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Heavy Drop—Making the World's Largest Flag Jump

Photos and Text by Mark Norman

Features | February 2019
Friday, February 1, 2019

Breaking world records in skydiving is not easy, as anyone who has taken part in one will attest. And nearly doubling one is harder yet. Needless to say, it was no simple task when Abdulla Al Mansoori and Samir Al Ammar, management at Skydive Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, decided that the DZ would take on the challenge of hosting a jump with a 4,885.65-square-meter (52,588.70 square-foot) flag to break the Guinness World Record for Largest Flag Flown While Parachuting (set by Ralf Grabowsky of the CYPRES Demo Team in July 2017 with a 2,698-square-meter flag). Fortunately, Pablo Hernandez, who headed up the project for the DZ, and David Ludvik Jr., who flew the flag, were up to the challenge.

On the morning of November 27, an eight-person flag team gathered at Skydive Dubai’s desert campus to help load a helicopter with the 185-kilogram (407-pound) flag container for the first attempt. Rigger Evgeny Gruzdev performed last-minute checks and Ludvik boarded the aircraft. Unfortunately, the jump did not go well. The drogue of the tandem system Ludvik was using looped over the nose of the canopy, and the bundled flag disconnected from Ludvik during opening shock.

The team decided to use more specialized heavy-drop equipment for the next jump. Following many hours of rigging and with the help of United Parachute Technologies and Performance Designs, Ludvik went up for his second attempt using a military-grade tandem rig with a 460-square-foot canopy, as well as a reinforced flag container. On this attempt, the flag unfurled from the container but the attachment point under Ludvik’s feet broke, causing the entire flag to slide down its rope.

Hernandez slated the final attempt for the following day. The flag’s attachment point had been reconfigured, and the team was hopeful for success. Ludvik exited at 9,500 feet and had an uneventful exit and deployment. Everyone in the circling helicopter hoped to see the enormous flag unfurl but instead saw Ludvik rocking the bag back and forth and tugging on the release handle. After struggling for what seemed like forever, he cut the bundle away and landed—exhausted—in the desert. The release system for the flag had jammed under the weight of its contents. Needless to say, the team’s morale was low.

So much time and effort had gone into making the record a reality, that Hernandez decided to give it one last shot. He called the team and told them that they weren’t going to give up without a fight. They gathered again on November 29 for what would truly be the final attempt. Everyone felt the pressure to make it work.

After a quiet ride to altitude, Ludvik jumped into the void … and then the flag unfurled! The mood in the circling helicopter was jubilant. There it was in all its glory: 4,885.65 square meters of the UAE flag glistening in the afternoon sun! 

Mark Norman | D-23126
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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