Letters from the week of May 6, 2004

 Fly the Friendly Skies
Not for party animals only: Skydive Arizona is not the party animal place you make it out to be ("In the Zone," Susy Buchanan, April 22). It is the home of world champions -- first and foremost.

Arizona Airspeed has dominated U.S. Nationals and the world competition scene for many years. Many competitors come to Skydive Arizona to learn from the very best in the world.

Skydive Arizona has also been home to world champion Dale Stuart, one of the pioneers of freestyle skydiving. It was also host to many world and national meets. These meets were run under the exceptionally talented staff there.

The 300-way World Record Event exemplified the extraordinary logistical expertise of Larry Hill, Bryan Burke, Arizona Airspeed and others in running an event with multiple aircraft, hundreds of international jumpers and precision to meet clockwork demands.

Portraying Skydive Arizona as a place where some bimbo female jumper can experience orgasm, and all the jumpers want are more of these bimbos, is so far from the reality of the drop zone that it is almost laughable. It says that you are an uninformed reporter who does not have a clue about what Skydive Arizona is about.

Skydive Arizona did not have six fatalities in the last year. (The letter writer is correct. There were two skydiving fatalities in Eloy during the 12 months before the story was written, and another on the day of publication.)

Furthermore, your sexist description of the Skydive Arizona athletes is inexcusable. About the title of the article ("In the Zone, Eloy's skies are raining men, and sprinkling hot chicks, too"), I have news for you: Women are allowed to jump from perfectly good airplanes now. "Hot chicks" are those bimbos in the bar who tell outrageous stories to get laid. Funny how some reporters actually think there is truth in those bar tales.

Here's how you describe Betsy Barnhouse: "Barnhouse keeps one blue eye on the landing area as she dutifully goes over terms like relative work, freeflight, freestyle and sky-surfing, each a different style of making your way out of the plane and onto the ground." What does the color of Betsy's eyes have to do with performing coaching duties?

And your description of Amy Chmelecki: "During the 10-minute rise to 13,000 feet, skydivers discuss the previous night's rampage in the Bent Prop saloon. Amy Chmelecki, a champion freeflyer and member of the all-girl Sugar Gliderz freefly team, leans back against the wall of the plane and catches her breath for a minute. Chmelecki's an adorable twentysomething blonde, and although she's got a boyfriend, she remains the official drop zone sweetheart. 'She's totally cool, totally beautiful and a fuckin' awesome skydiver,' says one male admirer. 'If she didn't have a boyfriend, any guy on the drop zone would marry her in a second.'"

You place too much emphasis upon a woman athlete's appearance and discount her athletic performances. Women athletes should be afforded the same descriptions and respect given to their male counterparts -- such as when you describe Omar Algehelan as "revered by his peers as one of the sport's great athletes."

Your blatant sexist descriptions are a good example of what is wrong with today's media.
Jan Meyer,
National Director,
United States Parachute Association

A language of their own: As a skydiver and fellow reporter, I have to commend you on the outstanding article you did on the skydiving community that has been built at Eloy. I've read dozens of articles about skydiving over the past several years written by non-skydivers, and none has captured the true essence (and lingo) of the sport as you have.

Though skydivers tend to be some of the most welcoming people with a sometimes overzealous desire to talk about our passion for jumping from planes, getting inside our heads can be next to impossible. Others simply cast us aside as crazy, perhaps rightly so. But it's clear that you took the time to find out why these people spend all of our free time and cash pursuing this sport.

By the time I finished the story, I was very much expecting to see an editor's note indicating that you're an experienced skydiver. If you hung out at Eloy as much as the story indicated, you'll know this is about the highest compliment one can bestow on a whuffo.

The article was also very well received on www.dropzone.com (which is where I learned about it), and the people there are usually a tough crowd when it comes to the media.
Matt Dowling
Newark Star-Ledger,
Newark, New Jersey

Sun Worshipers
An unlimited supply: Arizona would be a perfect place to shovel sunshine into the power-generating furnaces, so to speak ("Power Vacuum," John Dougherty, April 22). We have endless amounts of it, as well as endless amounts of hot air generated from millions of Arizonans bitching about the heat.

Wind power aside, solar power is a perfect solution for the sunny Southwest. It would go a long way to solving pollution and help end our dependence on Middle Eastern oil regimes. But the usual problem exists in implementing this clean, cheap, reliable source of energy. It is the wealthy folks who stand to lose some of their filthy lucre if the public utility system is changed for the good of all.

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