Archive for the 'Sports' category

Skydiver takes out marching band

Jul 18 2008 Published by under ... the Hell?, Sports

Ouch. On Thursday, a parachutist went off course during a jump at Fort Riley, Kansas, and crashed feet first into the 1st Infantry Division's marching band. Three band members were significantly injured during the landing; video of the crash can be seen on CNN here.

This sort of accident is highly unusual and, from watching the video, seems darn near inexcusable. Modern parachutes provide a significant ability to maneuver and pick a proper landing spot (note the forward speed on the parachute in the video). The marching band was standing still and should have been easy to see from the air and avoid; furthermore, the landing field is large enough that the parachutist should have been able to avoid the crowd and land safely with only a slight change in course. Even with a risk of hitting the crowd, he should have shouted a warning to those below, but "they didn't hear anything except a brief rustling of the jumper's parachute."

The only explanation I can imagine for this is that the jumper had relatively little experience and froze when he realized he was off course. The Yahoo News article states:

Two parachutists jumped from a single-engine plane at about 6,000 feet. Keating said the second jumper's parachute lines apparently became tangled, pulling him off course.

The parachute looks to be flying properly in the video, so I suspect the jumper simply didn't know what to do when faced with an unfamiliar landing area. This is a risk that all jumpers should prepare for: know your 'outs'! When jumping, always be familiar with other possible landing areas in the region and possible obstacles on the ground.

I actually landed off the DZ during a jump this past weekend. Once my canopy was open, I knew I wouldn't make the main landing area, so I carefully weighed my choices: I could land at the very edge of the airport runway or take a more conservative landing in a field across the street. I ended up having enough time to make the edge of the runway, but I was very carefully watching my altitude and my ground speed to see if that choice was feasible.

Anyway, thankfully nobody suffered any life-threatening injuries, and I hope they make a speedy recovery.

(Note: I forgot to say h/t Karen for the newslink!)

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Lawn chair ballooning lives on!

Jul 06 2008 Published by under Sports

Via CNN, I learn today that Kent Couch of Bend, Oregon managed to fly 200 miles from Oregon to Idaho in a lawn chair 'powered' by helium balloons.

Such stories have long been 'urban legend' fodder, ever since the first lawn chair enthusiast, Larry Walters, took off in 1982 in the Los Angeles area.  Walters ended up drifting some 16,000 feet above Long Beach, flew into the flight path of the Long Beach Municipal Airport, and ended up landing in some high-voltage power lines.  The FAA fined him heavily for the feat, but that didn't stop other enthusiasts from taking up the chair.  The full details, including Walters' tragic suicide later in life, can be found at Snopes.

Couch, who had obviously been inspired to do his flight by Walters' feat, had made two previous balloon trips.  He had declared previously that he wouldn't stop until he met his goal of getting out of state.

What sort of equipment does one take for an interstate lawn chair ride?  According to CNN,

...he carried a Red Ryder BB gun and a blow gun equipped with steel darts. He also had a pole with a hook for pulling in balloons, a parachute in case anything went wrong, a handheld Global Positioning System device with altimeter, a satellite phone, and two GPS tracking devices. One was one for him, the other for the chair, which got away in the wind as he landed last year.

For food he carried some boiled eggs, jerky and chocolate.

The final part of the story that didn't surprise me comes at the end:

Couch flew hang gliders and skydived before taking up lawn-chair flights. He estimated the rig cost about $6,000, mostly for helium. Costs were defrayed by corporate sponsors.

Emphasis mine.  We skydivers are known for figuring out new ways to risk injury or death.

At least Couch planned for the legal logistics better than he predecessor.  Not only did he not get fined for his trip, he actually had corporate sponsorship!

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Unconventional skydives: balloon jump!

Jun 23 2008 Published by under Physics, Sports

A couple of weeks ago I attended Skyfest 2008, a large skydiving convention ('boogie') which had attendees from all over the country. They also had a number of unconventional aircraft, namely helicopters and hot air balloons. I decided to make a hot air balloon jump, my second, but this time I got video of the jump, which appears after the fold!

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Unconventional skydives: beach jumps!

