The 2019 International Skydiving Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony took place at Skydive Perris from October 18-20. It was preceded by various large formation sequential records and CF Records. It was the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Hall of Fame and so in recognition of this they inducted ten new members. Our own Lofty Thomas, former BPA Chairman, was inducted posthumously. Also joining the roll of honour were Irena Avbelj, Chuck Collingwood, Kate Cooper-Jensen, Patrick de Gayardon, Alan Eustace, John P Higgins, Andy Keech, Tom Sanders and Deke Sonnichsen.
The Friday and Saturday consisted of various presentations and awards, culminating in the Induction ceremony and banquet on the Saturday evening. For this we moved from Skydive Perris to the March Field Air museum, a short drive away.
The whole three days were enhanced by the fact that the record attempts took place at Perris in the days before the weekend. The very best of FS and CF jumpers from around the world were there, including many Brits, a number of which stayed on for the Hall of Fame events. So, we had the top current skydivers mixing with the legends of the past. This proved an excellent format and indeed many called it “inspirational”.
There were many moving and indeed emotional moments, not least of which was when the USPA honoured Chris Gay and the 100-way Canopy Formation World Record Team of 2006 with the Path of Excellence Award. Included in the afternoon presentation was a video, taken by Bruno Brokken, of Chris rescuing our own Maria Russell and saving her life. We all knew the story of this outstanding feat of skill and airmanship but not many had seen the air to air video. Chris, Bruno and Maria were on the stage as it was shown. I am sure there was not a dry eye in the house when Chris and Maria hugged each other at the end.
The format of the actual induction ceremony is now set. Curt Curtis is the MC. He now does all the citations, then the recipient receives their plaque and jacket and gives a thank you speech. Grace Thomas received the plaque and jacket on behalf of Lofty, and Derek Thomas gave the thank you speech. He was excellent, well done Derro. Of course, Grace also said a few words. The rest of the Thomas family were there and quite a few Brits including Eddie Carroll, Will Grut, Milko, Sian, Maria and many others, all supporting the Thomas family. A special thank you must go to Pat Thomas, who, as always, went out of her way to support the Brits.
Milko said at the end how inspired he felt being part of an event that that celebrates over 50 years of skydiving, and in the company of so many legends of our sport. I was told that the Board of the International Skydiving Museum and Hall of Fame also recognised the significance of this dynamic, brought about by the large formation records achieved in the days before and the current top skydivers and indeed legends being present. So, next year’s event will be at Skydive Deland from October 8-10 2020, preceded by more large formation record attempts. A date for your diary.
Photo: The newest members of the Skydiving Hall of Fame along with Lofty’s wife Grace Thomas (front right) receiving their certificates
By John Smyth MVO, British Skydiving Vice President
First published in the December 2019 issue of Skydive the Mag.