that is exactly what he did. We began jumping again at Skydive Superior April 5.

After that two-week period, there was continuing interest from production companies all over the world to use our videos. We were not equipped to handle all of the requests, and Barry found a licensing company in California that would handle all such requests on our behalf. Our group would receive 70 percent and Jukin Media would receive 30 percent of all licensing fees. The question then became, how would our group account for any money that came to us? Barry got the group’s agreement to set up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to receive the money. As such, there were strict limitations on what we could use the money for; specifically, none of us could use any of the money for personal gain. We named our company Miracle Eleven Inc., and it is organized in the State of Minnesota. (Miracle Eleven is a name given to us by the producer of Dateline.) Originally, all 12 of us made up the board of directors. Since then, some have opted out and we now have seven on the board.

To date, we have collected in the ballpark of $10,000. We are beginning to distribute the money in various ways. When you guys published on Blue Skies Magazine’s website about suicide awareness and prevention, it struck a chord with one of our members, LaNaya Bonogofsky. LaNaya has experienced losing people close to her, family and friends, to suicide. She wasn’t able to run the half marathon that Lara was using to raise donations, so she created her own fundraiser by biking a full marathon along the North Shore of Lake Superior at the same time. She got our board approval to match Lara’s fundraising totals as well as hers up to a total of $2,000. They both raised at least $1,000 each, so we contributed $1,000 to each of the charities: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education in Minnesota.

Our board discussed other ways we could donate to causes that fit within our nonprofit status and that we personally have an interest in. Each of us was allotted $500 to use for any such purpose. Barry and I pooled our money and contributed $1,000 to the National Skydiving Museum. Others are looking into providing scholarships for area high-school seniors to use in pursuing college-level education in the field of aviation. LaNaya, Amy and Dan helped buy and wrap gifts for patients at Essentia’s Children’s Hospital.

The Miracle 11 donated $750 to this, as well as $750 to the Damianno Center in Duluth and then another sum to a family that just lost their house to a fire last week. So, in summary, none of us as individuals will receive any financial gain from the money being raised; it will all be given away to others within nonprofit laws. To date, about $10,000 has been collected, $3,000 disbursed, and another $2,500 being actively worked on at this time.

Other than continuing to disburse any money we receive, our group really has no long-term goals. It’s been a year since the crash, and none of us have any interest in continuing the dynamic of living this story. We all appreciate the interest generated from people all around the world, but we’re just a bunch of skydivers who are grateful that we all lived through this midair crash, and our future goals are just to continue jumping from airplanes with our friends. We expect the interest in using the videos will decrease significantly now that a year has passed, so it is likely there will come a time where we will disburse all of our money and close the company. We’re looking forward to that day.

I guess my personal thoughts, a year later, are that it has been an interesting ride that we all wish would never have happened. Our story is really only unique in that we all survived, no one on the ground was hurt, and we had dramatic video that showed our experience. It would be a much different feeling had anyone died. We know of others who did not survive airplane crashes, and we all feel the deepest sympathies for those folks and their families and friends. The memories of those people are the ones that should endure.

About the author: Mike Robinson is a retired civil engineer, and an AFF Instructor and S&TA at Skydive Superior. He just participated in two Arizona state SOS sequential records at Skydive Arizona, the second of which was his 1,000th skydive.

Download Miracle 11’s Continuing Miracles by Mike Robinson pdf

Gone with the Wing

Online Reprint

Originally printed in issue #50 (January 2014) of Blue Skies Magazine.

By the Eleven of Us

We all have our reasons for skydiving—fun, exhilaration, fear, adrenaline—but in the end it’s family that binds us together. Who likes doing a solo skydive? Why do we all respond, “What?” to, “Hey asshole!” and have the compelling need to fist bump everyone within reach before we dive out of a perfectly good airplane? The Androsky family has operated the drop zone for more than 50 years in Superior, Wisconsin. It was started by Chuck Androsky and half a century later spans three generations and now includes all of us, their extended family of skydivers as well.

Family would soon take on a whole new significance for all of us. At our little Cessna drop zone, perched on the south end of beautiful Lake Superior, our family was spared the heartache that others have not been so fortunate to experience when our airplanes collided at 12,000’ and exploded in a fireball.

