A group of 138 skydivers in Northern Illinois broke the vertical skydiving world record on Friday night, creating a massive 150 foot-wide snowflake formation as they launched themselves from 18,500 feet at speeds of 220mph.
It took the group 15 attempts over three days to break the previous record of 108 skydivers, which was set in 2009.
‘I feel amazing,’ said Rook Nelson, organizer and owner of Skydive Chicago, where the record was broken. ‘There was a lot of emotion and a lot of days where we should have got it. But we dug down deep and stuck at it.’ Following months of planning, tryouts and camps to decide who could take part in the dangerous challenge, the 138 record breakers squeezed into six aircraft from which they launched themselves into their pre-assigned slots in the massive human snowflake.
Flying at such a high altitude presents a risk of altitude sickness, so the skydivers and pilots used oxygen tanks aboard the planes.
Four camera operators shooting video and stills jumped with the 138 participants to record their achievement for the Federation Aeronautique Internationale judges.
According to co-organizer Mike Swanson, a professional skydiver who base jumped from Willis Tower and its fellow Chicago skyscraper Trump Tower for the movie Transformers 3, those images are key.
If nobody records the new record, Swanson said, ‘then it wasn’t really done.’