The International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame is proud to honor the 1970 Freefall Exhibition Team as the Pioneers of Excellence recipient. The Pioneers of Excellence (and the Path of Excellence) are the International Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame's most prestigious awards for groups, companies, organizations or teams recognizing significant contributions of enduring value to the world of skydiving. The Pioneers of Excellence was added in 2021 to recognize entities that contributed in the 70's and before.
In 1970, the United States Freefall Exhibition Team (USFET) demonstrated what was then called Relative Work at the World Parachute Championships in Bled, Yugoslavia, and inspired skydivers from all over the world.
Yugoslavia, the host of the 10th World Championships in 1970 was interested in having a United States Relative Work Exhibition Team to
introduce big way relative work to Europe and the rest of the world. Norm Heaton, USPA director, worked with Ted Webster to set up a 10-way speed star competition to decide which 10-way team would represent USPA at the Spectator (exhibition) Event. Jerry Bird's All-Stars, a hybrid team with talented jumpers from both the Taft and Elsinore dropzones, was selected.
After winning the Ted Webster Meet as the Jerry Bird's All-Stars. the team became the United States Freefall Exhibition Team and went to the Bled, Yugoslavia World Parachute Championships joining as a contingent of the United States Parachute Team. Once there, the team jumped in the Opening Ceremonies for all the world to see and later competed in the Spectator Event and won the Bronze Medal for the United States following Russia and Czechoslovakia.
The real goal, however, was to demonstrate Relative Work as a competition event. While in Bled, there was so much enthusiasm and curiosity about Relative Work. the team felt not only welcome, but sought after by jumpers from many countries around the world. Team members from Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and other countries would come to the USFET tent to find out more about Relative Work. They were able to take Delegates from other countries Into the air on the big Russian AN-2s to actually experience Relative Work.
The United States Freefall Exhibition Team introduced Relative Work to the world not just visually, but by team members actually jumping and teaching skydivers from across the globe. It was clear that the sport of skydiving was changing and the USFET was a significant inspiration for that change.
The 1970 Freefall Exhibition Team:
Ted Webster - Team Sponsor
Ron Bluff - Team Leader
Jerry Bird - Team Captain
Carl Boenish - Team Photographer
Photo Courtesy of USPA/Parachutist