Skydive Spaceland SpaceBlog

News and thoughts about what's going on at Skydive Spaceland, our state-of-the-art skydiving facility near Houston, Texas.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Steve!

Everyone give a shout out to Spaceland's DZO Steve Boyd, who is celebrating 36 years in the sport today! He made his first skydive on April 28, 1973, under a 28-foot round. His first jumpmasters were Walter "Sky" Huminsky and his dad Darnell Boyd. Sky was here last weekend on the Alpha team for the TSR. How cool is that?

Check out his first logbook pages (is it too late to call beer? ;-)...

Steve's first jump logbook

Steve Boyd in 1974

Anyone recognize this guy? :-)

The Boyd family, circa 1985

More pages from the Boyd family photo collage... That's Steve packing at the old Skydive Spaceland in about 1985, while Eric (left) and Stevie (right) help out.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Texas State Record boogie, Saturday night

Saturday night started early due to weather, as you may know. Without a doubt, the helicopter was the star of the cloudy show. I think this pilot can make that chopper do absolutely anything; we saw him drop people in the pond, pick them back up out of the pond and take them to shore, slalom trees, set the runners on a truck bed, and conduct numerous high-speed flybys... all while getting the most... ah... expansive view of many jumpers possible.

Plus there was the Anvil Brothers free Tshirt fun, tons of food and free beer, a band, dancing, Hooters girls, you name it. We'll just tell this story with pictures:

Helicopter landing at the pond

The helicopter lands at the pond to pick up three new riders.

Hanging out Kat and Devon New parking spot Diane's just happy to be here Anvil Brother Mad Max plays with the helicopter

Anvil Brother Mad Max plays with the helicopter.

The Anvil Brothers free T-shirt gag's always a good one.

The Anvil Brothers free T-shirt gag's always a good one.

The Anvil Brothers free T-shirt gag's always a good one. More cooler fun

Apparently the cooler has a significant range. Looks like Jay (red jacket) is just as startled as the Brit chick who opened the cooler. :-)

Packer Tami tries out the cooler Packer Tami tries out the cooler

Packer Tami tries out the cooler. What's in the cooler? Now what fun would it be if we told you that? You'll just have to come check it out sometime.

Brett gets attacked

The Brit chicks were running around charging for hugs as a fundraiser for Jump for the Cause. They also took a little bribe to attack the TSR's lead camera flyer, Brett Thomas, who instinctively reacted with evasive maneuvers.

Brett and the Brit chicks

Oh yeah... attacks on guys by multiple girls with bare midriffs must be OK.

Retrieving the diver

The helicopter retrieves a diver from the pond.

Retrieving the diver Diver on the ground Helicopter pulls up another diver

The helicopter moves another diver to dry land.

The famed hat and towel are reunited!

The famed hat and towel are reunited!

Hanging out at the pond Team Awesome!

Team Awesome

Mmmmm... beer.... Dancing, yeah! Max and the Hooters girls who served beer from the truck

Max and the Hooters girls who served beer from the truck. (or, "One of these things is not like the others...")

Jerry Ross gets Anvil of the Year award

Jerry Ross gets the Anvil of the Year award. The Anvils also presented Steve and Eric Boyd with a plaque to show their appreciation to Skydive Spaceland for giving us such a cool place to play.

Careful with that fuel

One final thought on last night... if you're going to spit flammables and light them, make sure you're facing downwind.

Labels: , ,

Texas State Record boogie, day 5

OK, who do we have to pay off to get some good weather?!? Today's a bit less windy, but we have low clouds. There are lots of sunbeams coming through them so I'm a little more hopeful for today, but time's tight for the TSR team. The plan was for them to be released at 3:30 pm so everyone can get home. So far out of 22 planned attempts, they've done four practice dives (smaller groups) and three 160-ways. Cross your fingers, toes, and anything else you've got that they can get another jump or few in before they have to leave us.

On another note... we're working on last night's photos. There was SO much fun to be had here last night (isn't that always the way when the beer light goes on before 4 pm?). Stay tuned for that, and if you were out at the foam pit late last night, send me your pics. :-)

Update (9:20 am): This morning's 160-way ground activity is taking volunteers to lay out part of the proposed 500-way for 2011 on the tarmac and measure it, just for fun. It appears we have a discrepancy... when measuring from the center, one half of the formation has a 65-foot 6-inch radius, while the opposite side has a 66-foot radius. I think we need to move some of the tall people over to the other side so it's PERFECT. :-p

Preparing to measure the formationTom Jenkins measures the second radius of the formation

Tom Jenkins measures the second radius of the formation.

