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Real Heroes

Appointed Test Director of Project Excelsior, which tested man's ability to survive high altitude bailouts, he made his most significant jump on August 16, 1960. He stepped from a balloon-supported gondola at the altitude of 102,800 feet. In freefall for 4.5 minutes at speeds up to 714 mph and temperatures as low as -94 degrees Fahrenheit, Colonel Kittinger opened his parachute at 18,000 feet. The jump set records that still stand today: the highest ascent in a balloon, the highest parachute jump, the longest freefall, and the fastest speed by a man through the atmosphere. He occasionally ribs Chuck Yeager about being the first man to break the speed of sound.

Colonel Kittinger volunteered for three combat tours in Vietnam and served as commander of the famous 555th "Triple Nickel" Tactical Fighter Squadron flying F-4s. He downed a MiG-21 before he himself was shot down on 11 May 1972, after which he spent 11 months in captivity as a P.O.W.

He retired as a colonel in 1978. He won the Gordon-Bennett balloon races in 1982, 1984 and 1985 before accomplishing his most ambitious feat, a solo balloon crossing of the Atlantic.

Living in Orlando, Florida, he is Vice President of Flight Operations for Rosie O'Grady's Flying Circus and is also the star of the new Boards of Canada video.

Col. Kittinger's birthday is coming up fast (b. 07/27/28), and I say we send him a bottle of whiskey with two brass balls tied to the cork.


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