The Irish Wingsuit Team broke a series of world records for distance and time spent in freefall earlier this month, writes Stephen Barry.
The daredevil trio of Marc Daly, from Armagh, and Kildare brothers David and Stephen Duffy jumped from 35,000ft, a height 6,000ft higher than Mount Everest, over Sacramento, California.
Such was their height, large clouds below were made to look like little cotton balls.
Their hi-tech equipment protected them as they jumped out of the plane at 250kph and into -59-degree temperatures (107 degrees below zero when you factor in wind-chill). That’s so cold the plane’s windows froze over as they ascended.
By the time they got back to terra firma, they had broken records for the longest distance and time in freefall.
For context, Stephen Duffy’s nine-and-a-half minutes in the air was double the time of Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the edge of space, while David Duffy covered 31km in flight (the distance between Dublin and Naas).
Speaking to us before the record-breaking dive, Stephen Duffy summarised the risks of the dive:
“Any open skin is frostbite.
“If your goggles were to come off, it’s instant blindness.
“If your oxygen system fails, you’re four minutes away from any breathable oxygen source.
“If you’re in a reduced-oxygen state, you can suffer from hypoxia. The first stage of hypoxia is like drunkenness, so you’ll notice there’s something wrong but you won’t react to it. The second stage is you’ll black-out.
“We’ll be getting out of the aircraft at much higher speeds than we’re used to and, unfortunately, you can’t simulate that on the ground.
“Even if we do very well, we only have a 12 to 15-minute oxygen supply.”
Thankfully, all went well and the trio have earned their place in the record books.