Two Nelson men aiming high were part of a world-record skydiveALASTAIR PAULIN
Motueka men Stuart Bean and Anthony Oakly were part of the 120 over-40 skydivers who set the world record for most people in a formation in the United States.
It was the fifth year in a row that the two men had joined the mid-life skydivers, who are known as POPS (Parachutists Over Phorty), trying to break the record for most people linking in a formation. The previous record was 113, set in 2007.
The skydivers have to be selected for the record attempt, and are then invited each year to be part of the attempt.
Mr Bean said the attempts were to happen over four days but the event in Deland, Florida, last month was plagued with bad weather and so the group was very pleased to have achieved the record.
The group planned five jumps a day but the weather restricted them to just one attempt a day. On the fourth day the weather held out for a little longer, just enough that on the second jump that day they succeeded.
He said the fact that it had taken five years to set the new record was an indication of how difficult it was.
"To get 120 people in the sky together at the same time takes a huge amount of infrastructure and performance from everyone involved.
It took six twin-engine planes, pilots flying in correct formation to have everyone exit from 18,000 in the correct order and then the efforts of the individuals to link up.
"It was a wonderful sensation to see the photo on the big screen and have the result read out that we had finally done it.
After five years of the group coming together and attempting the record our dedication paid off. It was a hard pill to swallow not to have Rod Miller [who died in the Greymouth skydive plane crash in 2010], here with us to share in the glory of this achievement.
Rod had started this mission with us five years ago, Anthony and I raised our glasses in memory of him on announcement that we had the title."
He said that he and Mr Oakly were both planning to return to the USA next year to attempt to defend their record by adding more people.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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