Breaking Stereotypes – Part 2

British Skydiving Council member Kate Lindsley interviewed Logan Donovan to learn more about her record-breaking success in Canopy Piloting, her experiences and her advice to others.

Meet the multi-talented Logan Donovan. Logan is the current European women’s CP Speed and Distance record holder, and a member of the British Skydiving CP team. She won the overall bronze medal at the 2018 British Skydiving CP Nationals, as well as bronze in Distance. Logan is the Team Captain and software developer behind Control Tower, as well as being an FAA Senior Rigger, AFF Instructor and nationally-rated judge.

QUICK FACTS
Bio: Born and raised in New York, Logan is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Engineering and works professionally as a software engineer. In her downtime she likes photography, craft cocktails and Pixel, her adorable, blue-eyed, one-year-old Pomeranian Husky.

  • Age: 28
  • Jumps: About 3,000
  • Background: Logan says “I tried skydiving for the first time the summer before my freshman year of college,
  • when I did a tandem in New Zealand. When I got to school, I learned about AFF and headed straight over to Skydive Orange to get a licence.”
  • How long have you been skydiving? 10 years
  • How long have you been doing CP? 6 years
  • Main canopies: Valkyrie 75, Petra 64/68/72, and Sleia 75

Did you have any role models?
What inspired you to get involved in CP?
I was trying to start an artistic freefly team, but my partners backed out and it was a bit of a let down. Around the same time, I had taken a canopy course and it had piqued my interest in CP, so I flew down and watched an FLCPA meet. Coming off of the disappointment of having my freefly team not work out, and realising this was a discipline where you didn’t need to rely on teammates, well it was like everything came together!

It was also fortuitous because, at that point, all the scoring for CP meets was being done on Excel and someone asked me if, as a Computer Sciences major, I could come up with something better. That was how the Control Tower software came to be. Running the scores introduced me to a lot of top competitors who supported me as a young swooper, and then the Control Tower swoop team followed shortly after that!

As for role models, there are a lot of them but I think my top three would have to be Cornelia Mihai, Ian Bobo, and Greg Windmiller.

ABOVE: Cornelia Mihai has around 14,000 jumps. She smashed the overall CP Distance world record at the 2019 World Cup with 176.36m, although this was then beaten by overall World Cup Champion Cedric Veiga Rios and is now at 183.47m. Cornelia still holds the female world record for CP Distance, and also for Speed with a time through the swoop course of 2.117 seconds. She was also on the 200-way head down world record attempts in 2018.
ABOVE: Cornelia Mihai has around 14,000 jumps. She smashed the overall CP Distance world record at the 2019 World Cup with 176.36m, although this was then beaten by overall World Cup Champion Cedric Veiga Rios and is now at 183.47m. Cornelia still holds the female world record for CP Distance, and also for Speed with a time through the swoop course of 2.117 seconds. She was also on the 200-way head down world record attempts in 2018.

Did you have any role models?
What inspired you to get involved in CP?
I was trying to start an artistic freefly team, but my partners backed out and it was a bit of a let down. Around the same time, I had taken a canopy course and it had piqued my interest in CP, so I flew down and watched an FLCPA meet. Coming off of the disappointment of having my freefly team not work out, and realising this was a discipline where you didn’t need to rely on teammates, well it was like everything came together!

It was also fortuitous because, at that point, all the scoring for CP meets was being done on Excel and someone asked me if, as a Computer Sciences major, I could come up with something better. That was how the Control Tower software came to be. Running the scores introduced me to a lot of top competitors who supported me as a young swooper, and then the Control Tower swoop team followed shortly after that!

As for role models, there are a lot of them but I think my top three would have to be Cornelia Mihai, Ian Bobo, and Greg Windmiller.

ABOVE: Cornelia Mihai has around 14,000 jumps. She smashed the overall CP Distance world record at the 2019 World Cup with 176.36m, although this was then beaten by overall World Cup Champion Cedric Veiga Rios and is now at 183.47m. Cornelia still holds the female world record for CP Distance, and also for Speed with a time through the swoop course of 2.117 seconds. She was also on the 200-way head down world record attempts in 2018.
ABOVE: Cornelia Mihai has around 14,000 jumps. She smashed the overall CP Distance world record at the 2019 World Cup with 176.36m, although this was then beaten by overall World Cup Champion Cedric Veiga Rios and is now at 183.47m. Cornelia still holds the female world record for CP Distance, and also for Speed with a time through the swoop course of 2.117 seconds. She was also on the 200-way head down world record attempts in 2018.

