Locals help set skydiving world record
December 26, 2007
They are two of the world’s most accomplished skydivers. And they’re right here in our backyard. And now they’re really accomplished in the world of skydiving. And that’s saying something.
Pleasant Valley’s Gary Peters and Carson City’s Barbara Cuddy took part in a world-record skydiving formation. One-hundred of the world’s best skydivers came together for a 100-person parachute formation, setting a world record. The world record was set last month in Lake Wales, Fla.
One-hundred of the world’s top parachutists went through a selection process to be chosen for the record. Peters was chosen for the chance to help set the record at a camp in Lodi, Calif., while Cuddy was chosen after participating in a camp in Southern California.
Parchutistists from 13 countries participated in setting the record. To show the experience needed, the average age of the parachutists was about 50. Peters is 62 while Cuddy has been jumping for 28 years ever since she was 18.
The 100 parachutists were chosen out of 1,000s from all over the world. Cuddy is really in select company as she was only one of 10 women who participated in the event.
The effort to form a 100-person diamond-shaped formation from start to finish took 17 minutes and the 100 parachutists were able to maintain the formation for about 20 seconds, coming all the way below 5,000 feet before dismantling the formation. The parachutists began jumping out of aircraft at 20,000 feet with the last parachutists leaving their aircraft at 13,000 feet. Peters jumped out at 18,000 feet while Cuddy jumped out at 16,000 feet.
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The formation was picked up over such a wide area as it was seen on radar at the Orlando and Miami International Airports. Some other startling stats:
The formation was 290 feet tall and 175 feet wide and weighed 20,388 pounds. By comparison, a Boeing 747-400 is 231 feet long and six Ford Mustangs weigh 19,500 pounds.
The idea to set the record began seven years ago. At first, 53 paracutists were used and the formation was gradually built up until the record setting event.
There has been talk of going for another record with a 121-person formation, but for now those who participated in the record are quite satisfied with what they’ve accomplished. “There was a lot of excitement after the completion of this,” Peters said.
Peters noted the effort was extremely expensive and took numerous sponsors to complete.
Cuddy said while there was some talk about going for another record, for the most part, all the jumpers were “soaking in the accomplishment.”
Peters said his becoming a parachutist began when he wanted to earn his pilot’s license. Just in case, Peters said he thought “I better learn how to jump out of an airplane.”
Once he took his first skydive, flying didn’t have a chance. “That was it for me for flying,” he said. “It was all skydiving after that.”
“It was just something I always wanted to do,” said Cuddy on why she took up skydiving.
Peters said those who take up skydiving take up the sport for the same reason why anyone else takes up other high-octane activities.
“It’s just like anything else,” he said. “There’s just an incredible rush of adrenaline and an incredible amount of satisfaction.”
“It’s an accomplishment. It’s a challenge. It’s exciting,” said Cuddy on why parachutistist do what they do.
And all parachutists – especially those involved in setting the record – know the danger, Peters said.
“Everyone is well aware of it, but nobody is focused on it,” Peters said. “They’re focused on doing the job.”
Right to the end. “Breaking the thing down is every bit as terrifying as putting it together,” said Peters about the record-breaking effort.
Cuddy may have described the event best when she said, “In some ways it’s so fast and in some ways it’s so long.”
It’s easy to see why Peters and Cuddy were chosen for the event when looking at their resumes. Peters has been a member of the United States Skydiving team six times and has won four silver medals and one bronze at the World Championships. He has also been a part of two other world records in competition and has made more than 5,500 jumps.
Cuddy has made more than 3,200 jumps and has earned four silver medals, two bronze and one gold at the U.S. Skydiving Championships.
Other than having enough sponsors to cover expenses, there isn’t a whole lot of money to be made in the sport, Peters said.
“You do it for the bragging rights,” he said. “You don’t make a lot of money in the sport.”
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