The Hall of Fame had a unique opportunity this last month to put on an aerial demonstration never before witnessed at EAA Oshkosh. The largest airshow in the world invited the Hall of Fame skydivers to demonstrate their attempts at a world record sequential mega-formation over its skies in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the 2015 airshow. The team was invited to make three high altitude jumps, two on July 22 and one on July 24th. The Eagles Over Oshkosh team was born.
On July 22, 2015, the team made a spectacular three point skydive on its first record attempt over EAA Oshkosh. Unfortunately, there was a mis-grip on the 2nd point and the FAI judges couldn’t award a world record. However, the Hall of Fame Eagles Over Oshkosh skydivers did set a new Wisconsin State large formation skydiving formation with 108 of the world’s best skydivers from 15 nations and 23 states represented. The previous state record was a 30-way formation set in 2011.
Through this exposure at EAA Oshkosh, the Skydiving Museum & Hall of Fame was able to broadcast its world-class activities to hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiast. Nancy Kemble, the Museum Administrator, diligently “womanned” a booth in one of the exhibition halls, helping to boost attention for the museum as well as the Eagles Over Oshkosh skydives.
President/CEO of the Skydiving Museum Board of Trustees, James F Curtis III and Museum trustee Dana Engelstad, along with Gulcin Gilbert and Jimbob Slocum, presented the world of skydiving at three forums at EAA Oshkosh – which included “Being on the 400-way World Skydive Record” and “Pioneers of Skydiving.”
HISTORY OF THE TEAM How did all this come about, you might ask? It’s a story worth noting. Jim McCormick, an avid big-way skydiver, introduced himself to the person sitting next to him on a flight several months ago. This person happened to be the Air Show Director for the EAA Oshkosh airshow. The two got to talking and came up with a plan. Jim got together with world-renowned big-way Dive Director, BJ Worth. Enlisting the help of TJ Hine, Roger Ponce de Leon and Louis Tommaso, who had been planning a record attempt previously during this time frame, the Eagles Over Oshkosh team took its first tangible steps forward.
It was an incredibly challenging event to undertake, as it would occur in two locations. The team would practice and hopefully make records at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, IL, and then bus the entire team 200 miles to Oshkosh, WI for the three demonstration/record jumps to be made there. There was exceptional sponsorship from Skydive Chicago, a few major members of the skydiving industry and one avid skydiving enthusiast, to pick up some of the extra costs involved.
Fifteen practice jumps were made over Skydive Chicago under mostly clear skies. The first jump over EAA Oshkosh, the one with the most pressure – the location being entirely new, was the most successful. They were one-tenth of a second away from a world record. The team completed each point perfectly but there was an "interim move" between each point, where all grips had to be broken as depicted in the diagram given to the judges before the jump. In one of the formation’s sectors, one of the grips was taken one-tenth of a second too soon and the required separation was not shown. BJ Worth was quoted as saying; “the sequential big-way records are proving to be quite a challenge because of the difficulty in seeing all the grips before the next point is sequenced. But if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.”
The second jump was marred by a rainy overcast sky with a ceiling of about six thousand feet, so the Eagles Over Oshkosh performed an amazing demonstration of 112 skydivers doing hop ‘n pops, thrilling the crowd. The last jump on Friday had the team negotiating a later time in the airshow lineup for better weather. EAA and the FAA bent over backwards to make that happen and the team got full altitude, about 21,000 feet. Unfortunately, as has happened on several of these challenging sequential big-way records, two jumpers weren’t quite on the same page and the world record alluded the team.
Jim McCormick, the man who brought the team to Oshkosh had this to say: “This event, large-way skydiving, has never been part of the EAA Oshkosh airshow before and the Eagles Over Oshkosh are very proud to have been able to showcase our sport for this special group of aviators and aviation enthusiasts in a safe and exciting manner. I had a person come up to me, after I landed, and was talking to folks on the show line, who said that it was one of the coolest things he’d ever seen and he’d been to Oshkosh regularly for many years.”
The team, had an impressive lineup of Captains consisting of Roger Ponce, Lou Tommaso and TJ Hine for the base 44-way center, plus Fernando Gallegos (Peru), Alia Veselova (Russia), Jim McCormick (USA), Lise Nansen (Norway) and BJ Worth, Larry Henderson, BK Krause, Mike Johnston (USA) as “action team” captains. The “action team” skydivers were on the outside and would be making the planned 3-6 sequential moves. There was an Alpha Team (replacement bench) and half of that team ended up on the record formation doing an outstanding job.
The group was supported by five brilliant pilots and a team of packers from Skydive Chicago. A fabulous team of aerial cinematographers: Andrey Veselov – Camera team captain, Norman Kent, Brian Festi, Charles Lane and Jim Baker on the ground, provided the team and judges with spectacular still photographs and video. Chief Judge Marylou Laughlin, along with International FAI Judges Jim Rees and Randy Connell, reviewed each dive and scored it accordingly. Media director Gulcin Gilbert was able to provide these images and daily updates to an eager EAA, national and international press.
Some of the media stories generated by the event can be seen at:
Stories during the event: