It turns out that torching a parachute is much more difficult than you would expect. There was a lot of prep work involved in this stunt, such as creating a deployment-system involving a plastic bucket filled with gasoline, a special cutaway system for a third parachute, and a detonation system that could withstand the forces of the parachute opening. Our first attempt failed when the igniters inside the canopy were detached during the opening process. Luckly we had a second chance the very next evening. With lots of help from Steve Curtis and Brandon Atwood of Arizona Arsenal, the stunt became a success. With a combination of 4 gallons of gasoline and 4 pounds of gun powder the canopy did not stand a chance. However, the ignition sequence had to be performed quickly, as the vapors of the gas were being dispersed by the air flowing around the parachute. About 17 seconds after exit, I used a 9 volt battery to create an electrical spark inside the canopy which held the charges and burning materials. Here is another look at the burning canopy stunt that appears at the end of the “4 Years” music video. Using a Go Pro, which was mounted to my left foot with gaffers tape, I was able to capture the action form another angle.
Captured by Joe Jennings, the video below shows the very first successful canopy burn performed by Steve Curtis. After dozens of failed attempts, Steve finally figured out the magic formula to make this stunt work (which is why his hands are up in celebration).