Welcome to the Classes of 2020 & 2021!

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.

 

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.

 

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. 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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 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 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.

jeanni McCombs was a strong early female presence in the male-dominated sport of skydiving.  She made 2,985 jumps before her utimely 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.
 

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 incompetition skydiving disciplines both nationally and internationally.

Paul 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 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 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.