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Profile

Up Close & Personal

name: Mark Kirkby

email: markazairATyahoo.com

age: 50

education: Skydiving

family & marital staus: Married, one child

number of jumps: 20,000

years in Sport: 33

teams: Juggernaut, Airmoves, Team Fastrax, Arizona Airspeed

slot(s): Tail

favorite competition: Airspeed sweep of all FS events at the USPA Nationals 2000

funniest moment in skydiving: Completely wiping out in the salt water in front of everybody while swooping the beach at an Airspeed Boogie San Marcos, Mexico.

skydiving mentor(s): Dan BC, Jack Jefferies

hobbies: Running

favorite book(s): Born to Run

favorite music: Dance Music

favorite movie(s): The Matrix

favorite place: Yosemite Nartional Park

Where will you be ten years from now? Teaching, coaching and working in skydiving

best kept secret: I can draw a perfect circle in the size of a nickel

favorite quote:

""What happens in the air is what really and only counts.""

                              - Scott Rhodes

Mark Kirkby is the longest standing Arizona Airspeed member. In fact, he is one of the founding fathers of this amazing ever evolving skydiving project.

He made his first jump with the British light infantry display team "Trailblazers" at the Thruxton DZ in the United Kingdom in 1985. His first jump was with a static line round parachute from 2000 ft, and he sprained his ankle.

He remembers that he was taken to a demo when he was about six years old. That's when he decided that he would be a jumper. When his family asked him what he would do when he grew up he always answered "a parachute jumper".

He really started jumping at Cark, which he still calls one of his two home dropzones. He was jumping and coaching in Cark and made extra money with construction jobs before he moved to the United States. The other one is Skydive Arizona, of course. That's where his Airspeed life began in 1994, which is still continuing.

With Juggernaut in 1992 With Juggernaut in 1992
However, Mark Kirkby did not go straight to Arizona when he left the United Kingdom in 1990. His first new home was in Perris, California, where he settled as a packer, did some 1-on-1 coaching and whatever else would support his living.

His first 4-way team in the USA were the Perris Nasty Popes that he joined in 1991. Next year he was invited by members of the Juggernaut/Gumbies project where he met John Hamilton. Dan BC's Airmoves were training at the same place and time.

The dramatic plane crash in 1992, with Dan BC and the Airmoves on board, also changed Mark Kirkby's skydiving career. Dan BC and Tom Falzone rebuilt the US top team in 1993, and Mark Kirkby and John Hamilton completed the lineup. The first half of the original Airspeed lineup had connected.

With Airmoves in 1993 With Airmoves in 1993
The other half, with Jack Jefferies and Kirk Verner, trained and competed on the east coast with DeLand lineups at the same time. The joint east-west combination, with Mark Kirkby, Dan BC, Jack Jefferies and Kirk Verner, finally materialized when the US 4-way team from DeLand was once again defeated by the French TAG Team at the World Meet 1993 on US home turf in Eloy.

France won the 4th consecutive 4-way gold medals that year, and the US top competitors from the east and west were tired of battling with each other and losing to France at the world meets. The future Airspeed members met in DeLand, discussed the situation and decided to move to Arizona where the best offer came from.

Mark Kirkby packed up in Perris and started training with Arizona Airspeed in 1994. The joint effort was successful a year later. Airspeed's first lineup won the 4-way gold medals at the World Meet 1995 and beat the French team (207 - 205) after an exciting battle. Both teams broke the 20-point average for the first time in history.

Airmoves in action Airmoves in action
The same lineup brought home the 4-way gold medals again in 1997, and the immediate success turned Airspeed into the popular project that has been well known ever since. Skydive Arizona's owner Larry Hill continued to invest into Airspeed and had already extended the competition program to 8-way, as well.

The original 4-way lineup with Mark Kirkby selected the additional 8-way members in 1996. The new 8-way lineup could not beat the Golden Knights at the team's first USPA Nationals that year. However, the US Army team had to use all 8-way experiences collected while winning all gold medals for the USA between 1987 and 1995 to fend off Airspeed by two points.

Mark Kirkby continued to train and compete in both events, and the Airspeed 8-way lineup eventually beat the Golden Knights in 1998. He won USPA 4-way and 8-way gold medals both for the first time, together with his other three original Airspeed team mates, Dan BC, Jack Jefferies and Kirk Verner.

Original Airspeed 4-way lineup of 1994 Original Airspeed 4-way lineup of 1994
The three other original Airspeed members shared the nature of true competitors with Mark Kirkby and continued to look for new challenges. They were used to train and compete in both events and set up a new goal. Nobody had ever won 4-way and 8-way gold medals at the same World Meet, and it was time to change that.

The complete Airspeed delegation traveled to Australia in 1999, ready to bring back home both Excalibur swords and many gold medals. Mark Kirkby won his first 8-way gold medal in Australia, however, the French 4-way team interfered with the Airspeed plans and won by six points. It was the first time that Airspeed's original 4-way lineup did not win a meet.

