They say it’s good in life to think carefully about the decisions you take and not to rush too much… and these sayings have value most of the time… but sometimes I just need to say BOLLOCKS to this! Some of the most interesting experiences I had in my life have been after impulse decisions I took in less than 2 minutes, and the Ukraine trip more than qualifies here 😊
I am sure Illya Balashov, the ideological inspirer of this event, has dreamed for a long time about organizing the first international Big Way Camp in Ukraine. And at the beginning of this season the news was released – DZ Korotich near Kharkiv in east Ukraine was going to host it!
Alia Veselova was dealing with most of the organization for the foreign part, and Kate Cooper-Jensen and Dieter Kirsch joined Illya as load-organizers. The presence of these three World Class LOs spiked a huge interest in the event. If you add to it that the National Guard of Ukraine was involved in the project and most of the jumps were going to be made from Antonov-72 you didn’t need much more to have an interesting event on the table.
People rushed to register and in the end big-way enthusiasts from 26 countries invaded Kharkiv after the middle of August. There were people that traveled from Japan, Brazil, Australia and US to be there, not to mention a nice mix of European participants. Some were very experienced big-way skydivers, some were attending their first big-way event, together forming a very interesting mix of people!
I found DZ Korotich very well organized. I am sure it hosted many Ukraine big-way events during the years but you could see they were eager to make a good impression on their first International event. Everybody was very welcoming and caring with the participants' needs. We were well taken care of and well fed 😊. Many thanks to Sergey Filatov, the DZ’s owner and to his team for everything!
One of the most interesting things about this DZ was an incredible collection of older planes and jet-fighters, along with newer aerobatic airplanes and helicopters. Plane buffs were in heaven, that’s all I can say!
Plane buffs were in heaven
The event was organized from Monday, 21st of August until Thursday, the 24th. On the first three days, the AMAZING Antonov-72 was going to be used and on the last day a 20-way competition was going to take place using the Antonov-28. I will get to the jumps in a minute, but I need to talk about the planes first. I don’t think there is a skydiver there that doesn’t enjoy military airplanes – the bigger the better 😊.
The Antonov-72 is a great aircraft that can take up to 65 persons to 4800m in approx. 7 minutes (6 if the pilot is in a hurry 😊). The trap is huge and it goes under the plane. The engines are placed over the wings so even though it has a dropping speed of over 180 km/h there is no blast. It is incredibly easy to have a good exit and a thrill to have a lot of people out in 5-6 seconds. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED IT!!!!
All of us were especially grateful to the plane’s crew not only for the flying/jumping experience, but also for the patience they had while we admired the plane, made pictures with the plane, patted the plane, kissed the plane while it was on the ground! To all the crew (pilots, navigators, technicians) – THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!
On the first day, the people were split in three 30-way groups coordinated by Kate, Dieter and Illya. Big-way techniques and safety issues were discussed in detail and the teams did 3-5 jumps each enjoying magic moments – jumping from this amazing airplane, building the first perfect point before starting playing with sequential moves. As I don’t have many opportunities anymore to join ”no-stress” big way camps I had an amazing time changing slots almost every jump, going from last diver to base slots. The base is still hard work – I enjoyed it immensely 😊
One thing I noticed, AGAIN (…and only with a little bit of envy), is how important it is for one country’s big-way skills level of its skydivers to have access to big planes (or to be able to organize more than one plane events). Some of the top Ukrainian big-way skydivers I already knew from the many events we attended together during the years. But the level of skills of the Ukrainian skydivers that I never met before this event was also impressive. I think one can easily put Ukraine in the very small group of lucky European countries formed by UK, Germany, France and Russia that can be considered to have a very good big-way school and tradition! Nice work from the local captains in forming so many young eagles 😊!
Overall, we had an amazing first day… with the only sad thing being Illya having a brutal malfunction on the last jump, made worst by an old shoulder injury, that ended with a bad landing under the reserve. Fortunately, Illya is a very strong and VERY stubborn man and the reports say he is recovering very well. The reports also say he started dreaming about doing an event with 2 Antonov-72 planes next year, but that may be only the pain medication speaking 😊 (I REALLY HOPE THAT’S NOT THE CASE – because if the rumors are true, and a military multi-plane formation event is possible I WANT TO KNOW ASAP PLEASE 😊!!!!). Anyway – Illya, I am looking forward to see you in Eloy in October - so speedy recovery, my friend!
On the second day Kate and Dieter’s groups merged and we managed to do a great 60-way jump before the winds came in to spoil our fun. The jump was very good and the formation was almost complete. Our coaches used the debrief time stressing again the things that make a big-way “click” – visuals, correct approaches, once you touch it you are part of the formation and you need to keep flying, good tracking is gold, etc.
The winds stayed. We waited. If you have been in this game for a while you take it philosophically because you accept the sad and very annoying fact that we can’t control the weather. I am happy to report though that no broken bones were reported during this wait 😊, nobody managed to fire-up an old jet, the salsa lessons Fanny and I benefited of were amazing (thank you Pawel and Yuri!), great stories were shared (thank you, Bob!) and I found two Machiavellic girls that I consider now soul-sisters (Illona and Fanny – anytime, anywhere… we just need another good friend close by to bail us out 😊). Unfortunately, the winds kept blowing and the team was released in the afternoon.
The next day was overcast and promised rain so the organizers announced an early stand-by at the hotel with the plan to move back to the dz if the weather improved. They also organized a city tour for us that we enjoyed immensely. This is not a travel report so I will try to be short – when you say Ukraine you expect some things, mainly because of the latest crises, especially in a city 30 km from the border. But the city was an incredible surprise for me – it is well taken care of, the people are very welcoming and you can see they are very proud of their city. They have amazing statues, great food (incredibly cheap!), lovely parks, many choices for shopping if you are in the mood, great music bands. You can put Kharkiv on your travel lists without any hesitation – you will be enchanted!
