A skydiving team known as Arizona X-Force will represent USA at the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Cup this year.
The competition will be held in Saarlouis, Germany from August 7-13, 2017. The team is located in Eloy, Arizona. According to their website, the team is “comprised of five highly experienced skydivers and tunnel flyers who bring enthusiasm and diversity to skydive Arizona. They are active in the skydiving community as full-time instructors, coaches, and load organizers.” The names of Arizona skydiving team members are Brianne Thompson, Niklas Daniel, Johnny Gunn, Seth Studer, and Keith Fournier.
The most experienced members on the team are Thompson and Daniel.
Both have over 10,000 jumps to their credit. Johnny and Keith have recorded over 5,000 jumps, while Seth has over 1,500 jumps to his credit. Daniel and Thompson are married. Fournier takes videos of the group while they perform aerial formations in their “4-way” unit. Over 40 skydivers from the United States are taking part in the competition this year. The team is officially named the U.S Parachute Team—competitors are considered the best in the country in aerial competition.
According to the FAI’s website, the “World Cups are a series of international competitions held during the competition flying season. The competitors range from highly experienced and successful fliers through those in the mid-field who are working their way up the rankings down to those who are just moving into international competition.” X-Force will take part in the section known as “formation skydiving.” During this type of skydive, the team will jump out of an airplane about two miles from the ground.
While freefalling, the group will perform acrobatic maneuvers.
The goal is to successfully complete pre-designed formations during this time. A person on the team takes videos of the four others that judges grade once the team is back on the ground. The 2017 Chief Judge is Zeljko Tanaskovic from Sweden. Other judges scoring jumpers at the event include Event Judge Doris Merz-Hunziker from Switzerland, Event Judge Wolfgand Duller from Austria. Judges Peta Holmes from Australia, Pekka Salmela from Finland, Claire King from South Africa, Randy Connell from the United States, and Aliya Ananina from Russia will also be watching the footage of the skydives.
X-Force has competed in various competitions.
In the United States Parachute Association National Skydiving Championships, the group received a bronze medal for their formation jump. On April 22 and 23, X-Force competed in the 2017 iFly Virginia Beach Competition. According to the U.S Parachute Team’s website, the United States has competed in competitions since the 1950s. The page states, “They are our representatives on the international skydiving stage, charged with showing the rest of the world the skill, precision, and professionalism of skydiving in the United States.
The website also says that in formation skydiving there are different categories, including 4-way, 8-way, 10-way, and 16-way, and there are three different classes. These classes are advanced, intermediate, and open. FAI commission started in 1936 when rules for aircrafts were created. Parachuting competitions date back to the 1930s in Russia. The first official FAI World Parachuting Championship took place in Yugoslavia in 1951—five teams from Europe competing. The United States did not enter their first competition until 1956 in Moscow, Russia.
Formation skydiving did not gain popularity until the 1960s; this interest grew throughout the 1970s.