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Archive for category sky diving

Luke Aikins Jumps From 25,000 feet With No Parachute

On July 30, 2016, Luke Aikins, age 42, became the first person ever to attempt a skydive with neither a parachute nor a wingsuit, and this feat was broadcast live on Fox.

Mr. Aikins began his dive at an altitude of 25,000 feet, just 4,000 feet short of the summit of Mount Everest. Viewers watched him plummet, legs and arms spread, stomach down. Around 18,000 feet, he removed his oxygen mask and passed it to one of the three parachuted assistants diving with him. He aimed for the center of a 10,000 sq ft net, guided by GPS and lights. Seconds before impact, he flipped onto his back and landed safely in the California desert.

Aikins had been the backup jumper in 2012 when Felix Baumgartner became the first skydiver to break the speed of sound during a jump from 24 miles above Earth. He has made 18,000 skydiving jumps since he was 16.

Below is an interview of Aikins explaining his jump before he did it.

100 X 100 (10,000 sq ft) net to catch and trap Aikin

100 X 100 (10,000 sq ft) net to catch and trap Aikin

Aikins was able hit the net with pinpoint precision thanks to GPS alerts in his helmet and a sophisticated lighting setup on the ground that was visible from more than 25,000 feet up. If Aikins veered off course the lights appeared red, but when he was on target they shone bright white.

“They’re very similar to the lights that a pilot sees when landing a plane at an airport.”

Aikins was able to alter his course with just the slightest adjustments of his hands, because experienced skydivers have “incredible control” over where they land.

Here is an article with more pictures. Aikins said that the net IS his parachute. It’s just that it is below him, rather than above him.

Helluva trick! Want to go for a little ride???

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Alan Eustace Sky Dives From Record Breaking 25 Miles

Alan Eustace rises to record balloon height hanging in his space suit

Alan Eustace rises to record balloon height hanging in his space suit

Well records are made to be broken. I wrote about Felix Baumgartner’s highest-ever balloon ascent in 2012, when he reached 127,851 feet, which is almost 24 miles. It was an exciting and televised event that was called the Red Bull Stratos and had Felix rising inside a capsule that he opened and jumped out of.

But I learned recently that last April 14th, Google executive Alan Eustace rose higher, suspended from another balloon in his space suit as part of the Paragon StratEx (stratospheric explorer) project. Alan released himself at 135,899 feet and made it back safely after a free fall descent and then a parachute.

You can learn more at the StratEx web site and also in this NY Times article .

For a little over two hours, the balloon ascended at speeds up to 1,600 feet per minute to an altitude of more than 25 miles. Mr. Eustace dangled underneath in a specially designed spacesuit with an elaborate life-support system. He returned to earth just 15 minutes after starting his fall.

“It was amazing,” he said. “It was beautiful. You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.”

Mr. Eustace cut himself loose from the balloon with the aid of a small explosive device and plummeted toward the earth at speeds that peaked at 822 miles per hour, setting off a small sonic boom heard by people on the ground.

Below is the short video available, and a longer documentary is in production. I learned about this achievement from one of the team members who was involved, and her enthusiasm and pride were very exciting to encounter first hand.

Imagine what it must have been like for Alan to say, “Well guys, I am going to take a few days off from work to jump into the atmosphere from 25 miles up. Hope I see you on Monday!”

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How To Celebrate Your Birthday

Yesterday was my 74th birthday. I sat around the house enjoying family and friends. It snowed, I ate poached salmon and wine and carrot cake. Very sweet. Buttttttttt…..

For her 100th birthday, Georgina Harwood jumped out of a plane! It was her third (tandem) jump since she was 92! Now granted that I jumped out of planes five times in the army, when I was 22. So I could say, “Been there, done that.” But I won’t. Georgina earns a “tip of the hat, m’lady…”

And that wasn’t all. Two weeks later, this South African great-grandmother dove in a cage to see sharks up close. She said it was “the experience of a lifetime. Exhilarating.”

