New Zealand’s first high altitude low opening skydive has been successfully accomplished from 25,000 feet.
Tasman resident Wendy Smith achieved the New Zealand skydive record last week - successfully jumping from a Swiss-made, Pilatus Porter turboprop aeroplane at 25,000 feet above mean sea level, landing at Motueka Airport and opening the inaugural Lift Off Abel Tasman Festival.
Wendy used her on body, bail out Everest Skydive Oxygen system, equipment that has been tested and refined on Himalayan expeditions every year to jump next to Mount Everest.
Wendy and her Everest Skydive team honed their high altitude jumping skills at Mount Everest using the light, specially-adapted high altitude equipment - being lighter, stronger, and allowing faster freefall speeds and 3 diminutional body movements in the air - while breathing oxygen.
Wendy, who already holds 10 world records, two Guinness records and an EMMY AWARD, is a 21,000 plus skydive jump veteran. She is believed to be the first person to attempt a HALO (high altitude, low opening) skydive in New Zealand and indeed the southern hemisphere.
The jump wowed crowds at Lift Off, a two day festival of aerial adventure and fun held at Motueka Airport and Kaiteriteri Beach, also featuring hot air balloon night glows, live entertainment, fireworks and more.
In a HALO jump, the skydiver free-falls at speeds up to 250kph for an extended period before opening their parachute a short period before landing on the drop zone. It is a technique perfected by the military to drop personnel and equipment behind enemy lines.
In civilian life, HALO jumps are only attempted by the most experienced skydivers.
“Equipment is heavy, restricting and oxygen is seriously essential for flying above 10,000 feet for long periods,” says Wendy.
“Weather conditions at each upper altitude must be calculated for free-fall drift, and to open the canopy and land back on the drop zone spot. Usually we are trekking into the Himalayas and acclimatising our bodies as we gain altitude, today this record is done from sea level to 25,000 feet.”
The highest commercial tandem jump allowed in NZ is from 16,000 feet.
The team will be lodging the record with the World Air Sport Federation (Federation Aeoronautique Internationale, or FAI).