Jun 15 2008 Published by under Sports, Travel

Over Memorial Day weekend, i went with a group of friends to a skydiving party ('boogie') at the Emerald Coast Skydiving Center, which is near the Gulf Coast. The fun of this particular boogie is the ability to skydive over the Gulf and land on the beach, right in front of the Flora-Bama Bar (which is on the coastal border between Florida and Alabama). My friend Terry did some nice videos of our jumps, and I post one of them below the fold!

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May 28 2008 Published by under Sports, Travel

Well, I'm back from my skydiving adventure at the Memorial Day Boogie at Emerald Coast Skydiving Center.  Just like last year, the staff was friendly and helpful, and I managed to get eight jumps on the beach.  There's nothing like landing in front of the Flora-Bama bar and getting a round of cheers and applause from a bunch of bikers!

I should have video of some of the jumps next week, and I'll post them asap.

Some skydivers were not so lucky over the weekend; Michael Fournier, the French skydiver I've written about before, was planning to make his record-setting freefall over Canada from 130,000 feet.  Unfortunately, the attempt never got off the ground; an unexplained electrical discharge disconnected the high-altitude balloon from the gondola before takeoff, and it drifted to the ground 40 km away.

This malfunction put an end to this attempt to set the world-record freefall; the cost of the failure is estimated at 600,000 euros, but Fournier is hoping to try again in August.

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Fusion man goes flying, or: How about them jetpacks, eh?

May 19 2008 Published by under Sports

It would be quite remiss of me not to comment on the cool video of Swiss pilot Yves Rossy, aka "Fusion Man", and his remarkable jet-powered wing.  There's a YouTube video associated with the news story which, although it's in Swedish, is quite interesting to watch.  This flight was the culmination of five years of training.

The equipment is quite impressive: with his eight-foot wings extended, he stepped out of an aircraft at 7500 feet over the Alps, turned on the jets and accelerated to 186 miles per hour.  He was able to do figure-eights, loops, and climbs of up to 2600 feet.  Maneuvering is achieved by altering body position, in a similar manner that a normal skydiver maneuvers.

A couple of comments in the AP article jumped out at me:

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How high can you fall from?

May 07 2008 Published by under Sports

My friend Personal Demon tipped me off to a potentially historic skydiving event that will be happening in roughly 17 days; Michel Fournier of France will attempt to break the record for the highest freefall.  Ascending in a pressurized capsule attached to a high-altitude balloon, Fournier will dive from 130,000 feet (25 miles) over the plains of Saskatchewan, Canada.

The previous record goes back to Joseph Kittinger, Air Force pilot and all-around Übermensch.  In 1960, he participated in Project Excelsior, which was implemented to study the effects of high-altitude bailout on pilots.  Kittinger left a balloon at 102,800 feet, and fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds reaching a maximum speed of 614 mph!  (Kittinger is less-known for being one of the few pilots who had to bail out of his jet in a thunderstorm.  The storms kept him aloft under parachute for 20 minutes before dumping him to the ground.)

Fournier's group claims that their event is being done for similar medical and technological reasons, but it will at the very least be a very cool human accomplishment.  I'm staying tuned...

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Skydiving again, finally!

Apr 21 2008 Published by under Sports

I finally managed to make a couple of skydives this weekend, after about a six-week hiatus.  My undesired "break" from the sport was a combination of bad weather on the weekends at home and travel on the others.  In celebration of getting back in the swing of things, I post a video of a jump I did about 8 years ago in upstate New York (below the fold):

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Skydiving 'Free for All': A speedstar jump

Apr 02 2008 Published by under Sports

I broke out another of my skydiving videos to post on YouTube the other day. This one, below the fold, is what is known as a "speedstar". Most formation skydives are meticulously planned to be "slot perfect": that is, every skydiver has a very specific place in the formation, as in the jump I blogged about previously. A speedstar, on the other hand, is all about everybody getting together as fast as they can! Nobody leaves the plane together: everyone piles out single file and then rushes to the formation. In the video below the fold, we were doing a speedstar with 10 people (a "10-way") and we planned two points...

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A major falling-out with some of my friends...

Mar 03 2008 Published by under Sports

Alas, I fear I must report that I recently had a major falling-out with some of my friends. We have these sort of events all the time, but this time I managed to catch it on video, which is after the fold...

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