Skydiving Hall of Fame 2021

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Back at it again

After a year off due to the pandemic, the International Hall of Fame Celebration was on again at full speed. It all happened October 7-9 at Skydive Perris. Even with limitations on international travel and Covid concerns, the attendance was equal to two years ago at 500.

Celebration dinner at the March Field Air Museum
Photo by Andrey Veselov

The events that were organized by the International Skydiving Museum and Hall of Fame were full of joy as the participants gathered in Perris. The place, already crowded by the TBS participants, had a happy vibe all around it as people enjoyed this long awaited chance to meet, catch up and celebrate.


Photo by Randy Forbes

Forums, 10-way Speed Star meet and Demos

Two fascinating forums were presented, both excellent. Hall of Famer and innovator Bill Booth, world class inventor of RSL, tandem drogue, D-ring, 3-ring release system and UPT owner, presented on the development and evolution of parachuting and skydiving equipment. 

Craig O’Brien was interviewed about his experiences filming the freefall scenes in Mission: Impossible – Fallout. 

Competitions

Thirteen teams competed in the 10-way speed meet. Arizona Airspeed won… again. 🙂  And the ever popular classic accuracy meet was a big hit.

Demo: Wingsuit pilots doing a flyby past a canopy formation diamond
Photo by Randy Forbes

Demo jumps

Hall of Famer Chris Gay put together an impressive team to do a demo Friday evening to honor the recipients of the Path of Excellence and Pioneers of Excellence Awards. On Saturday the same team performed before the Hall of Fame induction banquet.

Both shows were phenomenal and included swooping, CRW diamonds, downplanes, banners, wingsuits, canopy spirals, smoke and pyro.  Even long time demo jumpers were impressed.

Spectacular night demo
Photo by Randy Forbes

Celebration

The highpoint of the event was the International Skydiving Hall of Fame Induction Banquet Saturday evening that took place at the March Field Air Museum. Many of the members of the Hall of Fame classes of 2020 and 2021 were inducted. Those who could not attend due to travel restrictions were acknowledged and will be inducted next year.

Arizona Airspeed members present in Perris receive their award
Photo by Andrey Veselov

Path of Excellence Award

The Path of Excellence Award went to Arizona Airspeed. Thirty team members from over the years were there to receive the award. Really impressive.

The original Airspeed team was formed with one goal in mind: to bring the 4-way World Championship Sword “Excalibur” back to the USA.  But once the team was together we realized we could do more, wanted to do more.  We wanted to push our sport to new levels and share everything we learned with anyone who would listen.  We loved and appreciated our skydiving family and wanted to contribute to that community by sharing our love for this amazing sport with them.  In victory and defeat we strived to be like the athletes and sportsman we admired.  We believed, and still do, that from the time every person who shares this crazy passion for human flight walks on to a drop zone, they should be treated like family with love and respect.  All this was more important than winning.  But we wanted it all.  We wanted to do all this and win.  And I’m proud to say we often did.

Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld, Arizona Airspeed member
Curt Bachman, CEO of Para Gear, receives The Pioneers of Excellence award from Derek Thomas and Marylou Laughlin
Photo by Anthony Armendariz

Pioneers of Excellence Award

The Pioneers of Excellence went to Para Gear Equipment Company.  With many DZs today having credible gear shops, it’s easy to miss how significant Para Gear was to growing the sport early on.

Para Gear was founded in 1960 by Lowell Bachman and is celebrating its 61st year of doing business! (…) Most important are the contributions that Para Gear and its staff have made to the athletes, events and skydiving industry over its lifetime. Over the years, Para Gear has been seen at numerous National and World Skydiving competitions along with helping to support the U.S. team. Para Gear was a founding member of the Parachute Equipment Industry Association (PEIA) in 1977, which was later renamed the PIA. Paul Thompson developed the idea of a Symposium combining the Rigger Convention and manufacturer’s exhibits to draw more people. The first PIA Symposium was held in February 1991 and Paul received the Don Beck Award for the concept of the Symposium having withstood the test of time on its 10th anniversary.

