Jump Start

Red Bull resumes quest to eclipse Kittinger’s high-altitude records.

It’s a leap year, much to the relief of legendary Orlando aviator Joe Kittinger. A quest to break his high-altitude jump records, which have stood for nearly 52 years, is back on track, with Kittinger, 83, playing a supporting role.
Energy drink maker Red Bull announced in early February that it has resumed efforts to send daredevil Felix Baumgartner to 125,000 feet in a pressurized capsule hoisted by a balloon and record his parachute jump back to Earth (Orlando magazine, March 2011). Red Bull put its Stratos project on hold 17 months ago because of a legal dispute that it quietly settled last July. Daniel Hogan, a California entrepreneur, claimed in his lawsuit that Red Bull had stolen his idea and plans for an attempt to break Kittinger’s four records—highest
altitude parachute jump (102,800 feet), longest free fall (4 minutes, 36 seconds), highest altitude balloon flight and fastest speed by a human unassisted by a vehicle (614 mph). If successful, Baumgartner’s plunge would reach 640 mph.
Kittinger will assist with flying the balloon via radio control and communicating with Baumgartner as he checks off procedures during ascent and final preparations for the jump over New Mexico. Red Bull Stratos hasn’t announced a timetable, but Baumgartner told Fox News in early February that “our launch window starts in July.”
“We were very disappointed that it got dragged out by all this,” Kittinger says of the legal wrangling. “But we’re past that now and we’re pressing on.”