You guessed it, it's still windy and cloudy. We've got some more sun peeking through, but it's not yet enough. Roger Ponce said earlier that at least we got more jumps in than the California State Record attempts in January (we heard they got only a single 160-way off the ground).

Update (11:15 am): Still windy, still cloudy although there are sucker holes everywhere. But if you're bored, check out the photos from last night. :-)

Update (1 pm): We've got more sun, at least as much wind, and lots of really bored big-way skydivers. We're still hanging out and hoping we can manage just one more 160-way today. Somehow.

I think we've exhausted pretty much all the usual things skydivers do when we're bored, and the helicopter had to go home so no more cool rides and tricks. Cast your vote... what should we do next? (Please keep it non-destructive to people and property just in case we do get to jump later, and want to come back here sometime.) :-)

Update (2:15 pm): That's all she wrote, at least for the 160-way. They have been released to scatter home. Partial refunds are being issued as we speak, and Bill Legard is getting ready to drive the Aerodyne tour bus back to California. He's offering free rides for gear back to Perris Valley, at least for Aerodyne customers; non-Aerodyne gear can catch a ride in exchange for a $10 donation to Jump for the Cause.

It's rotten to see so many skydivers spend this much time on the ground, but the good news is that the jumps they did make were really fantastic (you saw the videos, right?). BJ said yesterday that this was the best start to a big-way event he's ever seen, and I'd imagine all those good performances didn't go unnoticed. A whole lot of the participants are likely just a little closer to a future World Team slot, if they want it.

There will probably be a few diehards hanging around hoping for a sunset wind drop and a load or two, but in the meantime... Thanks to all those who came out to Spaceland this weekend and patiently waited for good weather. We really enjoyed meeting everyone, and we hope you had a great time. And we also hope you come back soon to try for a few more good Texas skydives!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

World Team Scoop

You have to hand it to these captains, they've tried to make the most out of these weather holds. They've been dirt diving. They've had the whole 160-way lay on the tarmac in formation. They've held a breakoff/tracking seminar to thoroughly communicate the tracking group concepts/timing and had everyone practice. This morning, they switched gears and spent almost an hour talking about the World Team, from the formation engineering to the skydiver selection process. They even unveiled the prototype of a new oxygen system to be carried by each skydiver in the next two World Team events.

So here's the scoop on World Team as of today.

  • The World Team is going for a new world record of 500 skydivers in formation in January 2011. The event will be held in Thailand again during the Royal Sky Celebration, which will honor His Majesty the King's 84th birthday and him reaching his seventh cycle of 12 years (each cycle is a milestone according to the Buddhist calendar). "This is one of very few places in the world where this can happen," said BJ Worth, referring to the major support of the Royal Thai Air Force for these events.
  • In 2010, there will be a smaller event with about half the skydivers (252) held in Thailand as a dry run to familiarize everyone with the new equipment (more on this in a moment), and to see how fast they can build that size formation and extrapolate that to a 500-way build time. "We'll see if we can build it with enough time to do a second point," BJ said amid cheers.
  • Kate Cooper-Jensen discussed the skydiver selection process, noting that seniority has little to do with selection for either the 2010 or 2011 events. All interested jumpers will need to fill out a detailed online resume at (online applications aren't live yet but are expected to be available soon), and list references from World Team sector captains. Once submitted, applications can be updated if significant changes in a jumper's achievements, weight, etc., occur.
  • "Currency, competency, and confidence--you need all three in spades whether you're doing a 4-way, 20-way, or World Team," said Kate. She also stressed that World Team members must be team players.
  • The base 60-way will practice ahead of time, as the goal is to have a 60-way that consistently builds very quickly and perfectly. "These jumpers won't be the kind of people who 'can only go in the base,' " said Kate. "These will be athletes who can go anywhere in the formation but who are able to use their bodies effectively to give us a good base."
  • Members of the alpha team (alternates) are required to have won a medal at a world level competition, as this shows they perform well under pressure.
  • The cost of the event hasn't been determined, but it is expected be more expensive than previous events due to inflation and additional equipment (more on this shortly).