Getting our pilots up to 12,000’ usually takes a little extra encouragement, if you get the drift, but the sunset was so dramatic after an exciting day of skydiving that Blake and Matt needed little more than a smile. Our flight was made up of three young couples who meet at the drop zone, two who had a little more “practice” at life, and LaNaya, whom everyone loves. Sarah got to chase the base while Johnny got stuck in the base … again. Chad and Amy sat nestled in the rear of the 185 intermingling extremities with Dan and Trisha while Sarah squeezed in there somewhere. LaNaya, Mike, Johnny and Barry were in the lead 182. We all were studying our dive flow on the way up: Make a round then track. By the time we reached altitude we finally had it down.

“Door.”

Barry climbed out as far hang in the lead 182 aircraft. LaNaya sat facing rearward on the strut, Johnny was student and Mike took grips in the door. On the chase aircraft Dan swung out under the strut on the 185 and perched himself on the wheel to allow room for the others on the step. Sarah was out next taking the far hang.

As Trisha began to climb out those immortal words, “Holy fuck, holy fuck!” followed by Amy’s, “What the fuck?!” were the first indications that the skydive was not to go as planned. Then a blood-curdling scream came from Trisha when she suddenly came to the realization they might be a little closer than normal to the lead aircraft.

In a heartbeat the planes collided in a tangled mess of wings and things.

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The right wing of the trailing 185 wrapped down behind and below the right wing of the 182, squishing Dan between the 185’s strut and the top of the center wing of the 182. The landing gear of the 185 ripped through the left wing flap of the 182. All Dan could hear as he hung onto the strut, while being squished between the two aircraft, was the chopping of the propeller inches behind his head as it ate the 182. He was thinking “I’m still here, hang on, don’t let go.” He would later be torn from the strut while in an inverted dive.

Sarah was thrown off the strut and was bouncing between the aircraft. As her ass went through the rear window of the 182 and her hand was pinned between the strut of the 185 and the wing of the 182, she struggled with reality and make-believe in her head.

Trisha, now positioned in the door, was thrown sideways through the breach between the aircraft, catching sight of a terrifying explosion engulfing the two aircraft.

As the right wing of the 182 broke off from the impact, LaNaya lost her seat on the strut and went tumbling into open air on her back. Barry felt the impact and decided this might be a good time to abbreviate the count and release his grips on the group and the strut. Johnny was shoved off the step when the gripped group was lurched by the impact from above. Mike decided to follow them from the doorway.

Back inside the 185 Amy and Chad, now jostled in the rear of the aircraft, witnessed the right wing of the 182 fold back across the windshield of the 185. The teeth of the 185 ripped through the fuel cell of the 182’s right wing as it folded over the windshield of the 185. The fuel was ignited with explosive force by the flame now erupting from the smashed muffler of the engine. The ensuing flash from gallons of vaporized 100LL avgas engulfed both aircraft, filling the 185’s cabin with intense heat. Amy braced herself while videoing Dan, who was now pinned by the door against the strut. Once Dan felt the aircraft invert and the door release him he decided it was now time to be thrown from the wreckage. Amy followed suit, diving out of a now near vertical aircraft in an inverted dive. Chad was anxiously waiting for his turn behind Amy for the same inverted dive exit maneuver but gave pause, thinking about Blake who was now strapped in the pilot seat. All they could hear was Blake screaming, “GO! GO! GO!,” considering the safety of everyone else before he refocused his attention on the fact he was in an inverted dive in and aircraft probably on fire at 12,000’.

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Meanwhile, back in the 182, Matt was trying to regain control of the aircraft, now in a straight-down dive with one wing. Windshield glass had just seconds earlier sprayed down on him, gouging his face and hands like a thousand knives. He tried to pull up with all he had but to no avail. Matt, a student skydiver, had made it through category B in AFF and was now abruptly preparing for an advanced category C as he unbuckled his seatbelt and made a mad dash for the door. Stepping on the instrument panel and gripping the breach of the doorway he dove headfirst out as the remaining wing departed the now lawn-dart looking aircraft traveling at more than 200 knots straight down.