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You Won’t Believe Some Of These

I am almost speechless after watching this People Are Awesome 2013 video. There are athletic stunts and achievements here I have never even heard of, and many are clearly somewhat established “sports.” It also reminds me how nuts some people are to take these risks…like walking a tightrope between two moving trucks about to enter two different tunnels. Still can’t believe that is for real.

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When Our Gods Become Mortals

Felix Baumgartner in everyday clothes

Felix Baumgartner in everyday clothes

While watching a tennis match on TV recently, the camera suddenly focused on a familiar face in the stands. “I recognize that person,” I thought to myself, but couldn’t place him. Then the announcer said that he was Felix Baumgartner, the man who jumped last October out of a helium-filled balloon capsule from 24 miles high. He set all kinds of records. Millions of us watched the balloon’s launch and his jump over a few hours. It was thrilling, chilling and joyous.

jumping from 24 miles up

jumping from 24 miles up

We celebrated his courage, because he did something that none of us would do…nor even wanted to do. He risked his life and reputation…and now he is a guy watching a tennis match.

He was always just a guy with everyday life problems. He has to shower and dress himself. Earn money or manage what he has. Think up new challenges. Talk on the phone. Eat a meal.

Felix at work

Felix at work

But there was something quite disorienting for me to see this life-risking pioneer simply chatting away and watching live the same match I was watching on TV. If he was never my hero, I certainly applaud and admire his bravery and risk taking. I certainly admire his ability to organize the multi-million dollar program called Red Bull Stratos that built his equipment, his space suit, and launched him into space. And he was back being a mortal.

Maybe it was the life-risking part of the achievement that made his “ordinariness” so startling. When I see athletes who have aged since their glory days, so that they walk with a slower step or need assistance, I can accept readily their frailty and humanness. But something was different in viewing Felix being ordinary. Maybe you have a thought about what it was.

At the bottom of this page is a 90 second video of his momentous day last October. Enjoy it…

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Overcoming Your Fears

“Channel Your Fear Into Positive Energy” is a suggestion I have heard and attempted to apply for decades. You have that exciting tension that is outside of the normal sensation, and you have to break through some kind of barrier. I remember standing on the edge of a 20-foot-high diving board for half an hour when I was not yet a teen. I came down the steps…although I eventually climbed back up and jumped.

I remember standing in the open door of a military plane for five minutes as we approached the drop zone. What am I doing here, I wondered? Was I going to die in a few minutes? Then the green light came on, and the jumpmaster punched me in the butt and out into the air. I remember the next day in the plane, when a fellow jumper refused to go, after having a dream the night before that his mother was crying over his coffin. We all deal with fears somehow and to varying degrees. Some people can’t even watch others in risky or dangerous or death-defying situations. What are your thresholds?

Before yesterday, Felix Baumgartner said he was nervous about his leap from the stratosphere. But the 43-year-old daredevil—who has jumped from some of the world’s tallest buildings and soared across the English Channel in freefall using a carbon wing—regards a tinge of fear as a good thing.

“Having been involved in extreme endeavors for so long, I’ve learned to use my fear to my advantage,” Baumgartner said. “Fear has become a friend of mine. It’s what prevents me from stepping too far over the line.”

And from another article: A number of things could go wrong: his blood could boil, he could go into an uncontrolled spin and be knocked unconscious, he could smash into the ground.

Ironically, the one thing that the Austrian extremes-man feared the most was the full body gear that will ultimately protect him from all these terrible possibilities.

The New York Times’ John Tierny writes: Mr. Baumgartner, a former Austrian paratrooper who became known as Fearless Felix by leaping off buildings, landmarks and once into a 600-foot cave, said that this was his toughest challenge, because of the complexity involved and because of an unexpected fear he had to overcome: claustrophobia. During five years of training, he started suffering panic attacks when he had to spend hours locked inside the stiff pressurized suit and helmet necessary for survival at the edge of space

Baumgartner conquered his fear through therapy and guidance from 84-year-old Joseph Kittinger, a former U.S. Air Force pilot who jumped from 19.5 miles in 1960. Until Baumgartner’s successful jump is completed, Kittinger still holds the current world record for highest altitude parachute jump.

