Cadets jump for national title

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Cadets from the Air Force Academy's Wings of Blue parachute team are giving up their holiday break to dive for another national championship Dec. 27-Jan. 2 at the 2013 National Collegiate Parachuting Championships in Lake Wales, Fla.

The airborne action starts Dec. 28 with the 4-way formation skydiving, followed by 2-way formation skydiving, where groups of parachutists perform as many acrobatic formations as the can during the 35-40 seconds of freefall they get with each jump, before separating to deploy their parachutes.

The next major event is individual landing accuracy and team landing accuracy. Landing accuracy is determined by the first part of a parachutist's body to touch the target on the ground. At this level of competition, that distance to the target is measured in centimeters and sometimes millimeters.

The Wings of Blue cadets have won the national collegiate title 32 of the past 45 years. During this event in 2012, the Wings of Blue won 46 medals and set five national collegiate records.

The Air Force Academy's 98th Flying Training Squadron operates the Wings of Blue, which comprises 75 cadets and approximately 35 staff members. The team performs more than 40 nationwide demonstrations annually to an estimated combined audience of 12 million people.

In doing so, the 98th FTS also operates the Air Force's most prolific parachute program, executing 20,000 jumps and 3,500 UV-18B flight hours each year. The program allows more than 800 cadets per year the opportunity to earn their basic parachutist badge.

Note: Aerial videos of the Wings of Blue is available via DVIDS, at the following links:

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