In 1998 I made my first tandem skydive. I loved every second of it! When it was over, and I was safely back on Earth, I said what most people say after their first jump... "I have to do that again! I'll be back to get my license!" Most people don't come back. They simply check it off of their 'bucket list' and for whatever reason, money, family, time... they never return.
Here's a picture of my first student jump. AFF Level 1
Memorial Day weekend of 1999, I started my AFF training (Accelerated Free Fall) and began the process of becoming a licensed skydiver and USPA (United States Parachute Association) member. Labor Day weekend, after a long summer of studying, training, and waiting for the next sunny day, I passed my final exam and got my license. I had to, among other things, pack my own parachute and jump it. It opened... obviously!
Here's a picture of my final student dive! AFF Level 8
Leonardo Da Vinci, is the patron saint of skydiving. His famous skydiving quote, is printed on T-Shirts in every drop zone all around the world. "For once you have tasted flight you will walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you long to return". You know what? He's right! He invented the first parachute, long before flight was even possible. And, just to prove his brilliance, his invention was constructed, and it flew!
Over the years, I've jumped hundreds of times, traveled around the U.S. jumping in a variety of places. I've met some of the most interesting people, from all walks of life. We almost never talk about work, we all have that one common experience, we're skydivers. We're a family, a group that can only be understood if you are a member. We laugh when someone asks "Why would someone jump out of a perfectly good airplane!?"
That's why when a guy like Felix, dares to challenge what is possible. Who takes the sport to the next level and beyond, we are all in awe, but for skydivers... it's something different. Watching his historic leap into the void brought me to tears. What he did could be considered crazy, or dangerous, or even stupid. But for me, it was miraculous!
My top speed is 176 MPH. I jump with people that are on the brink of 300MPH, and I went 630 in an F-15 and passed out, but to hit Mach 1.24, outside of any aircraft, in a space suit designed and built in Worcester and live to talk about it? Well, that is just awe inspiring.
Here is a picture of Felix breaking the sound barrier!
Many people don't see the value in the Space Program. They think in this economy, the money would be better spent elsewhere. The list of things that we use everyday that has come from space exploration is long. Microwaves, Velcro, memory foam, scratch resistant lenses, ear thermometers, cordless tools, and even water filters all found their way into our homes through NASA. They hold over 6300 patents. Countless advancements have been made because of Felix, and RedBull Stratus. It just may take a few more years to find out what they are. And to use them? We'll be paying RedBull!
Just in case you weren't one of the millions of people that watched Felix leap into history yesterday, check out these videos! It almost doesn't look real, but the amazing thing is... it IS real!
Watch the jump here!
And see what Felix saw from his helmetcam!
Some of my favorite quotes from yesterday...
“Start the cameras and our guardian angel will take care of you.” Col. Joe Kittinger
"One of the most exciting moments was standing out on top of the world, 30 seconds before stepping off." Felix Baumgartner
" I feet that The whole world is watching, I wish they would see what I see. Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are" Felix Baumgartner
"I want to inspire the next generation. I want to be in mission control with someone younger than me wanting to break my record." Felix
"I'd like to give the one-fingered salute to everyone who said he was going to break apart when he went supersonic." Col Joe
Stats from the jump:
Exit Altitude: 128,100 feet
Free Fall Time: 4 minutes, 20 seconds
Free Fall Distance: 119,846 feet
Maximum Velocity: 373 meters/second — He achieved Mach 1.24!
Felix, you have made a generation see what is possible, and you have made Da Vinci proud! Blue Skies!