New Oxygen System

When you're jumping from 26,000 feet, you have to have oxygen. And the one downside of the oxygen systems used for these kind of events has always been the brief period off oxygen when the jumpers line up for exit, wait for exit, and freefall down to 15,000 feet (below which supplemental oxygen isn't needed). As oxygen levels in the blood decrease, a number of problems can occur including impaired judgment, blurred vision, headache, nausea, and other issues that can compromise safety.

For the next two World Team events, each jumper will use an auxiliary bailout oxygen system in addition to the aircraft's oxygen system, so they're on oxygen from takeoff to landing (or nearly so). The system starts with a small bailout bottle in a sling around the jumper's neck, which will tuck underneath the jumpsuit. A nasal cannula (one that goes in the nostrils) will be attached to the bottle and during the ride to altitude, it will also be attached to the aircraft's oxygen system. When it's time to line up for exit, jumpers will disconnect their cannulae from the aircraft system and turn on their bailout bottles, which will give them up to 9 minutes of oxygen at a flow rate of 4 liters per minute.

BJ reported testing the system successfully in a barometric pressure chamber with no ill effects. The length of extra oxygen time the bailout bottle provides should even allow one go-around if required (jumpers would hook back into the aircraft's system for a go-around).

Demonstrating the new oxygen system

BJ Worth discusses the new oxygen system while Larry Henderson demonstrates the system stowed and ready for skydiving.

And Radios for All

"This year every person will have a radio, but not everyone gets a microphone," said BJ amid chuckles. He reported that providing radios for select jumpers worked very well during the last event. "It was one of the very few big records where there was no miscommunication of the exit timing."

For both 2010 and 2011 events, the radios will be used to communicate in-aircraft commands (such as time to get up, turn on bailout bottles, etc.) as well as exit commands to all jumpers. Dirt dive instructions and breakoff timing/communication likely will be assisted by radios as well.

"One idea is that a person sitting on the ground can hear the radio communication of the initial breakoff, and can count down 5 seconds from then, 10 seconds, and so on," explained BJ. "This will give us guidance on real time elapsed," avoiding the shortened counting that often occurs when adrenaline is high.

"We expect 2010 to be a really cool event, and we hope to use the energy and information from that event to set a new world record in 2011," he concluded.

Labels: ,

Texas State Record, day 4

The weather gods are definitely not smiling on us this week. It's not as windy today, it's cloudy instead. Breezy and cloudy so far. Hopefully we'll get just enough wind to push that mess out of here without it being too windy to jump. There are way too many airplanes here that don't like sitting on the ground any more than we do...

Last night the clouds thickened up and we got enough rain to drive most people into the hangar for a Pappas Catering tortilla dinner. Later on, the Anvil brothers started prepping tonight's barbecue; we hear there are about 500 pounds of meat on those smokers already. I don't think anyone will go hungry or thirsty tonight, as they've also got a new homebuilt beer trailer that holds who knows how many kegs.

As for entertainment, the spotlight will likely be on the foam pit. Before the rain started yesterday it got tested out by one of the local drop zone kids:

Foam pit in the making

Foam pit in the making

Trying out the foam pit

Trying out the foam pit

Why a foam pit? It was explained like this: There are negatively charged ions in the foam that attract the positively charged ions in women's clothing, effectively negating the clothing. Or something like that...

Anyway, whether you're in the pit or spectating, make sure to catch an Anvil brother and get your free T-shirt.

Beer and power tools

Beer and power tools... yup, the Anvil Brothers are definitely here.

Stay tuned for more updates on today's jumping (hopefully) and festivities (definitely!).

Update (10:20 am): The clouds are thinning out a bit, but it's still windy. Load 1 just went on a call, and the 160-way is standing by to see how things go. We just got a nice report on the current World Team goings-on, which we'll discuss shortly in more detail. (Update: Report is now posted.)

Update (11:20 am): Load 1 landed well enough, but it's still pretty windy. The 160-way will stay down waiting for lighter winds. The helicopter got here a bit ago, but unfortunately it's on a wind hold just like the rest of us. :-( Here's a few pics of what's going on here today.

The Journey

There's a group of tandem skydivers and friends here with the Journey, an under-30 group from Lakewood Church.

