Profile - Pat Works | D-1813
Pat Works, D-1813, has been a member of USPA for 50 years, three of those serving as a national director. Works was on the forefront of relative work (RW, now called formation skydiving) in the 1970s and founded the C.G. Godfrog Good Vibes Award at the USPA Nationals. He was also instrumental in developing vertical relative work (vertical formation skydiving) in the 1990s and brought freefly to a world audience as a judge and competitor in the X Games. Along with his myriad skydiving accomplishments, he wrote the seminal books, “The Art of Freefall RW,” “United We Fall” and “The Art of VRW: The Way of Freefly.”
Name: Madden Travis Works Jr., called “Pat” for being born on St. Patrick’s Day
Marital Status: Married 41-plus years to Janet
Occupation: Owner of RWunderground Parachuting Publications from 1970 to present. Chief technologist at Northrop Grumman Aerospace and adjunct professor at the Claremont Graduate School. (Recently retired and loving it.)
Education: BA in English, University of Houston, 1967. MS in Information Systems, Claremont Graduate University, 1992. MBA in executive management, Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management, 1995. Post-graduate studies at the Ph.D. School of Information Science, Claremont Graduate University, 1992-1996.
Team Name: Many … team party practice robbed my memory, but a few stand out: The Wallace’s Outlaws, Texas A&M Parachute Team, University of Houston team, James Gang, Terminal Chaos, Godfrogs, Perris Skydance, Solitary Birds, ESPN Freefly.
Sponsors: Chiefly, Skydive Perris [in California] and the Conatsers, who have been friends, patrons and supporters for 35 years
Container: Fliteline Reflex
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Spectre
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs PDR
AAD: Airtec CYPRES
Home Drop Zone: Skydive Perris
Year of First Jump: 1961—a static-line in Houston that cost $15
Licenses: B-1513, C-1798, D-1813
Total Number of Jumps: 8,200
Accuracy: several hundred
Total Number of Cutaways: 35 to 40
Are you a neat packer or a trash packer?
Doesn’t matter. Parachutes don’t worry how they are folded. Me neither. Parachutes are bred to deploy, and I’m averse to reversing that process by trying to close ’em back up. I use a packer.
Would you rather swoop or land on an accuracy tuffet?
I don’t swoop. Low-pain landings allow multiple jumps where neither the paramedics nor the coroner need be called.
Most people don't know this about me:
People think that I am a dinosaur. However, in real life I am a fossil and perhaps as much a myth as a legend.
What quirks do you possess?
I am a black-belt space cadet. If aptitude conferred rank, I’d be a general.
Riding bulls at the Houston rodeos paid $15 per ride … easy money. My high-school buddies jumped on; not me. [They] taunted, “Works got no balls …” Bulls are bad-ass mean and plan to gore and stomp you. Parachutes are dumb with no ill will. “Shoot,” sez me, “I’d rather jump outta an airplane than onto a Brahma bull!” So, I called every airport in the Yellow Pages, found a place to jump, signed Mom’s name to the age waiver and leaped.
I skydive because...
It scratches my itch to touch the poetry of perfection.
Do you have any suggestions for students?
Have you jumped into the arms of earth-pushed air and snuggled there, lazy, letting the fall just happen? Most “make” a skydive. Can you simply “take” one? Relaxed in mind and body, give yourself over to wind and gravity?
Relax totally into the air. Let the wind cradle you. Letting the wind give you a position is to accept a gift. Allow the wind to configure you into your natural shape. Drift along on the arms of the wind so that intensity used to control flight is freed. Released from the chores of flight, your self-awareness has energy available to let you sense feelings that were before obscured by your fixation to do. Thus, by not-doing and exclusively be-ing, you earn a treasure. You receive a boon: enlightenment about an aspect of the air which, like a love, you can call on as you need.
What's the most bad-ass thing you can do in the air?
I can teach you to nail a head-down position in one jump.
What kind of skydiving student were you?
Jump number one was emotional overload, but I quickly caught on.
Is there one jump you would like to do over?
