Legendary Air Force Pilot: The death of retired U.S. Air Force Col. Joseph Kittinger occurred on Friday in Florida. For over 50 years, Kittinger, now 94, maintained the record for the highest successful parachute jump.
Ex-U.S. Rep. John Mica and other pals broke the news that he had died of lung cancer. Former Air Force captain and pilot Kittinger became famous around the world after he jumped three times in ten months from a gondola lifted into the stratosphere by enormous helium balloons.
Legendary Air Force Pilot
Project Excelsior’s primary goal was to contribute to the development of ejection systems for military pilots engaged in high-altitude operations. Kittinger was almost killed during his maiden jump in November of 1959 from 14.5 miles in altitude when his equipment failed.
He blacked out as he spun at 22 times the force of gravity, but his automatic chute deployed just in time to save him. Once again, he successfully performed a jump of nearly 14 miles a month later. Kittinger set the mark in the New Mexico desert on August 16, 1960.
This time, however, his pressure suit failed as he ascended, causing his right hand to swell to double its normal size only moments before he was scheduled to jump from 19,500 feet in the air. His parachute opened at 18,000 feet, slowing his descent from over 600 mph to around 150 mph due to the gradually thickening air.
Joseph Kittinger, a Record-Setter High in the Skies, Dies at 94
— StratoCat (@stratoballoon) December 10, 2022
The native of Tampa said in 2011 that it was impossible to imagine the speed of Florida Trend magazine. Nothing in the environment may be used as a visual indicator of velocity. You can’t perceive depth.
If you’re in a car and you close your eyes while moving down the road, you won’t know how fast you’re going. Even if you’re falling through space, it’s the same thing. Nothing indicates the way to go. Your brain registers the speed, but your body does not.
The wind is not blowing at 614 miles per hour against you. In the silencer, I could only hear my breathing. After his jumps, Kittinger remained in the Air Force and completed three tours of service during the Vietnam War.
Yet again in awe of the quiet accomplishments of others. https://t.co/g3wQUvSn2V
— Matt Sztajnkrycer (@NoobieMatt) December 10, 2022
After being shot down and ejected in May of 1972, he was arrested and spent the next 11 months being tortured in a Hanoi prisoner-of-war camp. Upon leaving the Air Force in 1978, Kittinger became a household name in the Orlando region.
In 2012, Austrian Felix Baumgartner surpassed his record by jumping from 24 miles above the New Mexico desert and attaining a speed of 844 miles per hour. Kittinger served as a consultant. His wife, Sherri, will be left behind.
Hombre. (“Life is an adventure, and I’m an adventurer. You just have to go for it. That’s the American way.”) https://t.co/yiMKx7nK59
— Jay Nordlinger (@jaynordlinger) December 10, 2022
Joe will be sorely missed, but his legacy and accomplishments will be celebrated for generations to come, as expressed by Explorers Club President Richard Garriott de Cayeux. Kittinger, a longtime club member, was honoured with the Explorers Club Medal in 2001.
— 1517 Fund (@1517fund) December 10, 2022
Garriott de Cayeux boasted that he was the first person to see the Earth’s curvature in its entirety and the first person to traverse the Atlantic Ocean alone in a gas-powered balloon.
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