Face the fear shirt

And they're all wearing this on their shirts... cool.

TSR spectators

On the ground wishing we were up there... mostly.

Tandem CRW... not really

Tandem CReW... OK, just kidding. They're not quite as close as they appear.

Anvil Brothers BBQ

The Anvil Brothers just pulled up with smokers ablaze to serve lunch.

Update (1:40 pm): Well, it's still too windy to jump, but not too windy for helicopter rides!

And we've just been handed some more photos of the foam pit from last night. Thanks to TSR participant Chris Ives for these, who says that indeed the kids were playing! (Does this look like a bunch of skydivers or what?) That's Chris in the first photo, on the left.

Big Hats

What was that about everything being bigger in Texas?

Foam party

Foam party

A little soap in the eyes?

A little soap in the eyes, perhaps?

Foam pyramid

Clearly no one's drunk enough yet. This looks way too coordinated. :-)

Sit dive

Since they can't skydive, they settled on a who-knows-how-many-way sit dive.

Update (3:15 pm): And that's it for the day, at least for the 160-ways--they're released until tomorrow morning at 7 am. The clouds are getting thicker and it's starting to drizzle, so the beer light is on. The evening festivities are supposed to be occurring over at the pond (by that already infamous foam pit), but if it ends up raining like it did last night the food, at least, may move into the hangar. Dinner's now at 6 pm, and there's 500 pounds of brisket, 300 pounds of chicken, and 250 pounds of ribs being cooked up by the Anvil Brothers. Hope you're hungry!

Oh, and did I just hear there was a band and free beer! I believe I did. :-)

We'll update you later on or tomorrow with some pics from tonight's fun. And if you have any pics or exploits you think should be featured here, send them on over to Christy.

Labels: ,

Friday, April 24, 2009

Texas State Record, day 3

Well, dangit. The day started out nice and sunny for a 160-way attempt, but the winds are coming back along with a broken layer of low clouds. We're on a weather hold at the moment.

The first 160-way attempt today built quite nicely on yesterday's solid foundation, with several sectors complete and most everyone else lurking their slots closely. Today the plan is to turn around the debriefs a little quicker so we can make more jumps when the weather cooperates.

Here's what this morning's jump looked like (thanks Brett!):

Day 3 jump 1 exit

Day 3 jump 1 exit

Day 3 jump 1 building

Day 3 jump 1 builds

Day 3 jump 1 at breakoff

Day 3 jump 1 at breakoff

It sounds like we might use the weather hold to conduct a mini-seminar on the breakoff plan, which utilizes organized tracking groups rather than an everyone-save-yourselves-get-the-heck-out-of-Dodge approach. We'll bring you the scoop on that shortly.

Update (12 pm): That first dive today had 151 people in, technically breaking the current Texas State Record of 150 people set at Spaceland on April 21, 2007 (but since it wasn't completed and held for 3 seconds, it doesn't count).

The breakoff/tracking discussion and exercise was very informative, especially for those of us who haven't been on dives with this kind of strategy before. As captain Tony Domenico said, "On a big way, tracking is relative work."

"We're hearing and seeing lots of different interpretations of the plan," said captain Kate Cooper. "So here's our interpretation.

"I've been chastised at World Team events for tracking too flat," she said. "It almost doesn't make sense--isn't the point of a track to save your life? But we can't have the Lone Rangers out there by themselves just because they can track flat. The goal is more separation; if these groups start out tracking steeper they will go lower but also faster, and they can get more separation."

Kate Cooper explains the breakoff plan.

Kate Cooper explains the breakoff plan.

The current breakoff plan for the 160-ways is as follows:

  1. 7000 feet: First wave leaves in groups of five and seven jumpers tracking together on distinct radials (see diagram below).
  2. 6000 feet: Second wave leaves in groups of three and four jumpers tracking together on distinct radials.
  3. 5000 feet: Base leaves
  4. 4000 feet: All skydivers fan out from their tracking groups.

Pull altitudes:

  1. First wave: In the saddle at 2500 feet
  2. Second wave: In the saddle at 3000 feet
  3. Base: When clear
Breakoff diagram, first wave Breakoff diagram, second wave

"The first wave start out tracking steep, then flatten out. The tracking group's leader's job is to keep everyone else with you--don't run away from them yet! After ten seconds, then it's all about you," Kate said with a grin.

