Patrick Passe is a formation skydiving and camera-flying legend who has spent almost five decades in the sky. He’s traveled the world as a load organizer, world-record holder and filmmaker and producer, completing more than 30 skydiving films. He’s captured many of the most accomplished and influential skydivers in history through his camera lens and been part of some of the biggest skydives, including the 400-way FS world record in 2006. To this day, Patrick remains active in the sport and is planning Patrick Passe’s 100-way Games this coming October.
“Patrick Passe is an amazing skydiver, both in front of and behind the cameras, and a great 16mm movie cameraman!” Tom Sanders, Parachutist profilee #200
Birthplace: Lens, in northern France
Marital Status: Married
Children: Two daughters, 17 and 19 years old
Hobbies: Skiing, biking and hiking. I live in the mountains where all of those playgrounds are a couple of miles from my place.
Favorite Food: Street food in Thailand, or Thai food that I cook to remember the Land of Smiles.
Life Philosophy: Life changes often, so our life philosophy should change, as well. It’s essential to be able to adapt to changes to be happy and free.
Hard opening or line twists? Not very often.
Jump Philosophy: Have a goal—something to learn or to reach.
Team Name: It was Jonathan for my 4-way team from 1979 to 1982. Then I was on the French national 8-way FS team until 1985.
Sponsors: Aerodyne and Vigil
Container: Aerodyne Icon
Main Canopy: Aerodyne Research Zulu
Reserve Canopy: Aerodyne Research Smart
AAD: Advanced Aerospace Designs Vigil
Year of First Jump: 1976
Championships/Medals/Records: Several-time 4-way and 8-way FS French champion; silver medal at the 1985 8-way FS world championships in Yugoslavia; 17 large-formation world records
Club Memberships: Skydiving Center of Gap-Tallard, the sunniest DZ in France
Number of Jumps: I stopped counting a long time ago. I have more than 20,000 jumps.
- Camera: I was a skydiving filmmaker for 12 years, making 32 skydiving films, so quite a lot.
- FS: 15,000-plus
- Freefly: 2,000-3,000
- Wingsuit: 200-300
- Demos: Many in the ‘70s and ‘80s to bring money to my skydiving club
- BASE: Two
Number of Cutaways: I haven’t counted, but not a lot. Five, six or seven.
Most people don’t know this about me:
In 1986, I declined an offer to be part of the French 4-way TAG team, sponsored by a famous watch brand, which made a thousand training jumps per year. Instead, I decided to start my career as a skydiving filmmaker and travel the world. My first trip was to Tahiti. That TAG team ended up world champions in 1987 and 1989, which was a dream come true for the Frenchies, but I never regretted my choice. I traveled a lot those years, with my 16mm cameras in my luggage, and was involved in some fantastic skydiving adventures.
Who have been your skydiving mentors?
Tom Piras, as a big-way load organizer. I was watching him and jumping with him at Skydive DeLand during the ‘80s. Carl Boenish, as a skydiving filmmaker during the ‘70s. I have been inspired by all the 16mm films he produced—his work was a revelation at a time when skydiving images were very rare. A bit later, the work of Norman Kent inspired me, too—in particular, his movie “Air Bears,” about the US 4-way FS team. In 1985, I was competing in 8-way at the same world championships where Air Bears won the gold in 4-way. It was in a very beautiful place, by the sea in Yugoslavia, and a great background for Norman. I was watching him working and filming, and a few months later, when the film was released, I was amazed by the super-slow-motion sequences and the camera movement. They were not simple shots; It was artistic and professional shooting. Two years later, I bought two 16mm gun cameras running from 24 frames per second (normal speed) to 200 fps and I started my own traveling and filming.
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
It would be with my friend Patrick de Gayardon, who died in a wingsuit accident in 1998 in Hawaii. I’ve shared a lot of jumps with Patrick. It started when we were together on the French 8-way FS team. Then, I filmed him a lot when he was an ace in skysurfing and right after he created the wingsuit. It would be over the lagoons of Moorea, an island next to Tahiti. I filmed Patrick a lot in the Polynesian sky.
Best skydiving moment?
The official announcement of the 400-way world record about an hour after the jump. On the military base of Udon Thani in Thailand, more than 400 people went crazy in one second, and the craziness lasted for a very long time. In any sport, never had a team of this size celebrated such an achievement … and maybe it will never happen again.
Worst skydiving moment?
In 1982, in France, I was in a plane crash. After we boarded a Pilatus Porter with my 4-way FS team for a training jump, the plane stalled right after takeoff at about 200 feet. During the two or three seconds during the stall, we thought it was the end. The plane dropped like a stone, caught fire and was destroyed, but we were all alive. One of my teammates, however, died of his burns two weeks later. It took time for others to recover from their injuries; My pelvis was broken and I wasn’t far from being disfigured from my burns. In the hospital, I swore I would never get into a plane again. Six months later, I couldn’t wait to be completely healed and to jump again. I was very scared during the first takeoff, and it was like that for many years. Even now, I don’t feel at ease until the plane is above 1,000 feet.
What are your future skydiving goals?
One of my goals is to write an autobiography. I have many great stories to write about. For example, a French stuntman I was filming who jumped with no parachute. He landed with one his partner gave him in freefall for a demo jump into the opening ceremony of a football match in Africa.
What do you wish skydivers would do to help make big-way jumps more successful?
Nothing more than what they always do during my events, which is give their best to the team. Skydiving is expensive, and I always make sure that each participant knows that they are responsible for the pleasure of everybody else in the group. That’s rule number one. It’s been a long time since I’ve jumped with people who are not aware of rule number one.
Is there one jump you would make again?
Not one, but many, in some wonderful locations that I now know. But also, my first jump—in the same location, from the same aircraft, with the same equipment, the same feelings and in the same atmosphere.