Felix Baumgartner is only person in history, to have stepped from a balloon perched at the edge of space and broken the sound barrier at an estimated speed of 1,357 kilometres an hour on the 39-kilometre plummet back to Earth. Surprisingly dubbed “Fearless Felix” Baumgartner now has his feet planted firmly on the ground.
Record breaking Austrian skydiver, base jumper, stuntman and racer Baumgartner, was born on 20 April 1969, in Salzburg, Austria to mother Eva and father Felix Snr. Baumgartner has one sibling, a brother named Gerard.
As a child, he always set his sights on flying and skydiving. At the age of 16, before beginning his career in adventure sports, Baumgartner entered the Austrian military’s “Special Forces Demonstration Team”. It was during this time, he practiced intense parachute jumping, improving his diving and acrobatic skills.
To help support his passion financially, he would work as a mechanic and race-car driver.
In 1988, he was asked to do a skydiving stunt for Red Bull. On the back of this, he formed a partnership with “Red Bull” and began skydiving exhibitions. “Red Bull” have sponsored a lot of his record breaking skydiving ventures.
By the 1990, Baumgartner had achieved all he could with traditional skydiving, so he changed his focus to BASE jumping – parachuting from a fixed object or platform.
His passion to break records began in 1997, where he gained his first title “World Champion” for Base jumping in West Virginia.
In 1999, he claimed his first “World Record” for the lowest BASE jump, 95 feet, off the Christ the Redeemer statue (statue of Jesus Christ) in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. This particular jump came with controversy among other BASE jumpers who pointed out that Baumgartner measured the height of the statue as his conquest even though he actually landed on a slope below the statues feet.
Baumgartner then claims his second “World Record” for the highest parachute jump 1,479 when he jumped from the Petronas Towers Building in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This was followed by another parachute jump, from the ‘Pirelli Tower’ in Italy, Milan.
2001 and London Sporting Officials nominate Baumgartner for a “Worlds Sports Award”, for the category of Extreme Sports.
2003, Baumgartner became the first person to skydive across the English Channel in Dover England by means of a specially made carbon fiber wing created by Alban Geissler and Christoph Aarns.
2004 and another “World Record” for becoming the first person to BASE jump from the newly completed Millau Viaduct in France. The Millau Viaduct is a 343 m cable-stayed bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau in southern France and can lay claim to the title of the ‘Highest Bridge’ in the world.
Again in 2004 he BASE jumped into Marmet Cave, a 200m/ 623ft vertical drop, located on the Velebit Mountain, deep in Velebit National Park, Croatia.
2006 and Baumgartner earns his motorized wings as a helicopter pilot at Twin Air Helicopter school, van Nuys, USA.
2007 Baumgartner BASE jumps from the “Worlds Tallest Building”, the Taipei 101 which was officially classified as such in 2004. Formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, in Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan. The Taipei 101 stands at 1,669 feet high comprising of 101 floors above ground level and five floors underground.
In January 2010, it was reported that Baumgartner was working with a team of scientists and sponsor Red Bull to attempt the highest sky-dive on record.
March 2012 and Baumgartner begins a series of tests required to assist in his preparation to become the first man ever to jump from a height of just over 39km/24 miles, an estimated speed of 833.9 mph from the edge of outer space.
He successfully completes the first of two test jumps at a height of 71,581 feet. During the jump, he spent approximately three minutes and 43 seconds in free fall, reaching speeds of more than 580 km/h (360 mph), before opening his parachute. In total, the jump lasted approximately eight minutes and eight seconds and Baumgartner became the third person to safely parachute from a height of over 21.7 km (13.5 miles).
Later in July 2012, Baumgartner completed the second of two planned test jumps from 29,460 meters (96,640 ft). It took Baumgartner about 90 minutes to reach the target altitude and his free fall was estimated to have lasted three minutes and 48 seconds before his parachutes were deployed.
With his test jumps completed and successful, Baumgartners planned jump was scheduled for 9 October 2012, however was aborted due to adverse weather conditions.
Initially, whilst training for his space jump, Baumgartner struggled with claustrophobia after spending time in the pressurised suit required, however he eventually overcame his fear with guidance from sports psychologists and other health care specialists.
The Launch was rescheduled for 14 October and the world waited patiently glued to their televisions to see Baumgartner step off the spaceship platform and freefall a record distance of 36,402.6 metres (127,852 feet) in a time of 4 minutes and 19 seconds securing his spot in the Guiness World Record Books. However it wasn’t the only record to come out of his balloon flight, he also recorded the highest manned balloon flight (at the same height) and fastest speed of free fall at 1,357.64 km/h (843.6 mph),making him the first human to break the sound barrier outside a vehicle.
His record has since been broken by Alan Eustace an American computer scientist who serves as a Senior Vice President at Google. Unlike Baumgartner, Eustace, a Cessna twin engine jet pilot, was not widely known as a daredevil prior to his jump.
Eustace’s descent to Earth lasted 15 minutes and stretched nearly 26 miles (42 km) with peak speeds exceeding 821.45 miles (1,322.00 km) per hour; setting new world records for the highest free fall jump, and total free fall distance 123,334 feet (37,617 meters). However, because Eustace’s jump involved a drogue parachute while Baumgartner’s did not, their vertical speed and free fall distance records remain in different categories.
In 2015, Baumgartner changed his thrill dynamic by entering Motorsport, where he chose to co-drive alongside two of the most accomplished sports car drivers in the world, Stephane Ortelli and Christopher Haase, for one of Europe’s most successful customer racing squads, Phoenix Racing.
No pressure at all for a man who only two years ago ticked off Audi’s learn-to-race program before kick-starting his track career driving a tiny Volkswagen Polo against 16- and 17-year-olds in a one-make series. He has since co-driven in a couple of six-hour races in Europe plus the famed Nurburgring 24 – Hour, where his team finished a highly creditable ninth place.
In his personal life, in November 2012, Baumgartner was convicted of battery and was fined €1500 after punching a Greek truck driver in the face.
After Austrian authorities refused to grant sports tax breaks to Baumgartner, he moved to Arbon, Switzerland, whereupon his house in Salzburg and his helicopter were seized.
Baumgartner dated has dated Playboy German playmate of the century Gitta Saxx and was later engaged to Nicole Öttl, a model and former beauty queen (Miss Lower Austria 2006). In 2013, both parted ways.
“I like competition, I like challenges, but I’ve never been an adrenalin junkie. I have been fighting against this image all my life. I’m more a risk manager.
“I like to do something from scratch, like when I started my first skydive, you work your way up to this level. I think it’s all based on the same principles – if you want to perform well, no matter what you do in life, it’s the focus, the confidence in yourself, the ability to surround yourself with the right people in life, you can only listen and learn from the best.”
……./ Felix Baumgartner