yesterday we had a big event at Skydive Twin Cities with my good friend Kevin Burkart trying to set a world record for the most skydives made in one day by a one armed man. He’s doing this to raise money for Parkinson’s disease because a few years ago his father was diagnosed with this terrible disease and Kevin has made it his mission in life to do whatever he can to help find a cure. This was the third time Kevin has attempted to make a large number of skydives in one day to raise money and awareness for Parkinson’s. The first year we used a Cessna 182 and a 206 to make 100 jumps in one day. Two years later Kevin’s goal was to make 200 jumps using a single engine turbine jump plane called a PAC-750. That plane was screaming fast but very low clouds and fog prevented us from starting until 11:00 in the morning, and even then I was busting clouds and not even close to being legal. Once we got started we were averaging one jump every three minutes and thirty seconds but the late start prevented us from doing more than 150 jumps that day. After that disappointing day Kevin decided to up the anti by going for three hundred jumps in one day. It was an ambitious goal that could be done if the weather cooperated and both Kevin and I could keep up the pace. Unfortunately three months before the attempt Kevin was in a head on snow mobile accident that damaged his spinal cord rendering his left arm completely useless. But Kevin is a determined man and would never let a little thing like the loss of an arm prevent him from achieving his goal. Two months after the accident Kevin approached me and asked if I could help him figure out hoe to skydive and land a parachute with only one arm. It took some doing but I finally figured out that if he hooked the steering toggles together with a carabiner he could steer the parachute with his right arm.
With the technical problems sorted out the only thing standing in Kevin’s way was his endurance. A lot of us were concerned that Kevin couldn’t keep up a three minute jump pace using only one arm but there was only one to find out was to go for it. The morning’s weather was as nice as it could be and at 5:15am I pushed the throttle forward and we were off on jump number one. Things went well at first with our times ranging in the three and a half to four minute range. The PAC-750 is a wonderful plane to fly for this type of event, getting up to 2000 feet in under 45 seconds and back on the ground just as fast. I would beat Kevin to the ground then wait for him to land and have his ground crew take the used parachute off him and strap a new one on. I’d taxi up to him just as he was getting the last strap on, he’s jump in and I’d hit the throttle spinning around and rocketing down the runway. Even with an oxygen mask on for the ride up the exhausts fumes took their toll on Kevin and about three hours into the day he threw up in the plane. The medics were a little concerned but Kevin insisted that he felt better after getting sick and continued going. The pace was fast but having only one arm was taking it’s toll and Kevin started needing a break every twenty jumps or so. In the end Kevin made 151 jumps and set a new world for most jumps in one by a one armed skydiver.