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Skydivers Drop in at AirVenture in a Big Way
By Megan Esau, EAA Assistant Editor
July 26, 2018 - A number of skydiving activities took place during the afternoon and night air shows on Wednesday, July 25, celebrating an area of aviation that has been less prevalent at AirVenture in past years.
“While skydiving has always been a part of AirVenture, the reaction to the mass parachute jump demonstration in 2015 reinforced a desire to see more of the diverse methods people use to depart ‘perfectly good aircraft’ and ultimately land with a parachute,” said Dennis Dunbar, EAA director of flight operations.
The Red Bull Air Force amazed the crowds with cutting-edge demonstrations and an AirVenture first, a low-altitude base jump from the famous Red Bull helicopter. The Red Bull Air Force wingsuit pilots demonstrated their maneuverability while the Red Bull helicopter and Kirby Chambliss in his Red Bull Edge 540 flew formation aerobatics with the wingsuits.
The Patriot Parachute Team, consisting of U.S. military veterans, is well-known for opening most of the afternoon and evening air shows with a patriotic display of the American flag during the national anthem.
“It’s always fun to be able to perform in front of the amount of people that are at EAA, but it’s also one of the longest-running air shows around, so it’s kind of a legacy thing, too, and to be asked to come back to Oshkosh every year is a special thing to the team,” said lead jumper Isaiah Manning.
On Wednesday, the team demonstrated what it takes to be an elite U.S. Navy SEAL and a member of one of the premier skydiving demonstration teams in the nation. At press time, the team was also ready to perform a pyrotechnics routine in the night air show, highlighting maneuvers only their team has ever performed.
“Parachuting in general at air shows kind of gets lost behind the noise of a big jet, and they always ask us to open the show with an American flag, which is probably one of the most important parts of the entire show, so it is nice to be recognized at a bit of a higher level than normal,” Isaiah said.
The International Skydiving Museum Eagles, named in honor of the Eagles aerobatic team, this year included 65 jumpers, plus one cameraman, from eight countries. The team, consisting of 57 men and 9 women with a total of 384,008 jumps between them, ranges in age from 42 to 80 years old.
“The formation that we [built] over the top of AirVenture [is] an aircraft propeller, and it is intended to be a tribute to the aviators and aviation enthusiasts,” said Jim McCormick, one of the team captains.
The Vertical Elite team of 13 skydivers plans to streak across the night sky from miles above the ground to be part of a sensational show. Diving with their heads toward the Earth, they accelerate to 170 mph, with formations of skeletal LED visuals and pyrotechnics lighting up the sky before they land feet from the night air show attendees.
“To have the opportunity to show the level of proficiency and professionalism that we illustrate … is a great treat, because we are all aviators,” said Jim, who also represents Vertical Elite. “We all share the airspace, and to have the opportunity to show what we’re capable of to pilots and aviation enthusiasts is very important to us.”