By Lacy Hilliard
Johnson County native and 2009 Johnson County High School graduate, Travis Grindstaff, was awarded a gold medal in four-way formation skydiving at the 2012 United States Parachute Associations National Collegiate Parachuting Championships.
Grindstaff is a senior at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He traveled to Eloy, Arizona to take part in the skydiving competition. As a pre-med student, it might be surprising that Grindstaff finds the time for such high-flying pursuits. However, Grindstaff is a devoted member of his team, Air Force Legacy, and has completed more than 600 jumps.
The International Air Sports Administration describes formation skydiving as the art of building formations or patterns in freefall. Formation skydivers are given a certain number of seconds to successfully complete each formation. During the dive, a videographer records the action and after the dive is complete, the footage is handed over for judging. Formation skydiving requires a tremendous amount of strength, teamwork, and precision to complete a successful dive. Competitors train both in the air and on the ground to learn proper timing and body positioning for the various formations.
Grindstaff and his teammates beat over 100 competitors to claim their gold medal and title as National champions. The competition, which is the largest in the world, took place at Skydive Arizona, and offered four different categories for the hundreds of aerial competitors. Besides formation skydiving, the competition also included vertical formation skydiving, sport accuracy, and classic accuracy.
The United States Parachute Association is a non-profit organization that works to promote safe skydiving practices and technology. The organization has over 34,000 members and a 22-member board of directors. It is the hope of the organization that by utilizing advanced research and taking into consideration the voice of their members, the USPA can promote newer technologies that can lessen the risk of injury in the sport.
Though jumping out of a plane as it soars nearly two miles above the ground may seem an ill-conceived plan, the rate of skydiving injuries is actually rather low. The experts warn that aswith any extreme sport, the participant is taking a risk. However, many more injuries are sustained each year via contact sports like football than with skydiving for pleasure or for sport. The USPA credits the lack of serious skydiving injuries to ever advancing parachute technology as well as regulations that require new skydivers to make several tandem jumps before ever going solo.
In a tandem jump, an inexperienced skydiver is strapped to an instructor. Tandem jumps also employ the use of a drogue parachute, which is deployed shortly after the jump to decrease the jumpers velocity and thereby decrease the risk of landing incorrectly. During freefall, a skydiver falls at an approximate rate of 130 miles per hour. The use of a drogue parachute significantly decreases this rate.
If youre looking for a sport that will send your adrenaline rushing, skydiving might just be the sport for you. Travis Grindstaff is passionate about his pursuit of skydiving and the residents of his hometown of Johnson County are excited to see him soar to new heights.