Last week, military outfitter Complete Parachute Solutions wrapped up a stay at Buena Vista’s Central Colorado Regional Airport, where the manufacturer has been testing its products for 16 years.
This time around, the purpose of the visit was two-fold.
The Florida-based company was testing the performance of its ram-air canopies used by special mission units in the U.S. armed forces at altitude.
It was also acclimating a group of seven jumpers who will be attempting to break a record for the highest elevation parachute landing in November.
“The records we’re setting are landing records, so the valley here from Cañon City all the way up to Leadville has just a nice, gradual elevation climb, which allows us to acclimate and get exposure to feeling the canopy increase in speed during descent, because as the air gets thinner the canopy flies faster,” said CPS president Fred Williams. “Here we started at 5,500, now we’re right at 8, then we’ll do 10,000. Over there we start jumping at 12, then 15,500, then 17,000, then above 20,000 would be the record for us.”
In early November, the team will travel to eastern Nepal to attempt a landing on the west col of Baruntse, a peak with a summit elevation of 23,497 feet.
Williams said that, after testing prototype products at sea level, adding weight to simulate a variety of payloads, the Arkansas Valley is an attractive testing grounds for the parachutes as the valley builds elevation gradually.
Moving up from Cañon City to BV to Leadville allows the parachute operators to acclimate themselves to the effects of thinner air in a gradual, methodical way, he said.
They also get the opportunity to practice jumping with the same payload of supplies they’ll be using in Nepal, where they’ll jump with enough survival supplies to hold tight in the harsh environment of the Himalayas until rescue comes.
“This is actually our seventh trip up here in 16 years,” Williams said. “When we won our first military contract to sell to our special mission units in the U.S., part of the evaluation was to come up here and demonstrate the landing performance of our parachutes. We did that back in 2003. Now we’ve come back here as a company to continue to test our newer products and gather techniques that work on the parachutes that we can advise our clients to use, certain techniques to get the best performance out of the parachutes.”
Beyond the area’s elevation, BV hospitality also makes the trip back to Buena Vista an easy decision to make.
“Everybody’s very appreciative. We try to do our best as a user to come in, use the facility, leave it better than we got