Curt Bachman
March Field Air Museum, the impressive celebration venue
Photo by Andrey Veselov

Hall of Fame 2020 inductees

Due to the pandemic the class of 2020 could not receive their awards last year but were honored this year instead, in a double celebration, alongside most of 2021’s inductees.

BRUNO BROKKEN (not present)

Bruno Brokken

Bruno Brokken was born in Ath, Belgium. His first jump was made in 1980, and he has since made over 26,000 jumps. Bruno is a competition skydiver as well as a photographer. As a photographer, he is in a class that few people can obtain. Some of the more memorable jumps that he has photographed are as follows: 400-way in Thailand, World Air Games, Blue Hole in Belize, Great Pyramid of Giza, Dubai Palm, Stonehenge in United Kingdom, Varodero, Cuba, Muscat, Oman and the 297-way in Anapa, Russia—these just name a few. He is also an expert in filming freestyle competition. Bruno has spent a lifetime dedicated to skydiving and has been and still is a pioneer in our sport.

Chris Gay receives the Hall of Fame plaque from Marylou Laughlin
Photo by Anthony Armendariz

CHRIS GAY

Chris Gay has been instrumental in developing the skydiving discipline of Canopy Formation (CRW) around the world. His success is reflected in the 15 world records between 1994 and present day that he has helped to pilot and engineer. His love for competition has not only won him bronze, silver and gold medals in both national and world competitions, but has driven others to perfect their skills. His expertise has allowed him to participate in many events worldwide, allowing spectators the opportunity to visualize the beauty of diamonds in the sky and encouraging more participation in the sport.

FAYE COX (not present)

Faye Cox

Since her first jump in 1965, Faye Cox has devoted her whole life to skydiving. She and her husband established Manton Drop Zone with a very successful skydiving school in North Queensland, Australia. Faye has been recognized at the highest level in the Australian Parachute Federation as one of only six persons to receive the Master of Sport Parachuting award. She was also awarded the Australian Sports Medal by the government in 2000. Faye was the Secretary General of the ASIANIA Parachute Federation from its formation in 1994 until she retired 25 years later. She has always worked to develop and promote greater participation by the Asian and Australasian countries in all aspects associated with skydiving.

Kathleen Gunby receives the Hall of Fame plaque on behalf of her father
Photo by Anthony Armendariz

RUSS GUNBY (posthumous)

Russ Gunby had a varied career in skydiving. He was the executive director and president of the Parachute Club of America. He was an innovator and author of the first book devoted to the instruction and training of skydivers when he published The Basic Handbook of Sport Parachuting in 1960. While in print, it is estimated that over 100,000 copies of this little handbook were sold. Russ was responsible for the very first set of basic safety regulations of the PCA/USPA. Russ also started the Area Safety Officer program and the conference area concept for representatives serving on the PCA Board of Directors. This is still in vogue today. He passed away in 1982.

Larry Hill
Photo by Anthony Armendariz

LARRY HILL

Larry Hill started his first DZ in 1977 with a Cessna 182. Here he was a one-man show—serving as instructor, rigger, mechanic, pilot and DZO. He would later move again until finally ending up in Eloy, Arizona, where he adopted the name “Skydive Arizona” for his DZ. Since moving to Eloy, Larry has successfully hosted 13 National Parachuting Championships, 2 World Parachuting Championships, 4 World Cup Championships and 8 Collegiate Championships. He was also instrumental in the development of the OmniSkore judging system. He was awarded the prestigious Faust Vrancic award in 1997. In short, Larry has devoted his entire adult life to pursuit of the betterment of the sport of skydiving.

