Despite being best known for his dramatic live-streamed stratos jump in 2012, Felix Baumgartner has been a pioneer of the human flight scene for more than 20 years. We take a look back at our favourite leaps by the former Austrian special forces aerial display jumper.
5. Man vs Machine
Location: Lake Powell, Utah
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of human flight, Felix Baumgartner attempted a world first – to race a plane, and win. With a primitive carbon wing strapped to his back (this was 15 years ago), the design somewhere between a wingsuit and a Buzz Lightyear-style apparatus, Felix exited an aircraft from a substantial height before beginning a nose dive next to a single-prop 500 horsepower aircraft. Felix was quickly overtaken at the start of the race, although reached speeds of 260 km/h to eventually surpass the machine and cross the finish line in first place.
4. Wanted In Taiwan
Location: Taipei 101 Building
Felix actually asked permission from the Taiwanese government to jump from the 91st floor of (at the time) the tallest building in the world. They said no, although by this time he was already on the plane there, so he did it anyway. It involved months of thorough research and a perfectly executed plan, as Felix knew he’d end up in jail if he was caught. After numerous dummy runs, smuggling his parachute to the roof, and paying a bunch of local break-dancers to distract the security guards, Felix climbed the fence and jumped 509 metres to street level below. He then jumped in a cab, with his parachute in tow, all the while breaking his own record for the world’s highest BASE jump in the process.
Felix held the title since his 1999 jump from Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers, which, at the time, were also the highest towers in the world. With a fake security pass and disguising himself as a business man, Felix hid his parachute in a brief case to gain access to the roof. He’s no longer allowed into Taiwan, and presumably not Kuala Lumpur either.
3. O Cristo Redentor
Location: Rio De Janiero
Despite having permission for the freefall, this particular jump by no means falls short of being just as impressive. Why you ask? Because he set a record for the lowest BASE jump in the world at an astonishing 29 metres in height. He leapt from the hand of the iconic Christ The Redeemer with his parachute already open, draped over the palm of the statue.
2. English Channel Traverse
Location: The English Channel
In a custom-built wingsuit, Felix skydived from Dover, England to Calais, France from a dramatic height of 9144 metres. With no jetpack or engine, he simply glided over 34 kilometres of water at speeds of up to 354 km/h. It took him a total of 6 minutes and 22 seconds to reach France, again, setting a world record for his jump.
1. Red Bull Stratos
Location: 127 852 ft. above New Mexico
The holy grail of all jumps, a freefall from the edge of space. The mission spanned two years of preparation, and after various helicopter test jumps, Felix took to the skies on October 14, 2012. In a specially engineered capsule hoisted above Earth by a huge helium balloon, Felix travelled to a world record height of 38.969 kilometres before disconnecting his tether and leaping from the edge of space.
Unlike his previous jumps, the capsule was equipped with streaming technology to capture the event and broadcast live to millions watching online around the globe. Felix wore a pressurised suit to counterbalance the loss in oxygen at such a height, and, should this suit have malfunctioned, he would have died almost instantaneously.
Aside from smashing the world record for the highest freefall, Felix also broke the sound barrier with an incredible speed of 1357.6 kilometres per hour, making him the fastest man in history. No other person has travelled at a faster speed outside of a vehicle.
Shortly after leaping from the platform, Felix entered a violent spin which could have dangerously knocked him out, therefore making a parachute deployment highly unlikely. Fortunately, he recovered into a stable dive, and, 4 minutes and 19 seconds later, he pulled his chute and landed safely in the New Mexico desert.