His mind now focusing on the category C dive plan, he remembered his instructors advising him to arch. Matt then proceeded to freefall without an altimeter while watching for other canopies so he knew when to open. Dan from the 185 and Barry from the 182, both AFF instructors, were in high pursuit of the flaming aircraft, realizing Matt’s inexperience might require some assistance should he extricate himself from the fireball wearing his round emergency parachute. Barry watched Matt freefall in a perfect arched stable position and in full control. He could swear he saw Matt do a practice pilot-chute deployment prior to executing a perfect deployment of his reserve.

Once that was completed both Dan and Barry focused on the lawn dart streaking toward Earth, concerned about where it would impact and thinking they may need to land with it if it crashed in the wrong place. Thankfully, they soon realized, it was going to land on the sparsely populated airport grounds. Then they deployed their parachutes.

As our parachutes sniveled open we were all frantically counting parachutes, looking for nine canopies plus the two round ones from the pilots. “One, two, three, four,” turn around, “five, six, seven, eight. Where’s the ninth? Oh above me … Where’s the second round canopy?”

Just after opening you can hear Mike on his video, “Please don’t die. Please don’t die.”

We never did make even the first point but everyone managed to land in the general vicinity of the landing area. Amy landed, fell to her knees and sobbed. We were all bewildered, each turning this way and that looking up and around. However, Chad did swoop all the cones and this would later help us all to reflect on who we are: skydivers.

“Where’s Blake?” everyone was screaming from the ground looking skyward in anticipation that we would spot Blake under parachute. We were all panicking watching still flaming parts of aircraft land all around us. “Where’s Blake?! Where’s Blake?!” everyone hollered. Our hearts sank in fear for our brother as the minutes passed.

Blake recovered his aircraft from its inadvertent attitude and was talking to Duluth approach. “Duluth approach … This is skydive one … We have had an incursion.”

Blake was also counting parachutes but while he was quietly descending in his crippled aircraft we were all on the near edge of collapse as we contemplated his fate. As the sound of a sick and choking plane came into earshot we all realized at the same time, “He’s still flying.”

Quickly we all hopped into the “Hoot mobile,” our beloved drop-zone pickup donated by a fallen comrade. We rushed to the runway in case Blake blew the landing. Later Blake would realize it was one of his better landings.

Back inside the hangar we all bounced around like pinballs, hugging each other, grateful for all of our safety. Some cried, some just sat, but we all were awe-struck at what just occurred. Gradually, we all ended up sitting by the tail wheel of our now only remaining and partially destroyed 185 aircraft. The good news was we finally formed our round.

As we contemplated our ordeal and were thankful that everyone was safe, we were realizing skydiving is over. With no plane and saddened hearts we were all bummed out. Then inspiration hit. No one had looked at the videos yet as they were all tucked away, most of us refusing to relive the drama again so soon. But slowly the GoPros began to emerge from the lockers and we all started to realize the miracle might not be over. Everyone was safe. All the parts of the aircraft must have already landed, harming no one on the ground and we had it all on video. HD-quality video!

Discussion ensued while deep consideration was given to our brothers and sisters in skydiving who had not been so fortunate. We concluded that ours was a story that could help all of us in the skydiving community deal with the heartache of tragedy by celebrating with us in our survival.

Each one agreed to give their video in a selfless act to save our drop zone and our beloved Androsky family who had just lost everything. I think it was best said in an obscure post in the days following the accident by one of us on Facebook ,“My friends. My family. We live. We don’t just survive, we LIVE …”

Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers,
Skydive Superior

About the authors: Chad, Amy, Dan, Trisha, Sarah, LaNaya, Mike, Johnny, Barry, Blake and Matt are jumpers and pilots at Skydive Superior in Wisconsin. On Nov. 2, the planes they were jumping from collided at 12,000’. Everyone survived and the group donated all footage and subsequent royalties to the drop zone and charity. They have raised enough money to fully replace one Cessna and are working to raise more. Merchandise and more information at www.miracleeleven.com.

Reader question: Quitting?

Have you ever thought of quitting jumping? Have you quit and come back? Why? How? When?

