Several years ago, the Denver Broncos were in search of an amazing attraction that was certain to amp up the energy during their pre-game. They were hoping for an adrenaline-packed performance that would leave fans ready and raring for the challenge that awaited their NFL team on the gridiron. They found precisely that and so much more in the form of a four-man skydiving team. Appropriately named the Thunderstorm because each pre-game they bring the thunder down on the crowd at Sports Authority Field via their death-defying and out of this world aerial acrobatics. Thunderstorm is the only pre-game skydiving team in the NFL.
The Thunderstorm team, including members Kenyon Salo and Allison Reay, the only female skydiver on the team, train at Mile-Hi skydiving which is essentially less than a mile from Bronco’s Sports Authority Field. From the perspective of the average individual or person seated in the stadium, Sports Authority Field appears a wide open space. However, Thunderstorm skydivers know things from the ground look different from 5,000 feet in the air and cables and goal posts must be avoided. This requires skill, talent, and practice. The team uses smaller parachutes than average skydivers and the acceleration of their landings are more rapid too. According to group member Salo, skydiving here is similar in fashion to stunts typically reserved for movies like Mission Impossible.
Salo continued on to say four people jumping alongside one another like the Thunderstorm do and communicating without words is difficult and dangerous,”It’s really like parallel parking a Ferrari at about 60 miles per hour,” he stated.
In addition to performing with their skydiving team at Sports Authority Field, all the members of Thunderstorm also have daytime occupations, with some working in the skydiving industry either training, designing canopies or testing parachutes. Some Thunderstorm members even perform competitively.
Beyond the love of action-packed acrobatics and high flying demonstrations, each person in Thunderstorm even further has the love for the sport of skydiving in common with their teammates. Some had been in or around the skydiving community since they were young.
Skydiving is complete freedom says Thunderstorm co-founder Jimmy Tranter. Mr. Tranter says his interest in becoming a professional skydiver never wavered even after the tragic death of his mother in a skydiving accident. He has said that “Even in the darkest moments, it was never a question to me.” It was only ever a query as to how soon he could start working toward his ambition.
Thunderstorm team member Reay is the only woman to have ever jumped into the stadium and considers this opportunity a once in a lifetime, she says “I love swooping parachutes. I love flying parachutes. And so this demo is, like, the king of all demos.”
While performing during the pregame shows, Thunderstorm skydives at elevations roughly 5,000 or so feet above ground and swoops into the stadium to the cheering of over 70,000 fans, all the while avoiding wires and obstacles.
If you think you may have interest in what the Thunderstorm Skydiving team are capable of you can check out their facebook page here or view several Thunderstorm performances on youtube.