Stu Metcalfe, D-2563, is 71 years young and still killin’ it. This Cornhusker started skydiving in March 1969 in Lincoln, Nebraska, and soon became interested in precision accuracy. After 50 years in the sport, he is still competing, most recently representing the U.S. at the 2019 Féderátion Aéronautique Internationale World Cup of Accuracy Landing in Argentina. Metcalfe proves this is a sport for life!
Birthplace: Beatrice, Nebraska
Marital Status: Married to Sallie for 15 years
Children: Daughter (Jenni), stepson (Reg) and two stepdaughters (Maggie and Rosie)
Occupation: Retired U.S. Air Force (20 years), retired Delta Air Lines (14 years), firearms instructor
Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Jump Philosophy: Enjoy each and every one but avoid becoming complacent; today could be the day!
Team Name: Pacemakers (21 years), Old Bones
Sponsors: Eiff Aerodynamics, Rigging Innovations, Vigil America
Container: Rigging Innovations CPX
Main Canopy: Eiff Aerodynamics Classic 304
Reserve Canopy: Parachutes de France Techno 150
AAD: Advanced Aerospace Designs Vigil Cuatro
Disciplines: Style and accuracy
Home DZ: I still consider Lincoln Sport Parachute Club in Weeping Water, Nebraska, (where I started this journey) my home drop zone.
First Jump: March 29, 1969. $65 for five static-line jumps and first freefall.
USPA Licenses and Ratings: B-7417, C-5798, D-2563 and National Style and Accuracy Judge
Championships: 1974: CISM (Council of International Sports de Militare) Individual Accuracy Champion (accomplished on French Papillion round parachute). 1997: Team Accuracy National Champion (Cheryl and the Pacemakers) the first year that team accuracy became an official USPA event
Total Number of Jumps: 9,515 Accuracy: 8,000 FS: 600 Demo: 50 Camera: Two
Largest Formation: 40-way
Are you a neat packer or a trash packer?
I pack neatly. I take excellent care of my gear and firmly believe [the saying], “Take good care of your gear and it will take good care of you!”
Does one jump stand out most?
It has to be my first. I couldn’t get over how quiet it was. I have vivid memories of that jump even 50 years later.
What do you like most about the sport?
By and large, it is the people and this passion that we share.
What do you like least about our sport?
Watching our sport evolve from close-knit family-style parachute clubs into big business enterprises.
Who has been your skydiving mentor?
I consider Shorty Janousek (RIP), co-founder of the Lincoln Sport Parachute Club, to be my skydiving father.
What are your skydiving goals?
I would like to get to 10,000 jumps as a short-term goal and keep jumping until the pilot light (passion) goes out.
What safety item is most often neglected?
How did you become interested in skydiving?
I was born and raised in a very small town (500 people) in Nebraska. The only exciting things to do were fish, hunt and three high school sports. I went to the University of Nebraska, and the world opened up for me. I got certified in SCUBA and thought it would be exciting to make a parachute jump. The Lincoln Sport Parachute Club offered a free introductory course. I attended, watched “This is a Sport” and signed up for training!
Do you have any suggestions for students?
Avoid complacency. There are few things more dangerous than a jumper with 500 jumps who has “seen it all.”
What is your favorite jump airplane?
One that is well maintained and piloted by a well-trained, conscientious, well-rested, mentally stable pilot.
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 Shorty Janousek (my skydiving father) at a grass strip in Agnew, Nebraska, where it all started for me.
What has been your most significant life achievement?
Being a parent to a wonderful daughter, Jenni McDonald.
Do you have any suggestions for USPA?
The expense of the USPA National Championships has been elevated to the ridiculous. Paying $50 for an accuracy jump is ludicrous. The accuracy community provides all the equipment for the Nationals, yet we are forced to pay through the nose for judges. I come from a time when judges did what they did as volunteers and would maybe get a sandwich for lunch. We have moved in a direction that judges have most of their expenses taken care of. As competitors, we spend a lot of money training for our disciplines, yet Nationals expenses can mean an extra $3,000 spent (housing, transportation, airfare, food, etc.). The expense of the National Championships effectively limits participation.
What was your best skydiving moment?
Being selected to represent our great nation at the World Parachuting Championships.
What’s your greatest competition moment?
Tenth-round dead center to win the individual accuracy gold medal in 1974 at the CISM competition in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.
What’s your worst skydiving moment?
Actually, it is a compilation of a lifetime of moments spent on DZs across our globe waiting for the weather to clear!
What drives your competitive spirit?
Quest for perfection … that is what drives me and all my precision accuracy friends.
Why do you continue to compete?
It is the lifelong friendships that I’ve developed, the shared passion and the things that one learns about oneself (if you pay attention).
How did you become interested in accuracy?
On my way from Nebraska to Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia, I stopped in Nashville to make a few jumps. I had 600-plus jumps at the time but really didn’t know anything about style or accuracy. Chuck McCrone took an interest in me and suggested that because I had quite a few jumps (for the time) in a short amount of time, that I consider the classic events.
Where would you like to see accuracy competitions go?
In a perfect world, I would like to see a resurgence in precision accuracy in the U.S. It is very popular all over Europe (local weekend competitions may have as many as 45 five-person teams). The reality of it is that it takes a lot of self-discipline to climb the ladder of success in this discipline, and very few are patient enough to make that climb. The things one can learn about canopy control and the things one learns about one’s self are priceless, yet it is viewed as a solitary endeavor that will rarely end up on the pages of Parachutist.
Explain Stu Metcalfe in five words or fewer:
Passionate, devoted, perfectionist.