This did not mean for Mark Kirkby and the other Airspeed members that the double gold challenge could not be mastered. They would try again two years later, this time in Spain. However, Dan BC, Jack Jefferies and Kirk Verner decided to stop training and competing in both events and continued only in 8-way.

First Airspeed 8-way lineup First Airspeed 8-way lineup
Mark Kirkby was still not tired of doing both events after training and competing in 4-way and 8-way for more than four years. He has a lot of energy and stamina, as his recent "recreational" activity shows. He is running 100-mile races...

He formed the new Airspeed 4-way lineup in 2000, with John Eagle, Craig Girard and Neal Houston. John Eagle and Craig Girard had been his 8-way team mates since 1996. Neal Houston joined Airspeed after a few years with FX and focused only on the 4-way event.

The race for the double gold challenge at the World Meet 2001 in Spain was on again for Mark Kirkby and two of his 4-way team mates, and the result was the same, only the other way around and even closer. Airspeed won the 4-way gold medals by two points and lost to Russia in 8-way by one single point.

Mark Kirkby continued with the same 4-way lineup in 2002, and with Airspeed Vertical he lost for the first time since 1994 at USPA Nationals. Airspeed still won the USPA 8-way competition and then 8-way silver medals at the World Meet 2003 in France. However, it was also the first time that Mark Kirkby would not bring home a gold medal from a World Championship of Formation Skydiving.

Player coach with Arizona Blade in 2004 Player coach with Arizona Blade in 2004
True competitors always find new challenges and can also handle not winning all the time. His 4-way lineup was facing tough competition at the USPA Nationals 2003 after coming back from the 8-way competition in France. DeLand Majik won in Lake Wales, and Airspeed Vertical ended up in 3rd place behind the Golden Knights.

Mark Kirkby still won his 6th consecutive USPA 8-way gold medal with Airspeed, but he felt that it was time to take a break at the end of the 2003 season and went his own way after a decade with Airspeed. Arizona Airspeed was without Mark Kirkby for the first time since 1994.

He helped Natasha Montgomery to become a 4-way world champion in 2006 as a player coach for Arizona Blade in 2004. Then he had the same job in 2005 with 4-way team Spark where he prepared Chris Farina for his upcoming slot with Perris Fury. He also made 400 training jumps with the other three Fury members the same year. Dan BC took his Fury slot at the meets where Mark Kirkby would jump with Spark.

The Fastrax opportunity followed in 2006, and he made 600 jumps with John Hart, Niklas Hemlin and Doug Park as a player coach.

Airspeed 2007 - 2010 family with daddy Mark Kirkby Airspeed 2007 - 2010 family with daddy Mark Kirkby
Not much had changed in the Airspeed headquarters since he had left the team at the end of the 2003 season. Airspeed had continued to win the USPA 8-way gold medals in 2004, 2005 and 2006 and brought home 8-way gold and silver medals from the World Meet in Croatia 2004 and Germany 2006.

However, Airspeed had been without any 4-way gold medals ever since Mark Kirkby won with the Airspeed Vertical lineup of 2001 at the World Meet in Spain and at the USPA Nationals. His 4-way and 8-way team mate of 2001, Craig Girard, may have been tired of Airspeed's 4-way situation at the end of the 2006 season.

Whatever Craig Girard's motivation or reason could have been at that time, he and Mark Kirkby discussed the situation, and he eventually took back his Tail slot for Airspeed in 2007. It turned out as the right move for Airspeed.

Recovering after the last 100-mile race in October 2010 Recovering after the last 100-mile race in October 2010
Mark Kirkby's 3-year break from Airspeed was obviously long enough. The new and highly motivated 4-way lineup (Mark Kirkby, Eliana Rodriguez, Craig Girard, Andy Delk, with Steve Nowak on camera) helped lifting 4-way competition to a significantly higher performance level and to more most exciting 4-way thrillers. Mark Kirkby added a world meet 4-way gold medal (2008) and a silver medal (2010) to his own collection.

Mark Kirkby is now at the starting point of another new Airspeed era, and he is well into the second Airspeed decade as the only active original member of 1994. Jack Jefferies and Dan BC still join Airspeed for the 8-way competition at the USPA Nationals, and Kirk Verner trains and competes with Paraclete XP4. Mark Kirkby is still the only original member with a full time Airspeed commitment.

The new era begins after Airspeed's 8-way dominance of the past 12 years ended this year when the Golden Knights won the 8-way gold medals at the USPA Nationals 2010. Mark Kirkby's focus with the new Airspeed 4-way lineup is on continuing the 4-way success of the past four years at the USPA Nationals and win back the 4-way gold medals for the USA at the World Meet 2012.

He will probably still run a few 100-mile races while he pursues the new Airspeed goals...