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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019

Three Irish skydivers to attempt world record jump from 35,000 feet in California

The Irish Wingsuit Team are travelling to California to take up their challenge.

Brothers Stephen and david Duffy of The Irish Parachute Club.
Brothers Stephen and david Duffy of The Irish Parachute Club.
Image: Facebook

THREE IRISH DAREDEVILS are heading to the skies above the west coast of the US to try a break several skydiving world records.

Brothers Stephen and David Duffy from Kildare and Marc Daly from Armagh plan to jump out of a specialised plane at 35,000 feet and use their wingsuits to fly for about 26km at speeds of up to 300 km/h.

Achieving that would give them the world record for distance travelled in wingsuit performance flight, but to achieve it they’ll have to jump with oxygen masks for the first time.

The military grade HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) aviation oxygen life support system will let them breathe in the super-thin atmosphere, but it will restrict their vision and add to the alien feeling at those heights.

Without the life-support equipment, the life expectancy for a person at those kind of altitudes is about 30 to 40 seconds.

Unlike a normal skydive where the jumper is descending all the time, the Irish Wingsuit Team want to stay as high as possible as they fall to cover a greater distance.

The wingsuits mean that the speed the men will be travelling over the ground will be about 200 to 220 km/h.

“Your breathing is restricted because you’ve pressured oxygen all the way to your lungs,” Stephen Duffy explains.

“So I’m told it’s a very off-putting experience, or if not off-putting then it feels strange, it doesn’t feel normal. So it can put you in a bad head space if you don’t have the right mindset.”

It’ll be in excess of -57 degrees and we’ll be travelling at an average speed of 200-220 km/h which will give us a wind chill factor of about -97 degrees.

PastedImage-11752 The three men doing to some hypoxic training to get used to breathing using the apparatus. Source: Facebook/IrishWingsuitTeam

Before jumping from 35,000 feet, the three men will jump using the oxygen masks at the more benign skydiving height of 18,000 feet. In fact they’ll be doing 10 jumps over the course of the five days they’re in California.

Even at the lower heights there are records to be had both as a performance team and as individuals, but it’s their Sunday jump on 9 April that’s the big one.

Even reaching that height is a challenge because it’s usually just commercial jets that fly that high. In this case they’re being taken up their by a locally-owned Texas Turbines Cessna 208 that will have to fly at about 500 km/hr.

That speed means that the three men will be jumping out of an aircraft that will be travelling at a speed 3.5 times faster than normal skydive speed.

The rules of the record dictate that the three men have to leave the aircraft at the same time and the distance they achieve as a team is the average of the distance each travelled.

“It’s distance and time, so overall distance of flight and overall time of flight. So it depends on how long we can stay up there, and what distance over the ground we can cover in that time,” Murphy says, adding that there’s a specific reason why they want to hit the 26km mark.

On September 2018 we plan on flying from the north of Ireland across the Irish Sea to Scotland and the closest point is 22km and that’s why we have set out goal as we must get about 26km to make sure we get all the water.

The team had planned on trying to break the records in Ireland but getting the required permissions proved too costly so instead they settled on Davis, California outside Sacramento.

They leave this Wednesday for the States and have already done some training in Spain and the Netherlands, but are they worried about what’s ahead?

“I’ve only had two nightmares so far,” Duffy says.

“The temperature is what gets to me, I’d be afraid that even if you have no issues during the jump if you can’t open your parachute at the end because you can’t move your hands you have an issue. ”

Now we do have computers in our parachutes that, if we don’t open before 1,000 feet, it throws itself out itself. So we have a back-up but unfortunately only activates at a certain speed.

Hopefully, it won’t come to that of course.

Pictures: The Bray Air Display made Sunday spectacular yesterday >

Read: George HW Bush turns 90… and does a parachute jump >

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Rónán Duffy

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