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Felix’s Record Free Fall Jump From 24 Miles High

Like millions of other viewers, I was riveted by Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting balloon ascent and free fall jump today. He rose above 24 miles during 2 1/2 hours, with the tension throughout of a malfunctioning heating element on his visor that might have cancelled the jump. He went anyway and had trouble seeing through the fogging on the way down.

The video above focusing on the two minutes before the jump gives you some idea of the meticulous attention needed for this five-year project to succeed.

Felix jumps from 24 miles high

The most exciting times for me were the actual jump (shown right) and the spin he went into when he hit air below the vacuum he jumped into. All that turning could have sent too much blood into his head, so that he would black out and not be able to deploy and guide his chute properly. But his years of experience jumping taught him how to recover to a stable situation. He said later that unlike normal jumps, his space suit this time prevented him from feeling the air to help him know what to do. It was like being in a cast.

Here is a link to a 90-second video of the day.

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October 8th Attempt To Break Four Skydiving/Balloon Flying Records

Here is a well-done animation of an upcoming, record-breaking attempt on October 8th: Felix Baumgartner is going to jump out of balloon from 120,000 feet (nearly 23 miles). If everything works out, this Austrian skydiving daredevil will shatter the marks for highest jump, fastest freefall, longest-duration freefall and highest manned balloon flight. He will also become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier. You can read more about it here.

helium inflation of 55-story tall balloon

Baumgartner said he is nervous about Monday’s (October 8th, 8 am EDT) leap from the stratosphere. But the 43-year-old—who has jumped from some of the world’s tallest buildings and soared across the English Channel in freefall using a carbon wing—regards a tinge of fear as a good thing.

July landing

“Having been involved in extreme endeavors for so long, I’ve learned to use my fear to my advantage,” Baumgartner said. “Fear has become a friend of mine. It’s what prevents me from stepping too far over the line.”

The pictures are from a test flight this past July in which Felix jumped from “just” 18 miles.

mission summary

You can learn more about the actual jump here and follow it live with 35 cameras. Pretty exciting!

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Mr. Death Loves Thrill Seekers At Birthday Parties

Talking to some friends yesterday about thrills like parachuting and paragliding, I reached for my computer and showed the June 15th video on this site of people screaming excitedly during their maiden tandem BASE jump. Suddenly I saw that my friend was not smiling, but crying, and she asked me to turn it off. A neighbor and friend of a friend in her town was being buried as we talked after making a first-time, tandem parachute jump from a plane in which the chute never opened and both jumpers were killed. More poignantly, the jumps were gifts at a 50th birthday party for guests who had the courage and interest to try it out. I heard how the man’s wife also jumped and was walking along afterward looking for her lost husband. The CBS news story starts out like this:

David Winoker was a guy who didn’t take chances, always driving below the speed limit, always using several layers of sun block. His wife says she urged him to go skydiving Friday, and he reluctantly agreed. Taking that risk cost him his life…Three million people skydive in this country every year. In 2011, there were 21 related fatalities. Of those, just one was a tandem jump like Winoker’s.

As I started to tell my daughter about it later on, she interrupted and said she definitely wants to try jumping…and then I told her about this accident. A severe reminder that there is always danger in these thrilling adventures that take no skill, no practice. Just courage and money. When I jumped out of planes 50 years ago, it was after three weeks of conditioning under strict supervision. Yet people were killed and injured anyway. It’s a risky game. And jumping in tandem is definitely not a sport.

A few days earlier, I’d found this story about an experienced mountain climber who fell to his death. I knew two people who went hiking and fell over cliffs and died. It all sounds so idyllic, but accidents do happen, even to experienced professionals.

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Tandem Cliff Jumping For Newbies

This video of amateurs making their first jump in tandem off of a cliff is really exciting. Wait until you here one lady screaming with fear!! I made solo, low altitude parachute jumps decades ago in the army using a static line. But somehow I don’t think I am ready for this new sport. How about you?

Here is a long long article that accompanied the video. And just for the record, BASE jumping is the extreme younger cousin of sky diving, which many probably think is extreme enough. Rather than dropping from planes, however, BASE jumpers fall from objects attached to Earth. That is the acronym: buildings, antennas, spans (bridges) and Earth itself.

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