Xiaoli Lai
Photo by Anthony Armendariz

XIAOLI LAI

Xiaoli Lai made her first jump at the young age of 14. Since that time, she has amassed over 7,200 jumps. In 1988 she became a member of the Chinese National Parachute Team. She became captain of the Chinese Women’s Team in 1992. Xiaoli was the Chinese National Accuracy champion for 7 consecutive years from 1991 to 1997. She is a former world champion in women’s accuracy. As a competitor, while competing in national and world competitions, she has won 22 gold medals, 4 silver and 4 bronze. Xiaoli was employed by the Aero Sport School of Sichuan for 21 years as an athlete. Xiaoli was awarded the honor as one of Sichuan’s 10 best athletes.

Kim and Lisa McCombs receive the award on behalf of their mother, jeanni McCombs
Photo by Anthony Armendariz

JEANNI MCCOMBS (posthumous)

jeanni McCombs was a strong early female presence in the male-dominated sport of skydiving.  She made 2,985 jumps before her untimely death in 1981.  As D-251, she was only the fourth woman to earn a D license. Although she competed in the individual events, she was drawn to relative work from the start and excelled at organizing women’s “stars,” which led to some of the first 4-, 8- and 10-woman stars and eventually to a world record 13-woman star at Elsinore on April 7, 1973. But perhaps jeanni’s greatest contribution was her tireless promotion, not only of women in the sport, but of the sport itself.

Michael McGowan
Photo by Anthony Armendariz

MIKE MCGOWAN

Mike McGowan has long been known as one of the best photographers in the skydiving business. During the 1980s, USPA authorized and sanctioned the creation of an AFF Training Video. Mike collaborated with Al Gramando to direct, film and edit the first training video for all seven levels of the Advanced Freefall Program. Multiple drop zones integrated these videos into their skydive training programs. In the mid 1980s, Mike, along with Sandy Williams, organized a major 20-way competition at Zephyrhills which became the first meet solely utilizing air-to-air videography to score formation skydiving. This was the birth of air-to-air judging and continues to be the standard in competition skydiving disciplines both nationally and internationally.

Paul Rafferty’s award is received by his daughter, Alexis Rafferty Allen and his brother, Bill Rafferty, presented by Craig Girard
Photo by Anthony Armendariz

PAUL RAFFERTY (posthumous)

Paul Rafferty

Paul “Raff” Rafferty’s many accomplishments in our sport are difficult to capture because he contributed so much to include winning five consecutive gold medals at the Skydiving World Parachuting Championships in the 8-way 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1995. He also won a gold medal at the 1988 World Cup of Relative Work in the 8-way event. At the U.S. Nationals, he was part of an 8-way team (U.S. Army Parachute Team) that won a gold medal for 9 separate years. During his tenure with the Golden Knights, Paul worked with numerous parachute companies testing their equipment and providing his technical advice regarding their product development. Before his untimely death, Paul had accrued over 15,000 parachute jumps.

Kirk Verner receives his plaque from Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld
Photo by Anthony Armendariz

KIRK VERNER

Kirk Verner has been on the leading edge of formation skydiving for three decades as a competitor, leader and innovator. He has won 66 world- and national-level gold medals, which makes him one of the most successful competitors in any skydiving discipline. Kirk was captain of both the 300- and 400-person world record formations. He has coached thousands of individuals in both indoor and outdoor formation skydiving and has innovated new techniques in both training and flying. He has been a USPA National Director while serving as the chairman of the competition committee.  He also as the U.S. delegate to the IPC. Kirk is among the top skydiving individuals with the volume and quality of both his achievements and contributions to the sport. 

Bruce Wicks receives his Hall of Fame plaque
Photo by Anthony Armendariz

BRUCE WICKS

Bruce Wicks served close to 30 years in the U.S. Army and, in particular, Special Forces. Bruce was a former commander of the United States Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights. While he commanded the Team, there were 13 national and world champions on the Team. Bruce served as team leader for the U.S. National Parachute Team that competed for the world championship in Sweden in 1988. He was also the team leader for the U.S. National Team that competed in Austria in 1992. Bruce has an extensive judging background as he has judged in 12 different world championships, world cups and/or foreign national championships and 17 U.S. National Championships. Bruce was also one of the architects of the skydive that was performed at the Opening Ceremonies of the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.

