Jessie Farrington, D-6853, served on the USPA Board as a regional director for many years and has a long history in the sport. She is part of a large family of skydivers. Her father, Lenny Aikins, got her started in 1964. She has owned Kapowsin Air Sports in Shelton, Washington, with her husband, Geoff, for decades. Her children, Andy Farrington and Keri Bell, are extremely talented skydivers who made many jumps while still in the womb. And her brother, nieces and nephews are all skydivers, and a fourth generation is on the way.
Marital Status: Married to Geoff
Children: Two, Andy Farrington and Keri Bell
Occupation: Drop zone owner
Education: Three years of college
Life Philosophy: Make peace with dying, then you can live life without being afraid.
Container: Velocity Sports Equipment Infinity
Main Canopy: Aerodyne Research Pilot
Reserve Canopy: My kids buy, sell and trade my gear, so I get surprised every once in a while with something I wasn’t expecting when I open.
AAD: Advanced Aerospace Designs Vigil
Disciplines: RW (relative work), now called FS (formation skydiving); accuracy, para-ski
Home Drop Zone: Kapowsin Air Sports in Shelton, Washington
First Jump: Static-line jump in 1964
Licenses and Ratings: B-7727, C-6325, D-6853, Safety and Training Advisor, AFF and Static-Line/IAD Instructor, PRO
Championships and Medals: Para-ski national champion in 1976 while pregnant with Keri and in 1978 while pregnant with Andy. Numerous para-ski medals over the years (world gold medal twice).
Total Number of Jumps:9,000-plus FS: 7,500
Accuracy: 1,000-plus Demos: 300 CF: 200
Camera: 200 Tandem Instruction: 100 Freefly: 25
Largest Completed Formation: A 282-way in Thailand in 1999. It was B.J. Worth’s Royal Sky Celebration. Our whole immediate family was on the jump, which made it extra special.
The event, in its entirety, was amazing. Jumpers who have not been a part of something like this are really missing out.
Total Number of Cutaways: Eighteen. Back in the days of new squares, rings and ropes, Delta wings, etc., 18 wasn’t a big number. I haven’t had one in the last 10 years, so things have definitely gotten better. My most exciting was while being filmed for a news show at a para-ski meet in Utah. They wanted me to do a “hit and ski,” so I was in ski boots, my reserve was a KX22 round, and we were landing at a 9,000-foot elevation on ice. There was a pretty good pucker factor, but all went well, and they got their shot.
Of all your skydives, does one stand out most?
Landing on top of the Jungfrau (11,000 feet mean sea level) after the Para-Ski World Meet in Switzerland. Flying over the crevasses and having the Eiger in the background was something I’ll never forget.
What do you like most about the sport? Meeting people and making lifelong friends from all over the world.
What do you like least about the sport? That with all the advances in safety, people are still killing themselves.
Who has been your skydiving mentor? My father, Lenny Aikins, who jumped until he was 85.
What are your future skydiving goals? To keep my FS and accuracy skills sharp. I’d like to do a couple more big-ways and maybe an Arizona Challenge.
What safety item do you think is most important or most often neglected? Education answers both. Too many people think they can just figure it out.
How did you become interested in skydiving? My father started skydiving when I was 10, and I hung out at the DZ a lot. But I had always had dreams I could fly, just take off and fly around the room.
Do you have any suggestions for students? You are not invincible; get as much training and mentoring as possible.
What has been your most embarrassing moment while at a drop zone? Putting out an IAD student from the Otter on our way up to do a 15-way. The student did three counts without exiting, which was making me nervous. Then he just left. I threw the pilot chute so hard I actually fell out of the plane. In freefall I was laughing so hard and thinking, “Now what do I do?” Simple answer: Pull!
The toughest thing to do in the sport is: Burying skydiver friends who didn’t make it to old age.
What kind of skydiving student were you? I was 15 and pretty scared. Once I got over the fear at about 20 jumps, I was a fast learner.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement? Building a family DZ from scratch that is now known worldwide. We are certainly not an Eloy [Skydive Arizona] or Perris Valley [Skydive Perris in California], but when people come here they enjoy the family atmosphere and the versatility of the DZ and our staff.
What has been your strangest thought? During “Iron Man 3,” thinking it looked normal to see everyone in freefall without a parachute.
Do you have any suggestions for USPA? Work on outdated Federal Aviation Regulations like cloud clearances and pilots being responsible if a jumper’s rig is out of date, etc.
What has been your best skydiving moment? A family 12-way with three generations, including my dad, husband, brother, kids and nephews.
What has been your greatest competition moment?
Being on the U.S. Para Ski Team at the world championships with my daughter, Keri Bell.
What has been your worst skydiving moment?
Being responsible for a bad spot at a world meet. We had gone up and down three times in scary weather conditions. I really wanted out of the helicopter, and I let my team down!
What is your perfect day like? Get up in a tropical hotel on the beach, go climb a waterfall or snorkel or hike for two hours or so, walk up to the airport (through the bar where we pick up a snack for the walk), make a great 6-way skydive, land on the beach. Pack. Repeat four more times, have a cold beer by the pool before dinner. Go to bed knowing I have six more days just like that. Skydiving beach boogies are the best! That one was the Costa Rica Boogie at Playa Tambor in 1996.
As a DZO, what is your biggest concern for the continuation of the sport? I am not concerned; skydiving will survive. Overregulation is the biggest obstacle DZs face, both from the FAA and USPA.
Your nephew, Luke Aikins, recently jumped without a parachute into a large net. What were your feelings about that? I never really thought it would happen. There were so many obstacles to overcome. Our family was supportive in his training and helped whenever and however we could. Once we were pretty sure the jump would take place, I admit, I was afraid for him. We watched the jump at the DZ, and I couldn’t even look at anyone once they were in the airplane. In short, I was sick for two days before and one day after.
Both of your children have tremendous talent. Do you have any secrets for raising amazing skydivers?
No secrets … they were just brainwashed into believing everyone learns to walk, ski and skydive. On Andy’s first day of kindergarten, he asked the kid sitting beside him, “How many jumps does your mom have?”
Explain Jessie Farrington in five words or fewer:
Demanding of self and others. (Not necessarily a good thing.)