May 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 1 

Lessons from on HIGH

Kevin Keenan knows the team comes first, whether it’s at Boeing or while skydiving


Lessons from on HIGHKevin Keenan is one of 70 skydivers who share a world record for the largest canopy formation jump ever. The achievement is the result of skill, hard work, practice and precise teamwork—lessons Keenan applies in his job in the Homeland Security and Services business unit of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.

Keenan and other members of an international skydiving team completed the world’s first 70-way (for 70 skydivers) Canopy Formation Flight on Nov. 29, 2003, over Lake Wales, Fla. Several months later, the jump became an official world record, after review and certification by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the governing body for worldwide aeronautical achievements.

“The only way to successfully execute a world record like this is to be able to concentrate on the job at hand and have complete confidence that other folks are doing theirs,” Keenan said. “We rely— literally betting our lives—on the ability of our teammates to follow processes and do the proper task when needed.”

The record-setting jump began with the team members hurtling from three turboprop airplanes flying in formation at 14,000 feet. Once clear of the aircraft, they opened their parachutes and flew together into a precisely engineered diamond formation.

The skydivers grasped each other’s parachute canopies and locked their feet into the lines to solidify the structure of the diamond. They dressed as warmly as possible without affecting the aerodynamics of the formation to withstand the zero degree Fahrenheit (-18 C) exit temperature.

As the group reached 5,000 feet above ground, a member at the bottom of the group radioed up: “Complete!” Spectators on the ground could see the formation, which was larger than a 747 standing on its tail, for miles.

The skydivers continued to fly their canopies until the command came to disperse. “Starburst, Starburst … OK … 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Break,” came the command from formation pilot Chris Gay at the top of the big diamond. The parachutists employed a well-practiced row-by-row departure from the flying structure. When all were free from danger of entanglement, the sky was filled with victory cheers.

The skydivers had made two previous attempts at a 70-way canopy formation before succeeding. There were difficulties on the third, record-setting attempt, but the members quickly adjusted to recover and accomplish the mission. “Ideally, a jump would be flawless, but sometimes problems can be turned into success by identifying the problem and reacting correctly,” Keenan said. “It is imperative to know what each person will do, based on prearranged procedures, in order to identify gaps and respond in a way that allows the team to accomplish its goals.”

For Keenan, that kind of teamwork and performance under high pressure is not unique to skydiving. It’s a major part of what he does as a member of the Boeing team responsible for the Explosives Detection System contract for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. In that effort, as with the canopy jump, everyone knows the importance of having a dynamic and dependable team when it comes to accomplishing intricate and monumental tasks. At the time of the Dec. 31, 2002, deadline for all U.S. commercial airports to have explosives detection equipment installed, Keenan was Boeing Homeland and Security Services’ customer care manager for the Great Lakes Region of the EDS contract.

In May 2003, Keenan moved on to his present job as airport project administrator at the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he coordinates with a team of subcontractors, the Ports Authority of Puerto Rico and the TSA on work to install baggage screening equipment in conjunction with an extensive renovation project.

Whether he’s on a team of skydivers or of Boeing professionals, Keenan finds satisfaction in how people come together and respond in a way that allows a successful outcome: “The best part of being a part of a team is the rewarding feeling of an accomplishment upon completion of a big milestone.”


Front Page
Contact Us | Site Map| Site Terms | Privacy | Copyright
Copyright© Boeing. All rights reserved.