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Satellite operator takes silver in canopy piloting event

Maj. Matthew Shull (second from left), 6th Space Operations Squadron, stands on the podium at the Florida Canopy Piloting Association's fifth meet with the other four top finalists in June, 2018.

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Maj. Matthew Shull (second from left), 6th Space Operations Squadron, stands on the podium at the Florida Canopy Piloting Association's fifth meet with the other four top finalists in June, 2018. Shull took 2nd place in the event and will compete in the world championships next month. (Courtesy Photo)

Maj. Matthew Shull, 6th Space Operations Squadron, comes in for a landing during the Florida Canopy Piloting Association's fifth meet in June, 2018.

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Maj. Matthew Shull, 6th Space Operations Squadron, comes in for a landing during the Florida Canopy Piloting Association's fifth meet in June, 2018. Competitors exit an aircraft, deploy high-performance parachutes and maneuver over a course that is set up above a pond. (Courtesy Photo)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORE BASE, Colo. --

A Reserve Citizen Airman and satellite vehicle operator for the 6th Space Operations Squadron flies more than just satellites when he participates in canopy piloting. The sport is a landing competition and the first spectator-friendly form of skydiving, also known as “swooping.” Competitors exit an aircraft, deploy high-performance parachutes and maneuver over a course that is set up above a pond. They are then rated in three separate events for speed, distance and zone accuracy.

Maj. Matthew Shull, 6 SOPS flight commander, competed at the world level in canopy piloting in 2017 and finished 42nd out of 94 competitors. He continued his journey for the 2018 season at the Florida Canopy Piloting Association in June. During number five of six FLCPA meets, Shull placed 5th in speed, 2nd in zone accuracy and 4th in distance, putting him at 2nd place in the competition overall.

“This was good, considering my competition in 1st place is the world champion in the event,” said Shull in his after action report. “We finished with the distance event, which is usually my strongest [area]. I took 4th due to limited practice in the power events; speed and distance.”

Shull’s goals entering the event were to continue to train for the World Championships and National Championships later in the year, as well as get a top-three podium spot.  

“I was in 2nd place for the season after the last meet,” said Shull. “There is still a tight race for the silver and bronze season medals between myself and three other pro competitors.”

Lieutenant Col. Paxton Mellinger, 6 SOPS commander, expressed his appreciation of Shull’s dedicated pursuit of the sport.

“Maj. Shull continues to amaze me with his ability to compete head-to-head against canopy piloting professionals while managing a successful career as an Air Force officer,” said Mellinger. “His dedication to his fight commander duties and to canopy piloting is nothing short of amazing!”

After the competition, Shull said he will continue to prepare and train both physically and mentally before the National event in September and the World event coming up next month.

“I will strive for top finishes and my first gold medal for this league to hopefully hold my overall 2nd place,” said Shull. “The next competition is the World Championships; I’m going strong with just a few things that I need to work on. My confidence is high going into the final stretch.”

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To read more on Shull’s adventures with canopy piloting, please reference the following story –

Reserve Citizen Airman soars to new heights in Dubai

Editor’s note: To follow Shull’s progress in canopy piloting, watch for more additions to this segment after the world championships in July.