Don Kellner is a world renown skydiver. He owns the skydiving business Hazleton Regional Airport in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.
Currently, Kellner holds the Guinness World Record for over 44,000 skydives. He has had a skydiving business for over 56 years.
Kellner said that despite carefully planning a parachute landing, it is hard to carry it out completely according to that plan. Kellner said that when skydiving a jumper has to take into account the changes in winds during the plunge and try to guide him/herself properly. Overall, the goal is to find a safe place to land.
“Occasionally, you do miss,” Kellner said. “The objective is to land safely under an open parachute. We can guide ourselves around and land on a open area.”
Aside from being an experienced skydiver, Kellner works with his wife, Darlene Kellner—an experienced skydiver with over 17,000 jumps to her credit.
Kellner spoke highly of his wife, saying, “She teaches everything everyone needs to know. Everything from A to Z.”
Skydivers without experience do not jump alone. Instead, they participate in a tandem skydiving jump with a certified skydiving instructor strapped to their back. According to Kellner, this is mainly to help new skydivers get a feel for the sport.
Other skydivers are trained to land safely and learn to direct themselves in the air. In addition, these skydivers are taught how to redirect themselves in the air. These skydivers undergo classes and are taught how to depart from the plane and various other freefall maneuvers and how to properly operate their parachute.
Kellner said another tip to go by when the landing does not go as planned is to try to land near a road. It is easier to flag down a passing motorist and call for help. He experienced his own problems on a high-altitude jump in Florida. Along with other skydivers, Kellner missed his intended landing. This was due to a pilot dropping the jumpers off at the wrong spot. Because he did not see the airport, Kellner directed his jump toward a road. Swamps were on both sides of him. Luckily, passing motorists assisted him and he managed to get a ride back to the airport.
Nancy Koreen, a spokeswoman for the United States Parachute Association, said that sometimes parachutist need to land in other locations because of certain weather conditions or varied flight paths. Even if the skydivers land on private property it will all work out, she said.
“As a U.S. Parachute Association-affiliated skydiving center, above the Poconos Skydivers has agreed to require individual USPA membership for licensed skydivers who jump there,” Koreen said. “As a part of this membership, these jumpers have third-party liability insurance, which covers damage to others’ property that may occur during a jump.”
According to his website, Kellner is an Air Force Vet. While he accumulated over 3,000 hours in an aircraft during his time, he never jumped from a plane during his service. Kellner jumped for his first time in June 1961.