This month’s reader question was sparked by James LaBarrie’s column last fall, “We’re Creating Quitters.” If you’re reading this, you’re probably not one of the people he’s talking about, who have actually quit — but you’ve probably thought about it at some point, right? When did your moment of doubt come in and what did you do about it? Or, maybe you are one of those people who hung it up at some point; if so, what made you come back?

Selected responses will be printed in the February issue of Blue Skies Mag, out in – you guessed it – February. Leave a comment with your name as you’d like it printed, or email me at lara@blueskiesmag.com with your response. Responses may be edited for space, clarity or style.

We’re Creating Quitters

Online Reprint

Originally printed in issue #59 (November 2014) of Blue Skies Magazine.

The sport of skydiving routinely provides new students with every opportunity to …quit. Here’s a reality check: Most DZs do not do a good job with AFF. Don’t get me wrong, most instructors do a great job with training, but the continuity and management of a student’s progress through the program, generally speaking, sucks.

If a student is riding the fence about whether to become a skydiver or not, they’ll probably fall on the wrong side nearly every time. It’s as if we test those entering the sport by saying, “How bad do you really want it?” Only the hardest of the diehards, the ones bitten so badly by the sport that they can’t live without it, make it through.

There are major obstacles to becoming a skydiver. First, it’s expensive. Second, it’s a major time commitment. But those obstacles pale in comparison to the torturous waiting game we force students to endure. We hate going to the DMV because we have to wait. We get irate when we’re hungry and the service is slow. Yet in our own industry we charge students a premium price to wait. I’ve been to countless DZs (mine not precluded) where I see many students sit around for hours before they get to jump. Don’t say you haven’t seen it … it happens at many DZs around the country.

Let’s put this waiting into context. Let’s say skydiving is like learning to drive a stick shift, only without the benefit of endless practice in an empty mall parking lot. The process of learning to skydive is something like this: Jump. Wait a week. Insert self-doubt. Answer questions from the naysayers in your social group and family. Abandon weekend plans with friends. Return to the DZ. Wait all day to get one jump in … wash, rinse, repeat. This scenario is not an ideal method for fostering learning or engagement. If I stall the car, I want to try again—not go home, wait and think about the difficulty of driving a stick all week. Eventually, I’ll give up and buy an automatic.

If we want to grow the sport, we must improve our service, not just by reducing wait times, but by getting people in the air more than once in a day. The more comfortable our students feel about being in the air, the more they’ll want to return there.

We mustn’t forget that many students have a continuous pro-versus-con dialogue going on in their heads. Immediately after making a skydive they’re thinking, “This is the best thing I’ve ever done, I love this!” Insert a week off and a long drive to the DZ, and that internal dialogue morphs into, “What the hell am I doing?” As DZOs, the worst thing we can do is to prolong this feeling of self-doubt by making students check-in, wait for their instructors to debrief prior students, pack, grab a drink and finally get manifested either three loads out or continue to wait because of shut downs. I can assure you that DZOs wouldn’t tolerate that level of service in any arena outside of skydiving, especially when they have an appointment.

I’ve mentioned the wait time issue on other occasions and I hear this a lot: “That’s just how our sport is,” or, “It’s better to wean out those who want it from those who think they want it.” I call B.S. on both arguments.

Our next customers are digital natives. They have grown up in a culture of instant gratification. If they want something they download it, stream it, or have it shipped to them with one click. They are not accustomed to waiting, and they won’t do it for very long. Technology continues to make every aspect of our daily lives more efficient, as evidenced by the fact that we can now manifest from our smartphones while lying on the packing mat.

Times are changing and if DZs don’t scrutinize how we schedule both students and instructors (and perhaps embrace less quantity to improve quality), I believe we will continue to see the same abysmal attrition rate in our sport that we’ve seen for decades.

James La Barrie

Monthly Columnist

Originally from Antigua, James La Barrie managed Skydive Carolina for nine years, increasing revenues there between 15-30%. In December 2012, he left Skydive Carolina to launch the design company Beyond Marketing, amazethecustomer.com, and travel throughout the U.S. consulting skydiving and non-skydiving clients on culture, service and marketing.

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