This post originally appeared on airlinereporter.com where I'm a correspondent.
The title of this story sounds like the lead in for a great joke, right? It’s not. Wait… what? This is an aviation site, why are we jumping out of perfectly good planes? Martial arts and power rangers? Yes, it’s a stretch, but hear me out. There’s aviation stuff below, I promise.
Not long ago I was approached by Ernie Torres, a Tang Soo Do Black Belt and AFF (advanced free fall) skydiving instructor who also happens to be a First Class Petty Officer in the US Navy. He came to me to share his ambition to shatter (pun intended) a skydiving world record which was set in January by Jason David Frank. You may remember Jason as the Green Power Ranger. According to Ernie:
“A new world record was set that combined the skills of skydiving and martial arts. This record involved breaking boards, which is normally performed during a martial arts demonstration… while skydiving. After seeing the attention it received, one thought came to mind; I can do better and use the publicity to raise awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project.“
Convinced he could further advance the world record given his unique skill set and background, Ernie approached the good folks over at SkyDive Arizona who agreed to donate the air time, the crew and all the skydiving talent that he would need to support him in his endeavor.
I reached out to Jocelyn Bernatchez, Marketing and Events Coordinator at SkyDive Arizona for details. The world record attempt will occur on Thursday, May 23 from their base in Eloy, AZ, which is roughly halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. Ernie will be joined by a crew consisting of some the most experienced skydivers in the US, likely including divers from Arizona Arsenal and Arizona Airspeed, the two premier Arizona skydiving clubs. According to Jocelyn:
“The aircraft will hold up to 23 licensed skydivers including Ernie. The climb to 13,000 feet typically takes 15-18 minutes. The skydivers will exit the plane with the pine boards and line up in free-fall. Ernie will come past each skydiver and attempt to break the pine board. He will continue until all the boards are broken or we reach break off altitude, when we separate to deploy our parachutes, usually around 4,000 feet.”
The current record stands at just 7 boards, and the record before that was 5. So to make his mark on the record books all Ernie has to do is smash through 8 or more boards — in roughly a minute — while falling through the sky at terminal velocity, surrounded by his peers. What a rush!
I was hoping to give a bit more background on Ernie’s outstanding military service and his transition to soon becoming a veteran. Through my Navy contacts I was able confirm my assumptions. He’s indeed a decorated sailor with an exemplary service record. However, Ernie very carefully deflected all of my attempts to get this information directly from him. He always put the focus back on his cause: The Wounded Warriors, “Those that have sacrificed much more than I have. Those are the people that I am striving to support with this endeavor.”
The Wounded Warriors Project (WWP) is a tax-exempt 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors. They receive a 4 star accountability & transparency rating from the third-party charity auditing firm Charity Navigator. The WWP provides services and programs to meet the needs of injured service members. A worthy cause, right? Let’s dig deep and support Ernie in his endeavor. All funds go directly to the WWP. No third parties, no gimmicks. Just helping our wounded servicemen and women.
So there you have it. A selfless serviceman seeks to claim a world record in honor and support of his fellow warriors. We wish Ernie the best of luck and anxiously await the record transitioning to a true hero and away from an actor who once played one on TV.
Oh right, I promised aviation stuff so for those of you who stuck around, here it is. I asked Jocelyn about SkyDive Arizona’s fleet. She stated, “We have a fleet consisting of four Shorts Skyvans, five Twin Otters, a DC3 and a Pilatus Porter.”
While it’s not yet decided which perfectly good plane Ernie and team will be jumping out of, I know I have my fingers crossed for the old reliable N86584, a 1942 DC-3. How about you?
This story written by…JL Johnson, Correspondent.
JL is a twenty-something Sr. Business Analyst, semi-frequent traveler and lover of all things aviation. He’s based in Lee’s Summit, MO and attributes his love of aviation to his grandfather, a USAF Colonel who had him in “avgeek training” before he could walk.