There is one jump I wish I hadn’t made at all. 1963: Jumping my too-hot 28-foot “TU” flat circular canopy (scissors mod) on a windy day, gusts deflate my canopy. Eeeek! I’d drop 50-70 feet and it’d pop open and then snap shut again. Bam! Ouch! Injuries kept me ground-bound for months.
What has been your best skydiving moment?
Getting back in the air after recovering from the car crash that paralyzed me [from the] chest down. Notes from that reentry jump: “Landing is a piece of cake … the smell of the canopy as I gather it in my arms is like being with a lover from long ago. I bury my head and sniff. It’s nice to be back.”
What has been your worst skydiving moment?
Ground rush: freefalling so low that your impact point explodes up at you, the horizon looms above you, and the landscape bursts out and rushes away instantly, replaced by sick fear, knowing death is here.
What has been your primary motivator for 50 years (and counting) as a skydiver?
Fun and sharing it, i.e., “the Communication Imperative.”
What goes around comes around for me. Learning what others know and then passing it on is a good path to keeping the fun in skydiving. Listen, learn and share with skymates, because learning skydiving in isolation takes a long time and costs a lot of money. More importantly, it can be downright dangerous.
Honor the Communication Imperative by being open to learning new things and then sharing what you’ve learned with others.
What is your perfect day like?
To pass the toe-tag test. On awakening, check your feet. If your toes do not display a mortician’s toe tag, it is a perfect day.
Explain Pat Works in five words or fewer:
Outrider seeking mind-food, eye-candy, enlightenment.
“The Art of Freefall RW” has been to skydivers what Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf” has been to golfers.
Looking back to when you were writing it, did you think it would have the profound impact on the sport as it has?
Yes and No.
NO! I was oblivious to anything but getting the book published. The worldwide adoption of my 1975 The Art of Freefall Relative Work (2 editions, 6 reprints and translated into four languages) startled me a great deal. The international respect and attention I was accorded as the master and professor was a surprise and honor. I was elated my books led to extensive world travels and a succession of training camps, including the first USA RW training camps. I was proud to have both the SEALS and the Army Parachute Team as my students. I had a knack for training by sharing discoveries: no-contact, Skydance, relaxation and attitude as sure paths to flight for the joy of flying. Unwittingly, Jan and I became jump-celebrities. But while it is agreeable to be respected, celebrity can be a less-than-pleasurable thing for this Texas boy. Admiration and high regard is hard to accept and tough to adjust to when all you’re doing is “your thing”.
YES! On the other hand, I’d expected some effect on our sport was assured because I had preceded my prescription for the “art” of flying with years of groundwork constructing a nationwide congress of RW alpha dogs to legitimize our pursuit. I called it The RW Council, and began publishing RWunderground, a subscription newsletter for which we had many contributors and that Jan and I produced on our kitchen table. The newsletter became a vehicle for articles and discussions surrounding the development and then promotion of formation skydiving as a competition discipline. Eventually the newsletter and its articles by various contributors around the country evolved into United We Fall, my second book. To my mind, United We Fall has had more relevance and impact on skydiving today because of its influence on the genesis of formation relative work. http://users.cis.fiu.edu/~esj/uwf/uwf.html
The Art of Freefall RW was successful because of good timing. In the 1960s-early 1970s, an infant RW was disrespected and disdained as “just Fun Jumping, certainly not authentic parachuting” with a conviction that real parachutists did style and accuracy (S&A). All parachuting competitions were S&A events; fun jumps were not on the dance card. There wasn’t a word for relative work until the mid-to-early 1960s. Contact freefall parachuting consisted of baton passes or aerial grab-ass, and the lone book on parachuting technique was Russ Gunby’s “Sport Parachuting - a basic handbook of sport parachuting” (1960) which described the two basic-stable positions and how to make turns. Contact RW remained elusive. At any parachute club that you traveled to, finding enough fun-jumpers to make a three-way was a Big Deal indeed. One of my goals with RWunderground and then The Art of Freefall RW was to describe how to do relative work skydiving, make its participants feel like part of a fraternity, and promote it as a legitimate competition discipline.
The book, being the first recipe book which told would-be flyers how to be RW skydivers, evolved into “The Bible” for performing those skills. I am pleased that it has done much more than I originally anticipated.