Many people who have been involved say that there is nothing like the experience of achieving a formation record – that it is a transcendent feeling to which few things in life can compare. It is a lot of work though, a huge collection of logistical efforts and overall collected experience that can manifest as a strict formality and tense days on the dropzone required by the processes of actually getting it done.
The French are good at skydiving, with better national support than most countries, they regularly top various podiums at the highest level of competition and have a healthy skydiving scene across their many dropzones. With two years of planning behind this event it was looking good, with over two hundred individuals attending across three categories of record attempts – head down, belly sequential, and wingsuit formation.
Then it rained. It rained almost without pause for the five weekdays throughout which all the attempts would take place – a function of requiring the additional aircraft from other operations to provide the lift capacity of at least sixty. Two Cessna Caravans came from relatively nearby, but a single Skyvan was brought in all the way from Skydive Pink Klatovy to serve as the lead aircraft – a position always served best by a tailgate.
The increasing rate of extreme weather events seems linked to a changing climate, and for this many of us are already questioning what kind of value skydiving actually has in the world – but whatever personal position you might reach it is important to remember that not getting to skydive because of rain is a small problem. Turning up to a potentially significant event such as this for what became ultimately zero jumps is frustrating and disappointing, but not far away in Belgium and Germany, the same rain was causing floods that washed away entire villages.
The participants were as graceful as possible about how it turned out and committed to having the party anyway – fighting off the blues and facing the prospect of an immediately much brighter weekend. The additional planes had to leave though, committed to their commercial roles elsewhere as is the way of things. Those that could remain conjured up a small silver lining in the form of France’s first head-up record, the successful twelve limited by only having one plane.
It takes a lot of work to put on any kind of skydiving event, and even though this didn’t get started – it was no fault of the organisers or participants. Everything was as it should be to give the ambitious formation efforts the greatest chance of success, and the energy involved speaks of great things to come next time around.