Utah men part of history-making dive

(Courtesy photo)
Story by Jeff DeMoss
Standard-Examiner staff
September 26, 2012
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OGDEN — Ten years ago, Devin Roane became addicted.

Roane was hanging out in Park City with a friend who happened to be an expert skydiver, and decided to try it out for himself.

This summer, he became part of a group that has made skydiving history. Roane, of Ogden, and Dusty Hanks, of North Salt Lake, were among 138 men and women from around the world who recently broke the world record for the highest number of people linked together during a dive.

Last month, divers from 12 countries met in Ottawa, Ill., just outside of Chicago, to attempt the feat. After three years of preparation and three days of attempts, they finally succeeded in pulling off the largest linked configuration in vertical skydiving history.

Roane said that while most dives start at about 13,000 feet above ground level, the record-setting dive took off from 18,500 feet in the air. He said the group remained linked together for a solid four or five seconds before breaking apart to make room for each participant’s parachute to deploy safely.

It was the group’s 15th attempt over three days, and it went off without a hitch, shattering the previous record of 108 divers set in 2009.

“It was awesome to be a part of it,” Roane said. “We had some of the best from all over the world, and it means the world to me as a professional skydiver.”

Tryouts to participate in the world record attempts were held at various locations and drop zones around the United States during the past year. Once in Chicago, skilled athletes warmed up, practice jumped and simulated the formation on land. During freefall, they fell at an average rate of 180 to 200 miles per hour.

The divers participated in a last-in, first-out basis to deploy their parachutes according to their formation position. Following the attempts, organizers and judges from Guinness reviewed the video and photographs to confirm the new world record.

Between the two, Roane and Hanks have nearly 7,000 dives under their belts, but much of their training has happened indoors. Both are instructors at the iFLY indoor wind tunnel in downtown Ogden, and both have logged more than 1,000 hours inside the chamber.

Roane said the advent of simulated indoor skydiving has changed the game for aspiring professional divers everywhere.

“It very accurately simulates the freefall part of the dive. It’s spot on,” he said. “In the tunnel, you can do a 20-minute training session all at once. Jumping out of a plane, a typical dive gives you about 45 seconds of freefall, so it would take days to get up to 20 minutes.”

Another advantage of using the wind tunnel is that divers can have a coach standing by to tell them what they’re doing right and what they need to work on.

“That’s hard to do in the sky,” he said. “The skill level has gone way up since wind tunnels came out.”

Roane said he hopes to be part of the next attempt to set a new record. Because of the preparation and logistics involved, an attempt is made only once every three years.

“It’s a pretty big production,” he said. “It would probably be too much work to try it every year.”

Meanwhile, he and Hanks plan to continue teaching at iFLY. They are also members of the five-member Rockwell Airtime Skydiving Team, which participates in national competitions and does demonstration jumps into football stadiums and other entertainment venues.

Roane admitted he was nervous on that first dive 10 years ago when the plane door opened for the first time, but once he took the leap, he was hooked for good.

“That feeling of freefall was like nothing I had ever felt before,” he said. “There’s not a lot that can compare to that adrenaline rush when they open the door, and the view is amazing.”

Jeff DeMoss

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