The Triple 7 Expedition team loads onto an airplane at Complete Parachute Solutions in Coolidge, Arizona, in December 2022. Legacy Expeditions photo.
Shortly after New Year’s, a team of 10 veterans plans to race around the globe, completing seven skydives on seven continents in seven days.
If the team succeeds, the Triple 7 Expedition will create a world record for the fastest time for a team to skydive on all seven continents.
But George Silva, a retired Navy corpsman and the expedition’s operations manager, told Coffee or Die Magazine that stumbling blocks could waylay the team on its way to the record.
“Everything’s planned, right?” Silva said. “It’s just there’s some time windows. There’s weather that’s unknown. There’s just all these unknown factors.”
George Silva, a retired Navy corpsman and the Triple 7 Expedition's operations manager, works during the jump team's final training at Coolidge, Arizona, in December 2022. Legacy Expeditions photo.
Logistically, a lot could go wrong with the Triple 7 Expedition. Bad weather could delay skydives, and delayed skydives could cause the jumpers to miss commercial flights between continents.
“That’s when all hell breaks loose, right?” Silva said.
With the Amazing Race-style trip, the Triple 7 Expedition hopes to draw eyes and raise $7 million for Folds of Honor, a US nonprofit that annually provides thousands of scholarships to the families of fallen and wounded veterans, as well as first responders.
The team considered flying on private aircraft but nixed the idea because of cost.
Jariko Denman, a retired Army Ranger and one of the Triple 7 jumpers, comes in to land at a drop zone in Coolidge, Arizona, in December 2022. Legacy Expeditions photo.
“We’re kind of balling on a budget here,” Silva said. “To get a private aircraft that would have been substantially more expensive, so we just did what we had to do to be able to pull this off.”
Flying commercial between continents means that the Triple 7 team will have to wait in lines for airport security and international customs, trust that dozens of bags full of gear aren’t lost, and make rigid departure times between each leg.
The timeline gets particularly tight at the fourth stop in Barcelona, Spain, a leg that begins with an overnight flight from Miami.
“By the time they land in Barcelona, it’s going to be like 7 in the morning, something like that, and they’re going to fly out of Barcelona at 3:35 in the afternoon,” Silva said. “A very short turnaround.”
Inside nine hours, the Triple 7 team will have to arrive in Barcelona, drive an hour to the drop zone, skydive, and then head back to the airport in time to catch the next flight to Cairo, Egypt.
Documentary crew member Will Sharman and operations team member Michelle Ballesteros at the Triple 7 team's Arizona training in October 2022. Legacy Expeditions photo.
“They have to be at the airport at least — well, it says three hours for international flights,” Silva said. “I think we can get away with two hours. It’ll be a tight squeeze.”
Only 10 jumpers will skydive over each continent, but behind the trip is a team of about 15 medical, research, and operations personnel. They’ll troubleshoot travel issues, coordinate with drop zones, monitor weather, and even track down lost baggage. Some will be along for the trip, while others will coordinate from home.
The expedition will also bring along a documentary film team led by Dan Myrick, the director of The Blair Witch Project.
“It’s not just 10 guys going skydiving,” said Glenn Cowan, one of the jumpers. “It takes a village.”
Triple 7 jumpers Glenn Cowan and Mike Sarraille before a skydive at Complete Parachute Solutions in Coolidge, Arizona, in December 2022. Legacy Expeditions photo.
Triple 7 began with Mike Sarraille, a retired Navy SEAL. The project is the latest in a series of far-flung parachuting expeditions Sarraille has launched, including skydives into five of the world’s highest drop zones in the Himalayas in October 2021. He dedicated those jumps to the fallen US service members of Extortion 17 and raised $200,000 for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
Since then, Sarraille and his business partner, Andy Stumpf, himself a retired Navy SEAL and a world record wingsuiter, founded Legacy Expeditions, the adventure firm behind Triple 7. The pair completed 16 jumps into Iceland last summer to raise more money for SOWF.
“It’s been balls to the wall,” Silva said. “I don’t know what other real term to kind of say right there.”
Two volunteers, Noah Lorette and Collin Belanger, will keep an eye on weather for the team. The two men contacted Sarraille and Stumpf after hearing the jumpers on The Joe Rogan Experience.
The Triple 7 team prepares to skydive at a drop zone in Coolidge, Arizona, December 2022. Legacy Expeditions photo.
The two have already produced a preliminary weather report, warning that conditions could be a problem in Antarctica come early January.
“So starting in Antarctica, the biggest issue is going to be ceilings, and they have not really a daily occurrence, but they’ll have a couple of days straight of heavier winds,” Belanger said.
Weather may also be an issue in Africa and Asia.
“Egypt is probably going to be the hardest location,” Belanger said. “They have a pretty small block of time. They have generally low ceilings this time of year. About 12 days a month in January, they have pretty low ceilings and fog.”
“And then Abu Dhabi has almost the same setup as Egypt,” Belanger said.
During the expedition, the pair will update the Triple 7 team with forecasts several days in advance and share real-time wind conditions.
A Complete Parachute Solutions team member packs a parachute in Coolidge, Arizona, December 2022. Legacy Expeditions photo.
“We hope everything goes according to plan, but we know how this is: Weather can change everything,” Silva said. “Just one day will change everything.”
Silva has been at the center of planning the whirlwind trip since its earliest stages as the project’s operations manager. That’s included booking airfare and hotels and submitting waivers, medical records, and COVID-19 vaccination cards just for permission to travel to Union Glacier Camp, Antarctica.
“We had to do all the flights for each continent,” Silva said. “When we need to be there, what drop zones we’re going to utilize, how far away the drop zone is from the airport, figuring out transportation to and from the airport, media, you know, just really whatever needs to be done.”
Silva said he’s already looked into alternate flights and hotel bookings if the first jump doesn’t go according to plan. Compiled in his "battle book" he has all the jumpers’ Social Security numbers, dates of birth, passport numbers, everything necessary to reschedule flights when something goes wrong.
The Triple 7 team, sponsors, and support staff in Coolidge, Arizona, December 2022. Legacy Expeditions photo.
Silva’s job only intensifies once the expedition kicks off in early January. He will be in Raleigh, North Carolina, working face-to-face with an American Airlines representative assigned to the trip.
“If something happens,” Silva said, “we’re going to be able to change those flights in real time.”
Silva has already been running through contingencies in his head. But he said those plans wouldn’t firm up until the first skydive into Antarctica, slated for Jan. 9.
“As soon as they make the jump, I'm going to start calculating times. I'm going to start figuring out, okay, are we going to meet our deadlines?”
According to Sarraille, the jumpers will have plenty to worry about as they reach each drop zone, with equipment, safety, media, and even lack of sleep. That makes Silva’s logistical role all the more critical.
“That guy — the operations demand,” Sarraille said, “without him, none of this happens.”
Black Rifle Coffee Company, which owns Coffee or Die Magazine, is a sponsor of the Triple 7 Expedition.
Read Next: 7 Jumps, 7 Continents, 7 Days: Triple 7 Expedition Will Set Records, Benefit Gold Star Families
Jenna Biter is a staff writer at Coffee or Die Magazine. She has a master’s degree in national security and is a Russian language student. When she’s not writing, Jenna can be found reading classics, running, or learning new things, like the constellations in the night sky. Her husband is on active duty in the US military. Know a good story about national security or the military? Email Jenna.
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