What do you enjoy most about CP and competing?
I really love flying parachutes! As an engineer I’m analytical and CP is a discipline that rewards people who can break down every tiny little bit of their performance to get more out of their canopy. Also, there’s a lot of camaraderie in CP because we’re all competing by ourselves. When you come out to a meet, you’re pretty much hanging out with your competition but it’s like hanging out with family rather than someone you’re trying to beat.

Did you meet any barriers being female?
I think that people are more protective of female swoopers than they are of the guys. It can be a barrier because Coaches and Instructors – who are still super supportive – can feel like they’re less likely to push you to progress as quickly as they will males. I don’t know if it’s something to do with stereotypes or anything like that, but it can be frustrating. On the other hand, getting to the point where I’m one of the few female pro canopy pilots has been rewarding because now a lot of females come up to me telling me that I’m an example to them of how far women can go in skydiving; not just in CP but in other disciplines as well. That’s absolutely worth it, having had some uphill battles.

What did it mean to you to podium at the British Nationals and qualify for the World Meet?
As a kid I never really got into sports because I had terrible asthma that used to send me to the hospital. Getting into CP was the first time my dad got to see me as an athlete and, with his background in Cambridge golf, we were able to connect over having both been involved in British sports. That really meant a lot to me.

How was the World Meet in South Africa?
I felt very proud of breaking the women’s records because Maxine Tate has always been incredibly supportive of me. It felt great to kind of, I don’t know, “take the torch” from her and carry on the tradition of UK women on the international CP scene.

Pro Tip
Logan Donovan - Proud to be a British medallist
Proud to be a British medallist

What are your future plans?
For now, I just want to keep jumping and getting better. I also want to keep using the Control Tower brand to influence our sport in a positive way. Last year we made and sold more than 200 “Fly With Pride” T-shirts to show our support for the LGBTQ members in our community. We got a ton of feedback about how they made people feel more accepted and it was fantastic knowing we made that happen. This year we’ve got another idea brewing… but you’ll have to stay tuned to the Control Tower website for more on that note!

CONTROL TOWER
Control Tower are a canopy piloting team consisting of three members – Logan Donovan, Matt Leonard and Scott Robinson. Matt competes in the USA as a Pro Canopy Pilot, is an Instructor with Superior Flight Solutions, an organiser, and a S&TA, AFF and Tandem Instructor. Scott is working towards his Pro Card in addition to being on a freefly team and flying XRW.

Control Tower build software tools geared toward the skydiving community. They say “Our best known product is our namesake: Control Tower; the industry-leading scoring software for canopy piloting competitions. We have run over 60 competitions worldwide including the World Championships in 2014 and every swoop league (FLCPA, NECPL, DISL, ABCPC). Recently, we have focussed on smaller projects like Swoop Tools, which includes a visual zone accuracy calculator along with many other calculators for canopy pilots. Logan is brewing up a lot more ideas and we’re always open to suggestions.”

controltowerteam.com

CP is predominantly a male dominated discipline. Why do you feel fewer women get into CP than other disciplines? What do you think we can do to encourage more women into CP?
Canopy flight, in general, seems to make women nervous. Guys come up to me all the time for advice on how to get into swooping but most females just ask for basic canopy coaching.

I think that a core issue is that women have a harder time getting gear that fits them properly and getting pushed in the right direction when it comes to canopy piloting early on. On that note, it’s crucial that women go out and get coaching and good advice from professional pilots about everything from equipment selection to how to fly their canopies. Also, I think part of the issue is the (incorrect) stereotype about females not being as strong under canopy. The nervousness caused by hearing those stereotypes can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The biggest thing we can do is to prove them wrong by highlighting the badass females flying tiny, high-performance canopies and kicking ass under them.

 By Kate Lindsley – British Skydiving Tandem Instructor and Council member.

Skydive the Mag April 2020 First published in the June 2020 issue of Skydive the Mag.

Photography
Logan Donovan by Emma Reynolds
Cornelia Mihai by Marcus king for Fai

Want to Learn More?
Watch the Skydive the Expo seminar ‘Girls Can’t Fly Parachutes’. It is often said that women are great at freefall, but not very good at flying a canopy. In this seminar, from 2018, Laura Golly of Sun Path takes a look at where this idea comes from and analyses the issue from a new and mostly  overlooked perspective.

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