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PHOTOS: 164 skydivers join hands for world record at 20,000 feet


Vertical Skydiving World Record Source: AP

164 SKYDIVERS BUILT the largest ever vertical skydiving formation earlier today over the US state of Illinois, smashing the previous record.

The flower-shaped formation floated above the drop zone for a few seconds before the flyers broke away, and whooped as they flew head-down at speeds of up to 240 mph (386 km/h).

Today’s success came after 12 previous failed attempts to break the 2012 record set by 138 skydivers.

“It’s awesome, man,” said Rook Nelson, one of the organizers.

It just goes to show that if you can get the right group of people together and the right support team and good conditions, anything is possible … even on attempt number 13.

Vertical Skydiving World Record Source: AP

The team was selected after training camps in Spain, Australia and across the U.S.

Seven aircraft were flown in precise formation to ensure that the jumpers de-planed at the right place, time and altitude. The record-breaking jumpers exited at 19,700 feet.

Skydiving videographers taped the jump, flying above, below and alongside the formation.

The footage enabled judges on the ground to verify the record was achieved above Skydive Chicago, the drop zone and airport about 80 miles southwest of Chicago where the event took place.

Vertical Skydiving World Record Source: AP

Three judges certified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale — the World Air Sports Federation — studied the video and photos to make sure each flyer was in a pre-determined slot in the formation and has his or her hand in the correct position.

The record was not without risks.

The skydivers flew at a minimum speed of 160 mph, and some reached speeds as fast as 240 mph. Collision at such speeds can be fatal.

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Jumping from such a high altitude brings a risk of hypoxia — a condition arising from a lack of oxygen that can cause unconsciousness and other symptoms — or even death.

To reduce the risk of falling sick, jumpers and pilots sucked down pure oxygen once their planes reached 14,000 feet.

Vertical Skydiving World Record Source: AP

And with nearly 170 canopies simultaneously flying in the sky, there’s a risk of two parachutists flying into each other.

Despite the risks, flyers came from as far away as France, Britain, Dubai and Australia to participate.

“When (record) jumps work well, it’s like there’s a certain peace to it all, a certain harmony to it all,” said Norman Kent, a longtime skydiving videographer who filmed the jump.

And it’s contagious, it’s like it’s in the air and you can feel it even from a distance as a cameraman.

Contains reporting by Associated Press.

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Dan MacGuill

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