CROWN POINT | Kyle Land admits to being afraid of heights, but that jumping out of an airplane 6,000 feet above the ground is “awesome and unequaled as a sport.”
The 2009 Crown Point High School graduate put his skydiving prowess to the test and won a gold medal as part of the Wings of Blue parachute team from the U.S. Air Force Academy at the 2012 National Collegiate Parachuting Championships held Dec. 28 to Jan. 2 in Arizona.
“I didn’t know anything about parachuting growing up in Crown Point,” said Land, 21, a Cadet 1st Class, USAF honor officer at the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy and member of the Wings of Blue team since 2010.
He has made more than 600 skydives.
Every cadet must take a basic parachute jump course as part of the academic course at the academy, he said.
“This is a total cadet-run program and the only program like it in the world,” said Land, who is a senior majoring in behavioral science and leadership.
To earn their jump wings, cadets must perform five solo jumps unassisted. Then they can apply for the Wings of Blue parachute team.
“Three hundred people applied in 2010 when I applied,” Land said.
“We had to go through a physical training test and write an essay on why we want to be part of the team. There was a personal interview with the cadet jump masters, officers and unlisted personnel,” he said. “They picked 25.”
Honing their skills involves hours of practice for the Wings of Blue team in specific parachuting disciplines. That includes four-way formation and six-way speed jumps.
Those were the events Land and his fellow cadets in the Air Force Legacy team competed in at the national championships.
During the six rounds of four-way formation event, Land and three other cadets jumped from a plane and, falling at 130 mph, had to build as many formations as possible in 35 seconds before separating to pull their parachutes.
Land also took home the bronze medal for classic accuracy in that event. He landed 2 centimeters from a dead-center.
In the six-way speed jump, Land was part of a six-person team jumping and building a formation as quickly as possible before pulling chutes, he said.
“We won the bronze medal for accuracy in the six-way speed jump and we had the most formations in the fastest time in the four-way,” Land said.
Crown Point Police Chief Pete Land said he doesn’t know where his son Kyle gets his parachuting abilities.
“I didn’t go to the national championships, but this fall I saw him parachute into the football stadium at the Air Force Academy during homecoming and land in a spot smaller than a Frisbee,” the chief said. “I’m really proud of all his accomplishments.”
Kyle Land said parachuting into events around campus is a tradition for the Wings of Blue team and will continue through graduation this spring.
He already plans to attend dental school at either Columbia University or Harvard University.
Asked if he intends to keep parachuting, Land said, ”There’s not much call for parachuting dentists. I might keep it up as a hobby.”
He credits the support of his family, friends and “the entire Crown Point community."
"I have to attribute a great deal of my success to the support and mentoring I received from the teachers, coaches and administrators of the Crown Point Community School system,” he said.