These Associations Broke Felix Baumgartner’s Fall

From parachute associations to record certifiers, a number of associations played a role in the groundbreaking Red Bull Stratos jump on Sunday.

Felix Baumgartner is better at falling down than you are.

We have already shared a great deal of our work with the space flight industry, and there will be more data to come when the mission is complete.

Don’t believe us? Watch this animated GIF.

As a skydiver who likely set a death-defying record over the weekend, the Austrian national became a real-life superhero to millions. And to hear him describe what he did sounds amazing and scary all at once.

“It’s like swimming without touching the water, and it’s hard because every time it turns you around you have to figure out what to do. So I was sticking my arm out, then it became worse,” he told ABC News. “I had a lot of pressure in my head. But I didn’t feel like I was passing out. I was still feeling OK, I — I thought, ‘I can handle the situation.’ And I did.”

He may have been the only person who made the leap, but it took a lot of people to get him there — including a number of associations. Here are a few that played a role:

The parachute backers: What’s a skydiver to do without a little bit of help? The United States Parachute Association (USPA), of which Baumgartner is a member, recently placed a large splash image on its site congratulating him on a job well done. On top of that, one of its designated safety and training advisors, Luke Aikins, played a key role on the Red Bull Stratos team. It might be a mutual blow-softening, as the group works to improve skydiving’s image. “As an organization, USPA needs to take whatever steps we can — both big and small — to change the public’s misperceptions and inform the media and the general public about our sport,” they wrote in a recent blog post. You don’t get a better opportunity to improve that image than this, right?

The record analyzers: Someone has to make sure that Baumgartner actually set the record, and in the case of the Redbull Stratos fall, nobody is more responsible than the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). At the site of a record attempt, an official from one of the group’s National Airport Control organizations must be present to verify the record. An official from the National Aeronautic Association of the United States, the American representative, was on hand to verify the event. Now, other organizations worldwide, including in Baumgartner’s native Austria, will verify the event before the record is confirmed. But that didn’t stop the FAI from running an article titled “I watched a new World Record today.”

Kittinger makes his groundbreaking 1960 jump. (US Air Force photo)

The mentor: Joe Kittinger, the man whose 1960 skydiving record was broken on Sunday, was the point man on the radio when Baumgartner made his fall, working as the capsule communicator on the team. Kittinger is highly respected in the skydiving and aviation communities; in fact, the National Aeronautics Association has dubbed him an “Elder Statesman of Aviation.”

The medical breakthroughs: The work of the Red Bull Stratos team could have some important ramifications for the medical community. Dr. Jonathan Clark, the medical director on the mission, says he and his team plan to share their discoveries with the community that could use them the most. “We have already shared a great deal of our work with the space flight industry,” he said, “and there will be more data to come when the mission is complete.” Clark and his team will take part in 2013 Aerospace Medical Association meeting, presenting 11 separate talks revealing their discoveries.

Baumgartner’s fall was a great example of calculated risk, and an even greater example of a group of people getting all their ducks in a row. What can your team learn about working together from the Red Bull Stratos team?

(Red Bull Stratos photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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