Hall of Fame 2021 inductees

The Class of 2021…

Omar Alhegelan
Photo by Randy Forbes

OMAR ALHEGELAN

Omar Alhegelan was one of the Pioneers of competitive freefly skydiving. He has won multiple national and world championships and has even more national and world freefly world records to his credit. He was the first FAI-sanctioned Freestyle World champion, World Air Games and World Games gold medalist.  Omar’s adventure skydiving has spanned the World. He has HALO jumped over the Mount Everest region since 2008, over the geographic North Pole, led an expedition that opened skydiving in Union Glacier, Antarctic and even BASE jumped the world’s tallest building, just to name a few.  For 20 plus years, Omar has given back to the sport by mentoring and coaching skydivers to improve and reach, not only their freeflying, but their life goals as well.  More importantly, through his coaching, Omar has reduced accidents among the freeflying community.

LESLEY GALE (not present)

Lesley Gale

Lesley Gale has been a key organizer for 20 female world, national and European Records, devoting her time to increase skills and participation of female skydivers. Lesley captained Brit Chicks 8-way 2007-2018, the only all-female national 8-way team. Brit Chicks events raised $120,000 for charities and generated $500,000 of publicity for the Red Cross. She has over 100 medals and 34 world/national records. Lesley was editor of the BPA magazine from 1996 to 2010, receiving the Royal Aero Club Nexus Trophy for Aviation Journalism in 2009. She launched her online magazine in 2013, an invaluable resource for our worldwide community. 

Ian Bobo receives his award from Shannon Pilcher, long time teammate and friend
Photo by Anthony Armendariz

IAN BOBO

Ian Bobo is one of the select few in the sport to have won world championships in multiple disciplines, both Formation Skydiving and Canopy Piloting.  He is still an active member and co-founder of the PD Factory Team and co-founder of Flight-1, a worldwide educational company.  Ian has imagined and realized revolutionary new products and has taught thousands of skydivers to be safer canopy pilots.  He has lead teams and businesses within the sport to the highest echelons of success and after 30 years of skydiving, he still loves to jump and spread the love.

PATRICE GIRARDIN (not present)

Patrice Girardin

Patrice Girardin rose through the ranks of the French Parachuting Federation before becoming President of the International Skydiving Commission. As a competitor, Patrice has been four times world champion, World Cup winner, 25 times national champion, and built the first 36-way diamond in Canopy Formation with his team. He has also held all the possible functions in international competitions and World Air Games as organizer, director and controller, but he is best known for having re-launched the concept of the Mondial in parachuting in 2003 and having organized it with the FFP, a concept in its fourth edition in 2021.

Melissa Nelson-Lowe & Rook Nelson receive the award on behalf of their father, Roger Nelson
Photo by Anthony Armendariz

ROGER NELSON (posthumous)

Roger Nelson

Roger Nelson was a son to an 82nd Airborne Paratrooper. He fell in love with skydiving at the age of 16 and went on to make over 9,000 skydives, developed several world record milestones in formation skydiving, founded the skydiving fraternity Freak Brothers, progressive student training, and created two state-of-the-art skydiving resorts in his lifetime. He also won several national titles in 10-way, and served as a USPA National Director from 2001-2002. Roger passed away in 2003.

Hall of Fame Celebration 2022

In all, it was a hugely successful event.  The next Hall of Fame Celebration will be at Skydive DeLand October 6-8, 2022.  The Path of Excellence Award recipient will be the World Team 2006 – 400-Way Largest Formation World Record team. October is a good time for skydiving in Florida and maybe even some beach time. Plan to be there! 🙂.

More information on the International Skydiving Museum website

The 2022 Path of Excellence Award recipient will be the World Team 2006 – 400-Way Largest Formation World Record team
Photo: 400-way World Record, 2006, by Andrey Veselov
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Meet: Jim McCormick

Jim McCormick is a Colorado skydiver, author and organizational consultant. He has earned numerous state, national and world large formation records. Jim is also the Director of Development for the International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame.

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