Saturday, May 5, 2012

Joseph Kittinger has a crop duster.

Today's post features a guest contribution from long-time friend of the Aficionado, Matt Chernos. Revel in the sights and sounds of the smooth narrations from sir Chernos.


I am off to Nepal for a couple months, so this will most likely be the last you hear from me for at least a little while.  

Now, when I tell hot girls, my girlfriend, friends, high schoolers at the bus stop, I like to ramp up how awesome my trip is going to be, saying something like “yeah, I’ll probably hike ALL THE WAY to Mount Everest Base Camp, then I’ll probably hunt for rhinos on the back of an elephant in the Nepalese jungle… no big deal”. Now, I like to think I’m living the dream (it makes me feel better about myself), but I definitely don’t have the stories to make moustaches twirl and hot girls… well you get the point.

Let me introduce you to Joseph Kittinger (not to be confused with Henry Kissenger).

Joseph kittenger

Joseph spent 28 years serving the American Military in the Air Force, serving in both Korea and Vietnam. During the Vietnam war, his plane was shot down and he survived, only to be captured and forced to spend 11 months in a North Vietnam POW camp. But Kittinger is best known for his role in Project Excelsior.

In this program, he would become the first “Extreme Altitude Parachutist”. In a test flight, he lost contact with the ground (although they could still hear him), and was running out of oxygen. His ground crew became worried and urged him to return to ground. To this, he replied (in morse code): C O M E A N D G E T M E.

His first jump involved sitting in a deckchair tied to a bunch of helium balloons flying to 23300m above the Earth in an open gondola powered by helium balloons. Unfortunately, this jump didn’t end very well when an equipment malfunction caused him to lose consciousness and plummet to the Earth, only to be saved by his automatic parachute. He would be back.

2 missions later, Kittinger was brought up to 31300m.

In his own words:

“The spectacle was breathtaking. I could see a thunderhead boiling up above Flagstaff, Arizona, 350 miles to the west. I could make out Guadalupe Pass in Texas to the east. It was almost like a painting. I can’t really describe the feeling I had hanging there in that tiny gondola and seeing this magnificent planet set against the utter backdrop of outer space. I suddenly had a powerful and unfamiliar sense of my own remoteness from everything I cherished in life.”

He free-fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds before releasing his parachute. During that time, he reached speeds of 988km/h, and set records for highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (four minutes), and fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere. His glove malfunctioned on the descent, causing his hand to balloon to double the size.

Watch this video – and feel free to dance along to the amazing soundtrack. Related: Kittinger may have been the first to use the “GoPro”.

But this wasn’t the end for Kittinger. After serving (and suffering) through 2 wars and a POW camp, he returned to America to continue to inspire countless missions. Now, 82 years old he hasn’t retired yet. He is serving as an advisor to Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull sponsored expedition to jump from 36000m, and to beat Kittinger’s free-fall records.

All that was left for Kittinger to do now, to cement his spot as a king among men, is to locate that elusive, long-sought after spot that can bring so much ‘pleasure’ to… nevermind.

Now folks, I don’t know about you, but Everest seems pretty small right about now.

Have any other suggestions for ridiculously moustachioed gentlemen? Leave your mark in the comments section below!

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