"The second group tracks flatter and slower," she went on. "We always hear people in the inside of big ways complaining that they're taking over people in the outer rings. Don't! There is no longevity to being the fastest tracker in the middle of a big way. Your job is to use that middle. We have to track as a team; don't crank the turn outward and drop a meter below everyone else, catch a little air and turn smoothly, then work with your group."

Texas State Record sector captains demonstrate a tracking group staying together for the initial separation.

Sector captains demonstrate a tracking group staying together for the initial separation.

Lastly but not leastly, Rob Desilets has thoughtfully provided online video of the 160-ways! So far, yesterday's two jumps are featured from all angles at

We're on break right now, but we'll keep you posted on the happenings throughout the day.

Update (1:25 pm): Boo, winds are still high. 160-way participants have been released until 3 pm.

Update (4 pm): That's it for the day, kids. The 160-way has been released with these words by Bill Legard: "The captains have been meeting for the last hour and we have one thing to say about today..."


The captains kick off the end-of-day festivities with a little Cuervo.

Look for an early start tomorrow--the 160-way will be ready to go at 7 am and the Alpha team will be ready at 6:45 am.

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Texas State Record Day 2, Jump 2

Well, that looked pretty good from the ground. Not complete, but not far from it! It sounds like this will be the last 160-way today. Here are a few pics from the ground:

Dirt dive

Final dirt dive

Casa and five of the six Otters lined up for takeoff

Casa and five of the six Otters lined up for takeoff

TSR 160-way, dive 2

Formation just before breakoff (yes, there are three camera/formation flyers who got cropped out--sorry!)

Watching landings

Spectators with lots of landings to watch

We hear someone will be posting videos of today's 160-ways tonight online; when they're posted, we'll publish the link so you can check them out! There's some really nice skydiving going on for this to be only the second jump of this event.

Tomorrow's going to be an early morning, with a 7 am show time. See you then for some more good big-way skydiving! In the meantime, here are a few more photos from today.

Packing madness!

Don't forget the packers!

Cuervo baby!

And check this out... someone's trying to buy off the captains. :-p


Texas State Record event, Day 2

Good morning everyone! It's currently about 10:20 a.m. Central time, and the first 160-way attempt has been done and debriefed. The consensus among the captains is that overall it was a really nice dive for the first try. The aircraft formation was pretty close, the skydive was quiet, and three of the seven sectors were complete in the formation. Nobody was cut, and the next attempt will take off at about 11:15. While we're waiting, here are diagrams of the two planned points:
Texas State Record Point 1 First point
Texas State Record Point 2 Second point
Some of you might have noticed that the outer edges of the first point are fairly open, with less structural integrity than a loop-type formation. Organizer Tom Jenkins explains that this open wacker-type formation is useful because many outer jumpers can still build even if someone ahead of them is low or late to the party. Also, the open radials between wacker groups give jumpers who are late a path to get to their slot even if people who are normally behind them have already docked.

Update (11:25 am): After a brief wind hold, the big-way is now on a 40-minute call. Yahoo!

Update (11:50 am): Back on a wind hold. Darnit!

Update (2:50 pm): Still on a wind hold, but that doesn't mean there's nothing going on. There's been some more big-way dirt diving, some napping, the Knights have done a few training jumps, and packer Will has been kiteboarding. Check it out:

Theme of the day--wind!
Will kiteboarding
Will kiteboarding
Laying it down
Everyone down but Tom giving directions :-)
Complete formation laid out on the tarmac

Update (4:45 pm): Hey, we just got a 35-minute call for the 160-way! Stay tuned...

Update (5:30 pm): And they're off! We should see a nice skydive from the ground here shortly.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Texas State Record Camp/Boogie, Day 1

Today was a big day at Skydive Spaceland! We started the Texas State Record camp, did tandems, and plenty of other stuff. We had about 1000 jumps done today between the camp's sector training (each sector trains their approach to the first point and transition to the second point). The sector training consisted of 4 sets of 2-3 plane formation loads throughout the day. Did we mention the goal is a 2-point 160-way? Tomorrow, we'll do it all again--hope to see you here! We've got SEVEN Otters and a Casa here right now, and a helicopter coming this weekend. Where will you be? :-) Skydivers wait for the signal to let go of the plane during a TSR training jump TSR dirt dive More TSR info