Freefalling in Suffolk sets records

Published 6:52 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Men and women dropped from about 13,000 feet in the air at Skydive Suffolk last weekend to break one Virginia record and set another.

The jumps were organized by the husband-and-wife team of Steve and Sara Curtis, cofounders of the Arizona Arsenal Skydiving Team that competed professionally for more than a decade.

Their team of eight broke the Vertical Formation Skydiving Head-down Sequential Virginia record on Saturday at Suffolk Executive Airport with an eight-way performance in four formations. The team included Sara and Steve Curtis, Reinaldo Duarte, Eugeni Goriounov, Jason Johnson, Rachel Newcomb, Scott Owen and Nick Sortino, plus their videographer Edward Heady.

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They managed to successfully change their formation four times in about 40 seconds while falling headfirst at around 160 miles per hour, Sara Curtis said.

The couple returned to the airport on Sunday with a team of six: themselves, Duarte, Goriounov, Johnson, Cameron McMahan and Heady taking GoPro video. They completed a six-way performance in nine formations to set a new VFS Head-up Sequential Virginia record, with their feet towards the ground.

“There was lot of cloud coverage, so we had to wait for the right holes,” Sara Curtis said in a phone interview on Tuesday, referring to openings in the overcast weekend skies that allowed for safe falling. “The pilot has to fly around and look for those areas within the safety zone.”

The team on Saturday had to wait a bit longer because of the clouds before they got started just before noon. They practiced their formation on the Skydive Suffolk hangar mat, holding hand and breaking away as a recording of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” played from the speakers.

The U.S. Parachute Association Judge Chris Wagner described it like a dance routine on the ground before they’re up in the air. Wagner judged both performances with footage and photographs taken by Heady.

“They present a plan of the jump, and the plan has to match what I see on the video,” Wagner said.

Sara and Steve Curtis organized last year’s successful record attempts at Skydive Suffolk and have a long, record-breaking history together.

According to a May 2017 report by Golden Corridor Living Magazine, Arizona Arsenal began as a pioneering VFS team in 2005. Arsenal won 12 National USPA medals, four World FAI medals and many more from wind tunnel competitions around the world.

They now function in Eloy, Ariz., as more of a training school for military and civilians. Sara Curtis also joined Amy Chmelecki of the Red Bull Airforce to create “Broken Records,” another skydiving company that trains advanced skydivers for world records and other freefall endeavors, according to the report.

Curtis and Chmelecki organized the international group of 32 women that set a world record in Arizona last November for the largest all-female skydiving formation while in an upright position, according to a report on

Curtis explained that these state record attempts she organizes with her husband give people the opportunity to earn their first records while learning the USPA standards they need to meet before working their way up to country and world records. She estimated that about half of her teammates broke their first state records on Saturday and Sunday.

“The state record experience is usually kind of a stepping stone to country and international records, and it’s a great way for a local drop zone to get people together and start achieving these goals,” she said.