One Navy SEAL, one mission, one wingsuit … and a world record gets smashed at more than 140 mph.
An American veteran, retired U.S. Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf, risked his life to support the SEAL community and set a global record in a death-defying feat.
You may associate Navy SEALs with water, but they also master skills on land and in the air – hence the acronym SEAL for Sea, Air and Land. Stumpf took on a highly dangerous extreme air challenge, from an extreme height, at extreme speeds in extreme temperatures – and nailed it.
Armed only with a wingsuit and a whole lot of courage, Stumpf jumped from above 37,265 feet to honor friends and families of fallen warriors to raise awareness and support for the Navy SEAL Foundation.
The prior record was 17.83 miles absolute distance traveled in a wing suit – this “Man on a Mission” travelled 18.257 miles, setting a new world record. Stumpf embarked on this dangerous quest as part of a mission is to raise $1,000,000 for the Navy SEAL Foundation’s Survivor Support Program for 2016.
Low Tech, High Jump
A wing suit somewhat resembles Batman’s Batwings, although custom-made wingsuits can provide more precision at extremely high speeds.
Stumpf’s wingsuit had two arm wings and a leg wing, all supported by inflatable pressurized nylon cells. This design helps to maximize a flier’s surface area. Surface area is important because it impacts the lift and helps the flier travel horizontal distances at a slower rate of descent. The shape of the wings also impacts the flier’s aerodynamics.
The large tail wing helps to increase forward speed. A helmet is worn through which the flier receives oxygen. A camera is often attached to the helmet to document the flight.
To control direction, speed and lift, the flier uses his or her body. To prepare mentally and physically for this extreme feat, Skullcandy Human Potential Labs helped Stumpf. Headphone specialist Skullcandy says that the Labs’ goal is to “unlock sports and human potential through music, science and technology.”
Stumpf exited a plane at an altitude of more than 36,000 feet.
At this height, oxygen is extremely limited. "It really takes one error and you're done,” explained Stumpf explains in a YouTube video posted by Skullcandy. “If your oxygen failed at that altitude, you could black out. You could die just from spinning in that suit."
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In a wingsuit, first you fall, then when the suit inflates you start flying. The more speed you attain, the farther you can travel by gliding.
To travel a massive distance, Stumpf’s wingsuit required a rigid isometric hold that needed to endure for the more than seven-minute flight. The wingsuit also needed to be robust enough to withstand the free fall speeds sometimes faster than 140 mph.
In order to make this journey, Stumpf had to travel through extreme temperatures at both ends of the spectrum. Leaving the plane, the temperature was a very, very cold minus 54 degrees Fahrenheit.
To land, wingsuit fliers deploy a parachute. When Stumpf made it safely to the ground he was in 100-degree heat.
An Inspiring Veteran
Now a world record holder, Stumpf is an expert skydiver who served in the Navy for 17 years. During his military career, he served as a U.S. Navy lieutenant and SEAL operator with 10 tours of duty.
After a serious combat injury, it looked like Stumpf might never walk again. A true inspiration, he beat the odds through perseverance and dedication to a rigorous rehab regimen. He not only regained the ability to walk, but returned to active duty and deployed again as a SEAL.
Stumpf’s admirable record includes five Bronze Star Medals (four with Valor), a Purple Heart, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corp Commendation Medal with Valor, Army Commendation Medal, two Combat Action Ribbons, and a Presidential Unit Citation.
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The veteran put his life on the line to try to help the families who have lost their loved ones in service to our country.
"Behind every soldier serving in our military is a family whose love and support makes their complete and unwavering commitment to this country possible. The Navy SEAL Foundation exists to support the families of fallen SEALs through counseling, community and education,”Stumpf explained, in a press release.
"It is an honor to support and shine a light on a person like Andy,” added Skullcandy CEO Hoby Darling. “Someone who pushes his own limits in order to give back to a cause he cares about deeply. That inspires all of us."
You can learn more about Stumpf’s mission and support it here:
You can learn more about the World Record jump here.
Editor's Note: This story's headline has been updated.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.