Cheryl Stearns, current and seventeen time US women's parachuting
champion, is the World Champion of Style and Accuracy Skydiving.
She is the only woman and joins one man who has won the world
championship twice. Since winning her first world championship
in 1978 at age 23, Cheryl has proven she is still the world's
best by repeating as champion at the biannual championship 16
years later. Cheryl Stearns is the most successful competitive
skydiver in the world.
Cheryl began skydiving in Scottsdale, Arizona, at age 17, by convincing
her mother to sign for permission and loaning her forty dollars
for her first jump. Her father then tried to encourage her in
a new direction by paying for her flying lessons. Cheryl fell
in love with both activities and set her sites on success in both.
Cheryl continued developing her flying and parachuting while she
attended Scottsdale Community College on a tennis scholarship.
In 1975, after graduating with an Associates in Arts, with highest
distinction, Cheryl contacted world renowned skydiving coach Gene
Paul Thacker to see if she could work for him at his airport and
learn competitive parachuting from him. With Thacker's promise
to help her, Cheryl moved to Raeford, North Carolina, with her
dog, her parachute gear, and fifty dollars in her pocket. Between
flying and maintaining planes for Thacker's skydiving center,
Cheryl learned the finer points about her chosen sport from her
new coach. Cheryl focused on competition in the classic events
of parachuting style and accuracy. The style event consists of
jumping from an aircraft at 7000 feet and while in freefall, completing
a series of six maneuvers (turns and backloops) as quickly and
precisely as possible. The accuracy competition involves controlling
the parachute during landing so that the skydiver's heel touches
the center of a target (currently a 5 centimeter disk) placed
in the lading area.
In 1977, after winning her first national championship and establishing
a world record in accuracy, Cheryl joined the US Army and became
the first woman member of the Golden Knights, the US Army's elite
parachute team. She served two 3-year tours with the team, winning
many national and international championships. During her assignments
with the Golden Knights, Cheryl won recognition as the leading
performer in her sport and did numerous special skydiving demonstrations.
Her most memorable was parachuting into the grounds of the Statue
of Liberty trailing the American flag for the Statue of Liberty
Cheryl has a total of 29 world records and at one time held four
different world records simultaneously: a feat no other parachutist,
man or woman, has matched. She also holds the Guinness World Record
for the most parachute jumps in 24 hours by a woman, 255 jumps.
So far, Cheryl has won a total of 53 first place women's title
from the annual US National and biannual World Championships in
Parachuting and scores of medals from other national and international
competitions. Three times Cheryl has been the overall US Champion
for men and women combined. With over 10,000 skydives, the most
of any woman in the world, Cheryl has clearly set the standard
in her sport.
Besides her success in skydiving, Cheryl has excelled in the air
as a pilot. After earning her instrument, multi-engine and instructor
ratings in Arizona and gaining experience flying for Raeford Aviation,
Cheryl taught flying during her free time while in the Army. She
also found time to earn the degrees of Bachelor of Science in
Aviation Administration (magna cum laude) and Master of Aeronautical
Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Pop Air Force
Base campus. She subsequently gained experience flying medical
evacuation, teaching and competing in aerobatics, flying and jumping
for Air Show America, and flying for Henson Airlines. In 1986
she was hired by Piedmont Airlines and currently is a full time
pilot for US Air as a co-pilot in the Boeing 737-300/400. She
has over 11,000 flying hours and over 15,900 aircraft landings.
Cheryl Stearns has already been awarded the Diplome Leonardo da
Vinci, the world's highest award in aerosports, for her unique
achievements in skydiving. Since she is still competing and winning
at the national and world levels, no one can predict what else
she may accomplish. For Cheryl, even the sky is not the limit!
first woman on the US Army Parachute Team Golden Knights 1974
|Year ||Style ||Accuracy ||Overall |
|1974 ||17 ||7 ||9 |
|1975 ||1 ||11 ||7 |
|1976 ||3 ||2 ||1 |
|1977 ||3 ||- ||2 |
|1978 ||1 ||1 ||1 |
|1979 ||1 ||1 ||1 |
| || || |
| || || |
Made a record setting 255 jumps in 24 hours, Lodi CA 1987.
The Making of a World Record
©Copyright 1996 by Jan Meyer.