In the shadow of RedBull Stratos: Michel Fournier

Joe Kittinger (Left) and Felix Baumgartner (Second left)

By now everybody knows about Felix Baumgartner and the RedBull Stratos Mission. Everybody knows about Joe Kittinger, the current recordholder. But few people seem to know about Michel Fournier and his attempts for a record breaking freefall jump.

Maybe it’s good to start with the current record, achieved by Joseph Kittinger in 1960 (August 16). Being an Airforce testpilot, he became part of Project Excelsior. Goal of this project was getting more information about high altitude parachuting and conduct several tests. All of this happening in a time in which aviation was constantly breaking records. Planes kept flying higher and higher so it was rather interesting to know what would happen during a high altitude eject. In this context Joe Kittinger made his record jump from circa 31 Km. Not only doing the highest jump but also breaking the record of highest balloonflight, longest freefall and highest speed during freefall. All of these records are still unchallenged…

All of  these records might be broken soon (next Sunday?) by Felix Baumgartner, but there is another competitor in the game: Michel Fournier…

With all the news around RedBull Stratos, Fournier’s attempts have disappeared in Stratos’ shadows. Fournier has been trying to break the records since 2003, but it didn’t exactly go as planned. The goal he had in mind was jumping from 40 Km hight and to break all 4 records. Not having the big sponsor like RedBull, money is becoming a problem. Certainly after 3 failed attempts. During his first attempt in 2003 his balloon got damaged during inflation. His second attempt in 2008 was another setback. This time his balloon detached from his capsule and took off without him. The third time, in 2010, his parachute deployed in the capsule, unfortunately 40Km below his goal. That being on the ground…

Although Fournier has not yet achieved his goals, they are still worth mentioning. He has managed to put this project together without the big sponsor and without the worldwide media attention. Fournier, now 68 years old, is still working towards his goal. If Felix does brake the record by jumping from a hight of circa 37Km, his record might once get broken by Fournier…


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