From the archive: Joseph Kittinger’s skydiving achievements

The remarkable achievements of Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner yesterday thrilled viewers around the world, but also brought into focus the accomplishments

of the man specifically chosen to be his chief communicator in the attempt, Joseph Kittinger.

Kittinger set records for the highest, farthest, and longest freefall when he leapt from a helium envelope in 1960. His altitude of release was 102,800ft (31km) and despite yesterday’s attempt he still holds the record for the longest free fall for four and a half minutes.



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Flightglobal’s 100 year archives of course reported on the considerable achievements of Joseph Kittinger and some previous attempts in 1957 and 1959:


From Friday 7 June 1957


THE world’s official absolute altitude record was broken last Sunday, June 2, by a balloon piloted by Capt. J. W. Kittinger, U.S.A.F. Ascending from St. Paul, Minnesota, he reached a height of 96,000ft (over 18 miles). Subject to confirmation of the new

figure by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale–assuming it to be submitted for homologation–this handsomely exceeds the 72,395ft record which has stood ever since November 11, 1935, to the credit of two other American balloon pilots, Captain Orvil A. Anderson and Capt. Albert W. Stevens.



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From  27 November 1959


A PARACHUTE descent from 76,400ft (about 14i miles) was successfully made last week by Capt. J. W. Kittinger of the U.S.A.F., who fell for three minutes before his parachute opened automatically at 10,000ft. His descent, made from an unmanned balloon over the White Sands proving ground, New Mexico, was one of a series of tests by Air Research and Development Command of clothing and equipment. U.S.A.F. headquarters said that the jump constituted a record distance for free fall and was the longest in aerial history.



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From 16 August 1960


ON August 16, over the White Sands proving ground in New Mexico, Capt Joseph Kittinger, USAF, made a remarkable parachute descent from a free balloon. He jumped at an altitude of nearly 20 miles and pulled his rip-cord at 17,500ft after falling for 4min 38sec. In his fall he attained a speed of 614 m.p.h. or nearly Mach 1. Reports about the maximum height differ, but it is thought that Kittinger may have exceeded the world’s record of 102,500ft established by Lt-Col David Simons, USAF, in 1957. Certainly he surpassed the greatest height ever reached in a manned balloon with an open (i.e., unpressurized) gondola.



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