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You are Here: Parachute History.com >> Men >> Roger Nelson

Roger Nelson

[Note: This is an incomplete list.]

Roger Nelson started jumping in 1971.

I am an 85-jump novice Hinckley jumper, a DZ with two outstanding 10 man teams which consist of many super jumpers. Hinckley is strictly RW with the exception of one style chick. The rest of us dig on the fantasies of RW. When other jumpers rap about Hinckley such names as Jim Bohr, Bob Federman and Pat Works pop up as part of the Word. I want to tell you jumpers about our "Pops", Steve Conners, C-7153, who I would call the Hinckley "Underdog". I believe this because Steve lives to jump, he enjoys working with new RW jumpers. His tutoring is responsible for many things including me coming in seventh on an illegal 8 man at Z-Hills.

Steve builds our sport as he spreads confidence and knowledge. I believe such jumpers deserve much recognition, and I hope their students will someday do the same to help develop our odyssey.

- Roger Nelson
Letter to the Editor
Spotter Newsmagazine
March-May 1973

Freak Brothers originated when Carl and Roger Nelson were new jumpers. They had long hair and grubby clothes. The local skygods called them those two freak brothers.

1973-1976: Published Freak Brother Flyer with Carl Nelson.

1976: US Nationals: Placed 19th in 10-way on Exitus: Nick Lucas, Dick Giarrusso, Ed Mosher, Mike Johnston, Mike Arbour, Greg Reisinger, John Sherman, Kevin Shea, Chris Price, Roger Nelson

1980: became a Lifetime member of USPA.

Officially announced that upsidedown flying was Freak flying. Freak Flying: Freak means any maneuver having one or more parts intentionally falling back to earth or upside-down. Flying means other than falling. Nelson discovered Freak Flying in the fall of 1978. "I believe anything is possible and that Freak Flying (FF) is a tremendous expansion of relative work because it's no way as easy as many people assume."

Party of the Year: Aug. 8-10 Big Foot WI 5th Annual Freak Brothers Convention. 600 attended. Aircraft: 2 Twin Otters, 3 DC-3s, 11 Beech, 2 C-182s. 1076 jumps were made from the otters alone. The weather-hampered convention saw the Herd doing the fastest 10-man formation. The Herd exited from port-o-lets and dove into a mud field to form a 10-way in 4.7 sec. Three motel rooms were rented by the convention for jumpers to take a shower. 330 towels were used and many more jumpers used their towels during the night. "This meet was not for profit - it was for love."

1981: First 60-way April 18 Z-hills FL. "Ecktachrome is better than anything we could get from France" Roger commented about the 'unofficial record'. Completed on the second attempt in 50 seconds from two DC-3s. The trail DC-3 did a speed star type exit - no floaters.

James Gang Rides Again 10-way team at US Nationals, 6th place: Tom Shannon, Roger Nelson, Sheila Witten, Kim Barden, Ardis Reith, Tom Jones, Jeff Chirico, Wes Coker, Tom Nelson, Jim Bohr

Freak Brother Convention, Freeport, IL: 636 jumpers attended on Aug. 7-9. 49 DC-3 loads from 2 DC-3s, 17 load from a Twin Beech, very few jumpers with less than 500 jumps. Two unsuccessful 60-way attempts with an FAI judge, Lowell Bachman. Fad of RW Catching: one or two persons catch a jumper just as he lands. Roger had 4 sets of radios atop his command van: CB for pickup vehicles, FM radio to registration, air to ground to the aircraft and airband to manifest.

Organized the first 100 way attempts in Freeport, IL. Unsuccessful: yielded two 99 ways though.

1986: Improving First Jump Safety: Roger ran Skydive Sandwich in Illinois at the time. The DZ put out over 7000 students with zero fatalities and only a handful of broken bone injuries. None of the injuries were among the +1500 first time jumpers. Student gear was piggyback container with ramair mains and AADs. Most other DZs still used 'gutter gear', aka military surplus T-10s and chest mounted reserves. Roger was using his Advanced Static Line (ASL) Program that combined static line and AFF progression. He was one of the first DZs to develop a program that resembles today's ISP program.

Freak Brothers Convention moves to Quincy, IL and changes its name to the World Skydiving Convention. Roger received more than 200 requests from jumpers to be on the world record 100-way attempts held at the Convention. The record was bumped up to a 120-way because the magic 100-way was completed 5 weeks earlier. The 120-way built on the 11th try from 18,000 ft on Aug. 11th. One C-130 was used as the aircraft. The formation was held for 3.01 seconds and then part of it funneled. The convention had the C-130, 6 DC-3s, a Beech 99 and a Skyvan for air support. Roger did not want any lines at manifest. Two thousand attended this Convention.

In May of 1986 Nelson and several others were indicted on drug smuggling charges. He pleaded guilty on March 4, 1987 after plea bargaining. Nelson claimed his involvement was part of an agreement with DEA. Many jumpers and drop zone operators criticized Nelson for his illegal activities as it cast a bad image for skydiving to the general public.

Much of the drug money was supposedly used to purchase state of the art student equipment and fund the C-130 at the 1986 convention. The C-130 cost $120,000 in ferry fees from South Africa, $3,000 per day plus fuel and $11,000 motel fee for the crew.

Many jumpers supported Nelson. In April 1987, Skydiving Newsmagazine ran an ad paid by friends of Roger Nelson that stated "Roger Nelson, we support you. We realize how much you have done for skydiving and now it's time to show our appreciation." the ad asked jumpers to write a character reference letter and send it to Nelson's attorney, Fred Morelli.

In the following months letters expressed disapproval of the ad and Roger Nelson's drug dealings. Robert Herron said "We don't or should not support any people involved with drugs. Maybe Roger Nelson sold your son or daughter some drugs. He should go to jail." Another letter from a police officer, Jeff Jones, stated "I've seen cocaine kill, partially because of smugglers like Mr. Nelson. He gambled. He lost! Don't ask me for a cent."

1988: As part of the World Skydiving Convention a 144-way World Record was set on Aug. 8 (8-8-88) It was a diamond formation held for 8.88 seconds over Quincy, IL. Three Skyvans and three DC-3s were used for lifting the jumpers to altitude. The 144-way diamond was built on the 10th attempt. Many seminars on freestyle, tandem and RW were also added to the festivities.

1994: Organized 232 way attempts in Lake Wales, FL.

1995: Organized 220 way attempts in Lake Wales, FL.. Yielded momentary 201 way

1998: Organized 300 way attempts, Skydive Chicago. Yielded momentary 259 way and then world record 246 way.
Captain, Old Gold - 10 way speed, Bronze Medal

1999: Captain, Skydive Chicago STL 10 - 10 way speed, Gold Medal

2000: Captain, Skydive Chicago STL 10 - 10 way speed, Silver Medal
Organized 300 way attempts, Skydive Chicago.

2001: Captain, Skydive Chicago STL 10 - 10 way speed, Silver Medal

2002: Captain, Skydive Chicago STL 10 - 10 way speed, Gold Medal

Roger Nelson was elected to the USPA Board of Directors in 2000. He served as a National Director for the 2001-2002 term.

Nelson ran Skydive Sandwich until 1989 and Skydive Chicago (1993-2003). He was owner of Lake Wales for a few years.

Nelson served jail time for tax evasion. (years?) He was sentenced to 10 years and served 5 (good behavior) 1988 -1993

Roger Nelson died as a result of a canopy collision on June 7, 2003 at Skydive Chicago.

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