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Skydivers attempt to break record

By Jeremy Stewart, Staff writer

Skydivers perform aerial acrobatics Skydivers from across the country converged on Cornelius Moore Airfield in Fish Creek Saturday, July 26 and Sunday, July 27 for sport and fun. The ultimate reason for the meeting was to try and break the Georgia State Skydive Record at the Atlanta Skydiving Center, located at the runway. With the current record at 64, the group's goal for the weekend was set at 65 people skydiving at the same time and joining in a single formation, all while falling at 120 mph from 15,000 feet above the ground. A formation is accomplished when all skydivers link together to create a shape in mid-air. The record-breaking goal was not met, but they came close on subsequent jumps and had fun doing it. The participants' experience ranged in average from 500 to 15,000 jumps a piece and included World Record Holders and reserve and active military personnel. Ben Butler, manager of the center, said that it was "pretty exciting" to be a part of such an attempt. According to Butler, putting an activity like this together requires a lot of organization. The event's organizers began to work on the Polk County attempt last November. Along with getting people from places like California, New York and Florida, instructors need to be present to oversee the formation and extra aircraft must be acquired. In addition to the Atlanta Skydiving Center's resident plane, the "Otter", organizers borrowed a 33-passenger, rear-hatch Casa plane from a center in North Carolina for the weekend. Before any skydive of such a magnitude is attempted, a "dry run" on the ground, called a "dirt dive", is performed so everyone knows where they are supposed to go in the formation. The shape used at the beginning is the cloverleaf formation. A circle base made up of some of the bigger participants starts out of the lead plane first in order to keep the group falling fast and the others build onto it. "Like anything that you try, you need to practice," said Scotty Carbone, a 35-year skydiver who coaches expert skydivers at the center and was an organizer of the record attempt. "This is the highlight of all of these people," he said. "Everyone enjoys the Georgia landscape. It's a beautiful thing. Mike Woods from Tampa, Fla. and Ray Williams from Alabama served as the formation coordinators for this event. Both have approximately 12,000 jumps between them. "They build the puzzle and we have to put it together," Wood said. As the time for the first attempt neared on Saturday, a count of participating skydivers came up with only 35 in attendance. The team moved on in order to gain practice for the "big way", which is what a large skydive is called. After preparation, the group loaded up and took off on the two planes in hopes of starting the weekend on a good note. After everyone was back on the ground, the skydivers gathered in front of a television set in the center to observe the jump from the helmet-cam of videographer Randy Cooke. The formation failed to take shape before the cut-off point, at which time the participants must spread out in order to pull their parachutes and land safely. Woods told the group during the debreifing that he knew that they had the experience to pull this off. "You guys are better than this," he said. After reassuring the crowd that it would work next time, Woods worked with Williams and moved some people around in the formation "for comfort and body position," hoping that it would solve the problem. The team re-packed their chutes and went up for the second attempt. One by one, the thrill-seekers landed with a smile for what they hoped had been a successful trip. As participants dropped in, those already on the ground quickly played back the tape to confirm their beliefs. Slowly, skydivers floated into position on the video and, as the last person fell into place, shouts of relief and joy ran through the group. Congratulatory handshakes and hugs worked their way around the men and women who had completed the feat. "Thank you so much," Woods said during the debriefing. Later, he mentioned how he felt as the effort came together in the air. "I laid back to watch the build up and as I saw it come together, I thought, 'This is nice.'" "This (skydiving) is one of the most exciting things you can do in your life," Butler said. Randy Cooke, who records skydives on film and in photos, described the camaraderie of the people who love the sport as one of the main aspects of skydiving. "It's not a clique. It's the fact that you spend time in the air with these people and share the adrenaline and the rush," he said. The weekend was not over yet, however, as the group added another formation, called a dumbbell formation, to the previous one. Saturday evening, the professionals successfully formed both shapes in a single jump, breaking apart between each one. The dive, known as a 2.36 way, claimed both the center sequential record and the state sequential record. When asked about the turnout and the fact that they were not able to attain the single formation state record, Carbone was optimistic. "This was more of a lead-up to our next state record attempt that we hope to do in September or October," he said. "But, overall, it was a great weekend." Throughout the weekend, many people commented on the center, claiming it to be one of the safest and biggest centers in the state and the south. Carbone invited people interested in learning more about the sport to visit the center anytime and participate in a tandem skydive or simply be a spectator. "Come out, have a good time, and experience life in the fast lane," he said.


This article was created at :

August 6,2003

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