Baumgartner freefalls into record books

December 1, 2012

AOPA AV8RS

What would you be thinking as you stood on the edge of a pressurized capsule, pulled 24 miles high by a 40-acre helium-filled balloon, ready to jump back to Earth?

Felix Baumgartner said he wasn’t thinking about breaking records or gaining scientific data. “The only thing you want is to come back alive because you do not want to die in front of your parents, your girlfriend and all the people watching this,” he said after his Oct. 14 jump.

Knowing that millions were watching via television and the Internet, Baumgartner later said that he wished people could see what he saw. “Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you really are.”

The Austrian daredevil and BASE jumper later tweeted, “If you want to know what that felt like, just zoom all the way out on Google Earth and click the scroll bar until you reach the ground.”

You’ll get an even better indication of what that felt like, however, in this footage posted by Red Bull. It shows Baumgartner going from jump to supersonic speed in 33 seconds.

Baumgartner reached up to Mach 1.24, or 834 mph, while descending, becoming the first to break the speed of sound in freefall awhile setting the altitude record for a manned balloon flight and parachute jump from the highest altitude. He fell for 4 minutes and 20 seconds before deploying his parachute.

He landed in eastern New Mexico, about 25 miles from where he had originally taken off.

Coincidentally, Baumgartner broke the freefall sound barrier 65 years later to the day that Chuck Yeager became the first to break the sound barrier in a rocket-powered airplane, the Bell X-1.

The Red Bull Stratos jump broke another kind of record. According to YouTube, the live stream attracted the most concurrent views ever—more than 8 million.