As rain made an appearance and the forecast was not good, our LOs decided to release us for the day around 2 P.M. and at 4 P.M. a very interesting big-way seminar coordinated by Kate and Dieter was organized at the lovely Hotel Aurora where we were staying. Late afternoon we could see the sky clearing and the sun making an appearance – we grumpily saluted it (with our second round of beers by that time) while we resisted the very powerful urge to hit our heads on the closest walls in annoyance with this capricious weather…
The last day of the event arrived and we finally had good jumping conditions again. As it was the National Day of Ukraine we could not use the Antonov-72 so the organizers decided already to make the best out of the plane they had - the Antonov-28 (another incredible aircraft that I haven’t jumped before – PS it can take off in 2 seconds after the pilot releases the brakes, I don’t think it needs more than 50 meters of runway 😊) – and organized a friendly competition 😊
Four teams were formed, led by Kate, Dieter, Petro Ryzhilo and Oleg Shapovalov. The jumps were super interesting and we had lots of fun. Almost all teams managed to make the 4 planned jumps and in the end my team led by the one and only Kate Copper-Jensen WON – he he 😊 😊 😊 (we learned lots – especially the best technique of building a 20-way star!). Dieter’s team came in a close second, Oleg’s team finished third and Petro’s team closed the ranking. We had lots of fun – nothing better than a good competition!
Many things can be said in the end but I will limit myself to just a few. Ukraine was a lovely surprise for me from many points of view. I enjoyed the trip immensely despite the fact we could not all the jumps that were in the event’s plan.
Thank you to everybody at DZ Korotich for the great organization! Special thanks to the pilots and the crews! Thank you, Kate, Dieter, Illya, Petro and Oleg, for being so good teachers! Thank you to the cameramen - Andrey Kutyepov, Egor Vysotsky, Andrey Veselov and Wendy Smith for all your work and the wonderful memories! We enjoyed a lot the welcoming and the farewell parties 😊!
Thank you, Alia for being such a hen-mother and taking care of all of us! And huge thanks to Alexandr Pelehov who stepped in Illya’s organizational ”shoes” after the accident and dealt with everything that was needed from the logistic point of view for our international group – thank you, Sasha!
My special thanks to Lev Tremasov, Andrey Kutyepov and the above-mentioned Sasha for being so tireless companions and showing us your lovely city! And last but not least - THANK YOU, Illya, for dreaming big!
It is always a sign than an event was really good when you ask some of the participants a few short comments and you receive short “novels” 😊 – it’s the best feedback you can have…
(Sorry we had to edit them down for space – Skydive Mag)
ANDREY KUTYEPOV, Ukraine, cameraman for the event “It was really amazing to meet all these people at my home dropzone. Amazing jumps and happy smiles! I hope it will become a great tradition to hold such a great event every year. The Antonov 72 is fantastic and I am sure people from 26 countries now love it as I do.”
LUCA MATUCHESKI, Brazil, participant “The amazing thing about skydiving is that you can have these opportunities to go to these events and meet great people from all over the world, who share the common interest of this sport. We met wonderful people, like Kate, Alia, Dieter, and of course many other skydivers from all over the world and the Ukrainian skydivers, who were very hospitable and happy to have us visiting their beautiful country. It is a unique experience, that changes your point of view to the world around you, and I wish to keep visiting other worlds and enjoying this feeling of new experiences.”
ILLONA VAN TULDEN, Holland, participant “Despite the fact that we only did 8 jumps, it was just awesome! The AN-72 was the main reason to go – what an awesome beast - I loved it! Organization by Alia & the DZ was superb. For the money we paid we got a lot in return. Nice clean & friendly staffed hotel, transfers, great care for logistics. Also, I enjoyed a lot the very challenging 20-way competition out of the AN28 that was organized on the last day. A big thank you to the whole team!!!”
PATRICK BROWNE, Ireland, participant “Absolutely epic event in a beautiful country with friendly people ! Flawlessly organized from start to finish!”
JOHN FOUNTAIN, USA, participant “We were well taken care off from minute 1! Easy registration, packers were made available quickly, plenty of food and drinks throughout the day. Dropzone staff were great, so that very quickly, Skydive Kharkiv felt like home. Pilots were awesome, with perfect spots virtually every load, especially on day 4 when jumping the AN-28 for our 20-ways the pilot always found us some clear sky. Last, the people, friends old and new. We are so fortunate to be part of this sport called skydiving where people from all over the world can come together, share the sky and make lasting friendships.”
JIM BRADWELL, UK, participant “Well what an amazing event! Ukraine is a lovely country, friendly, sunny, welcoming to visitors and very economic. The DZ was fantastic, everyone always trying to help get us in the air as fast as possible! And If you’ve never jumped the AN72… You are missing a gem!!! Without doubt, I will return in 2018.”
KATE COOPER-JENSEN, US, load-organizer “Ukraine is a wonderful country, Ukrainian Skydivers are warm hosts and Ukrainian airplanes are AMAZING!. From great skydives to outrageous parties I had a memorable adventure.”
MARINO KALLIGAS, Spain, participant “Everything was top notch. The organizers, Kate, Dieter, Illya and Alia were all amazing! The local skydiving community was super welcoming the participating skydivers were all great people. Super nice positive attitudes. Overall an event with amazing resources (plane, dz, organisers) and with a great positive attitude that drove it home. I’d repeat in a heartbeat!