Cheryl Stearns is an aviator and one of the most successful competitive skydiver in the world.
Cheryl began skydiving in Scottsdale, Arizona at the age of 17. Her father then tried to encourage her in a new direction by paying for her flying lessons but she fell in love with both activities.
Cheryl continued developing her flying and parachuting while she attended Scottsdale Community College on a tennis scholarship. In 1975, after graduating she contacted world-renowned skydiving coach Gene Paul Thacker to see if she could work for him at his airport and learn competitive parachuting from him. With Thacker's promise to help her, Cheryl moved to Raeford, North Carolina.
In 1977, after winning her first national championship and establishing a world record in accuracy, Cheryl joined the U.S. Army and became the first woman member of the Golden Knights, their elite parachute team. She served two three-year tours with the team, winning many national and international championships. Cheryl retired as a Master Sergeant from the US Army Reserve in 2005. She then served on the US Army Women's Foundation Board of Directors.
Besides her success in skydiving, Cheryl has excelled in the air as a pilot. After earning her instrument, multi-engine, and instructor ratings in Arizona and gaining experience flying for Raeford Aviation, Cheryl taught flying during her free time while in the Army. She also earned the degrees of Bachelor of Science in Aviation Administration and Master of Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at Pope Air Force Base campus. She subsequently gained experience flying medical evacuation, teaching and competing in aerobatics, flying and jumping for Air Show America, and flying for Henson Airlines and then Piedmont Airlines.
Recently she won the Bronze Medal in Women's Overall Individual Style and Accuracy at the XXV World Parachuting Championships in Japan in 2000 and owns the record for the most total parachute jumps made by a woman (15,560 jumps as of August 2003), as well as the most parachute jumps made in a 24 hour period by a woman (352 jumps from November 8-9, 1995).
In early nineties she started the Stratoquest project to try to beat the high altitude record jump established by Joseph Kittinger in 1960, as well to obtain valuable data for future system of high altitude bailout.
After setting a probable jump date for 2005, the program has been frozen, waiting for funds to acomplish it.