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You are Here: Parachute History.com >> Men >> Russ Gunby

Russ Gunby

Russ Gunby joined the US Army in 1940 and made his first jump in 1944 after trying for 3 years to get accepted into jump school. At the time, US Army regulations forbade soldiers from jumping outside of military operations jumps. Gunby disliked this rule and worked to get it changed. He did unofficial jumps, breaking the rules, by using surplus equipment and hiring a pilot for $50. He also founded the parachute club at Ft Ord, CA.

Gunby wrote Army Regulation 9519 in 1956. This regulation actively encouraged sport parachuting. He went around to many Army bases encouraging the establishment of clubs. Much to his dismay, he received a very cool reception to these ideas.

Gunby would ask a base Colonel to join the local club. The Colonel would ask, "Why?" Gunby would say "Why not, you've been jumping for years?" The Colonel would then reply, "How much will you pay me?".

Gunby said, "I was dumbfounded. For the first time in my life I found out there were Army paratroopers who didn't like to jump. That really shocked me. I was going around with my new regulations saying, "Hey look here, we can all jump." and everybody was saying, "You're nuts, man".

After AR 9519 was official, surplus equipment was made available. The big problem that surface was that anyone could claim to be a parachuting instructor. This lead to injuries and fatalities because of inadequate training procedures.

This situation prompted Gunby to hitchhike to the PCA Board meeting in NY in 1959. He asked about proposed safety regulations. He was voted Secretary/Treasurer by the end of that meeting.

Russ Gunby, C-350, was the first skydiving instructor in the US and conducted the first Instructor's course in 1959 in Phoenix, AZ. He also established the Area Safety Officer (now S&TA) and the Conference (now Region) method of representation.

Russ Gunby wrote a book called "Sport Parachuting - a basic handbook of sport parachuting" in 1960 when at age 38 while still in the Army. He mortgaged his home to produce the first printing. Later printings were underwritten by Jeppesen.

More than 80,000 copies were sold. Gunby says of "Sport Parachuting" ... "In the beginning the book filled the void in the absence of knowledgable instructors. Today it's used to augment and reinforce student instruction, and that's good. it has done much more than I originally anticipated."

His book was a cornerstone in writing down methodologies and procedures for the safe training of jumpers.

Gunby's Army career included enlisting as a private, infantry combat leader, combat intelligence officer. He attained the rank of Major in 20 years of service. Gunby resigned from the Army in Dec. 1960 to become full time Executive Director of PCA. He had a salary of about $2000 per year.

PCA was headquartered in Mt. Kisco, NY and Gunby lived in Monterey, CA. He stipulated that PCA had to be run from Monterey in order for him to accept the position of Executive Director.

PCA headquarters was relocated to Monterey, CA in 1960. PCA membership was 859. Gunby served as Executive Director from 1958 (?? sources conflict) to 1963.

In 1964, Gunby ran for PCA President and relinquished the Executive Director position. Also in 1964, Parachute Club of America (PCA) was changed to United States Parachute Association (USPA) because the word club did not properly express the stature of the organization. Membership was over 10,000.

USPA presented Gunby with its Achievement Award in 1977. The inscription reads: "A founding spirit who saw the future when others doubted. As author, Executive Director and PCA President, he gave countless hours to build the early framework of our sport."

Gunby was awarded PEIA's (former name of PIA) first Achievement Award in 1981. Don Beck, PEIA Secretary said, "When the Parachute Equipment Industry Association first decided to create an Achievement Award, the principle criterion was a major contribution to the sport parachute field, but most importantly, it had to withstand the test of time. Without question Russ Gunby's contributions meet that criterion. His book, Sport Parachuting, has been used as THE training manual for a whole generation of skydivers and those training methods are still being used. PEIA is proud to present this award to an outstanding man in the filed of parachuting safety."

Gunby battled lung cancer and actually wanted to make a one-lung jump in 1982. Gunby spent the last years of his life in Tahlequah, OK. He died April 8, 1982 from lung cancer.

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