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Sunday, June 16, 2024
Rising to the Challenge

Rising to the Challenge

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Above: Jumpers stream toward the base during one of the 60-way attempts. Photo by Mark Kirschenbaum/Hypoxic.

On Memorial Day weekend, the world champion 4-Way formation skydiving team Arizona Airspeed hosted the 27th Arizona Challenge at Skydive Arizona in Eloy. The annual invitational welcomes top skydivers from across the globe to complete intricate big-way skydives.

For the first two days of the event, the 60 participants got an exciting and unique warm-up experience, completing three-plane-formation loads of 20-ways. The format allowed flyers to experiment with a variety of slots and make the most of their time in freefall. The media team—Taylor Buffington, Yuliya Katuyeva and Mark Kirschenbaum—captured all of the action.

Airspeed members each brought their own creative spins to their jumps, with designs ranging from large open-facing diamonds to spinning Norwegian donuts. Many participants logged numerous successful three- to five-point 20-ways during the two days.

On Sunday morning, Airspeed introduced the first 60-way formation, a three-point sequential inspired by the 16-way block Twin Zips. The design required all participants to work together both in flying their pieces and in remaining aware of the skydivers around them. By the second jump, the participants completed all three points and were ready to move forward.

A 60-way group completes a complicated three-point sequential on only the second attempt. Point one. Photos by Mark Kirschenbaum/Hypoxic.

Point two.

Point three.

The next formation, Meeker Mania, was a 64-way composed entirely of Meeker formations. The Airspeed coaches worked together to develop and coach the technique needed for this complex formation. It took only two attempts for the Challenge participants to succeed, as they were able to incorporate the feedback from the first attempt very effectively. The day wrapped up with a fun proximity jump that involved all participants flying side-by-side in separate 4- and 8-way satellite formations.

Meeker Mania! Photo by Taylor Buffington.

For the final day of the event, Airspeed members introduced a formation inspired by the Ottley Sword, a perpetual trophy that the current world champion team gets to display at home for two years until the next world championship. Although a full completion remained just out of reach, the jewel base and long diamond blade flew beautifully and paid homage to Airspeed’s gold-medal performance at the 2022 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Championships.

The Ottley Sword formation, built to resemble the perpetual formation skydiving trophies of the same name, flies over Skydive Arizona. Photo by Mark Kirschenbaum/Hypoxic.

The event wrapped up with another competition-inspired formation, which involved eight unique 8-way formations chained together. After the key, the 8-way formations dropped their connecting grips to fly as eight distinct subgroups.

At the start of the event, Airspeed member Joey Marshall encouraged participants to “meet the challenge” both physically and mentally. Throughout the event, participants showed up with a balance of discipline, talent and positivity that made this Arizona Challenge one of the best yet.

Kelsey Strock | D-40422
Casa Grande, Arizona

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