Above: The record-setting jumpers gather for a group photo. Photo by Jason Castalanso.
It began as a world record attempt but the weather gods intervened, as they often do. Still, even ferocious and deadly Hurricane Ian did not stop 25 members of Jumpers Over Seventy, a subgroup of the Parachutists Over Phorty Society, from setting a JOS Florida State Record for Largest Formation Skydive at Skydive DeLand on October 2.
Organizers Roger Ponce de Leon and Larry Thomas had invited skydivers from across America, Canada and Italy to fly a 32-way formation, which would have been a world record. But the hurricane caused flight cancellations, and some skydivers had to scratch from the event. Mechanical issues with the Skyvan also threw a wrench in the works, requiring Ponce de Leon to redesign the formation for a Twin Otter and Caravan. The single-point 25-way formation had pods and wackers off of a four-person base, and the jumpers easily completed the formation three times on the first day. Encouraged, Ponce de Leon added a second point, hoping to set a sequential world record, but it never completed.
Sadly, JOS member Richard Luczak died on the second day of the event doing what he loved the most: flying in the sky with his friends. Luczak began skydiving when he was 16 in Poland and had accumulated more than 4,700 jumps. He was an experienced, well-respected skydiver who had been on numerous POPS events, traveling all over the world to participate.
Although the event was marred by tragedy, the members of JOS enjoyed renewing old friendships and sharing memories. The incredibly resilient group of JOS women and men, who have a combined 155,500 skydives, are not done yet. They will be attempting another JOS World Record in 2023!
Somerset, New Jersey