Skydiving

WORLD RECORD: Greatest number of skydives jump simultaneously

Ossie Khan

15th February 2015 5 min read
Published skydiving article involving balloons.
Nir Davidson writes about his experience organising world record skydiving event

 

For the past few weeks, the team from Melbourne Skydive Centre and Go Wild Ballooning have been making balloon jumps over the Yarra Valley and learning the art of dropping a large amount of skydivers from a hot air balloon.

The aim was to beat the current world record of 20 skydivers exiting from a hot air balloon, at once.

Three weeks prior to the world record, we had attempted to get 20 skydivers out at once from the basket but Mother Nature did not agree and the temperature was exceeding the forecast and we could not get enough climb rate from the 400 Go Wild Balloon. We ended up with the twenty skydivers exiting in smaller groups.

The team.

Melbourne Skydive Centre ‘licensed safety officer’ for the event was Ossie Khan who spent many hours with legendary Go Wild Ballooning pilot/ owner perfect the art of mass drop at once from a hot air balloon. When we were deciding on the team we were looking for the following skills:

We needed each skydiver to have:

  1. Minimum 500 jumps
  2. license to jump outside of a training organisation
  3. 20 consecutively nominated landings within 15 metres of a target

The average experience level of participants was 860 jumps. We looked for good canopy skills and large parachutes for quick openings and safe landings. The jump happened next to our skydive centre in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia which vast open fields.

Largest number of skydivers jump from a balloon for a world record
Skydives jump from a balloon simultaneously for world record.

Below is a list of the 22 skydivers that jumped from the hot air balloon for the unofficial world record:

  1. Ossie Khan
  2. Nir Davidson
  3. Phil Hope
  4. Dan Barker
  5. Kerry Lewis
  6. Stephanie Chin
  7. Gints Leja
  8. Chris Barnett
  9. Ben Lappin
  10. Alexandra Mitirjake
  11. Will McMahon
  12. Tania Cale
  13. Jill Grantham,
  14. Steve Baich
  15. Rima El MAsri
  16. Brad Patfield
  17. Mark Fraser
  18. Sam Parker
  19. Matthew Cleave
  20. Sven Peter
  21. Alex Scala
  22. Dick Murphy

The pilots

Dropping this amount of people out of a hot air balloon, safely is a big task, so we had to work with the best of the best. Mark Fraser has logged over 3,800 flying hours around Victoria with his company Go Wild Ballooning. Marks position would be pilot 2 and ‘second in command’. His role is helping the pilot in command fly the balloon basket to height. Pilot 1 and ‘pilot in command’ was Chris Dewhurst who has so many hours he doesn’t keep track anymore.

Ballon pilots getting ready for world record
Balloon pilots preparing for stunt skydive world record attempt

Chris was the first person to fly over Mount Everest!

Imagine camping for two months while you wait for the weather to allow you to fly over that majestic mountain for the first time in human history!

Ok, back to our world record attempt.

Chris and Mark looked for the following for a successful jump without incident:

  1. Light skydivers to reduce the maximum take off weight
  2. Light winds to help with take off, and most of all landing especially in a safe manner
  3. Minimal cloud cover to determine what terrain the skydivers will exit over
  4. Constant communication with Air Traffic Control to assist airspace separation with transiting aircraft
  5. Communication with Ground control officers to ensure landing areas are appropriate along the balloon flight path

Now dropping a large mass of weight (over a metric tonne), from a hot air balloon, and surviving to tell the story requires skill and weather on your side. We needed low temperatures to help ascending and descending the balloon considering hot air rises and a warm environment outside of the ballon canopy can improve or hinder control.

Thankfully on the day of the jump and given Melbournes reputation of having four seasons in one day, we were all ecstatic the conditions were perfect! We ended up climbing to 11,500ft.

How do you drop a metric tonne of humans at once without losing control of the balloon?

So think about it. What would you say a hot air balloon stationary at a certain height would do if it looses one metric tonne of weight. Most people I have asked realise that “it probably would shoot up into the sky”- that actually makes a lot of sense.

So in order for this not to happen, to ensure the balloon canopy not to lose pressurisation, the pilot must reduce the temperature dramatically in order to set in on a trajectory losing altitude at a rate of 1000ft/ min. To do the pilot needed the inside temperature of the balloon canopy to be the same as the temperature outside the canopy. This temperature was 6.3 degrees at 11,500ft.  This is where the science and expertise of our pilots kick in.

The next step was to get the airspace clearance from both air traffic control but also the ground control officers. This was done by sending a broadcast to all radio frequencies to clear all airspace in the vicinity.

The next part of this project was the most fun. Everyone needed to get up on the lip of the basket, stand on the edge, and hang onto anything they could while the pilot opens the top vent begin the descent. What was achieved was a descent rate of almost 1800 ft/min.

Once the ballon reached 7,100ft, Ossie Khan barked order, FIVE….FOUR….THREE…..TWO….ONE….GO!!!

All skydivers left the balloon simultaneously and you could feel and hear their excitement as they wooted and hollowed jumping into crisp blue abyss of the sky! The next thing that happened, was the balloon rocked up at 1000 ft/ min and the pilot was working over time to keep the balloon intact and flyable. Chris did an amazing job, credit must be given where it is due.

The skydivers.

Balloon passing 10,000ft on the way up for world record attempt.
Skydivers world record attempt jumping from a not air balloon simultaneously.

FIVE….FOUR….THREE…..TWO….ONE….GO!!!

Everyone exited the balloon on time and safely, we all left the basket as one. Prior to launch, we conducted a number of practice drills on the ground that contributed to its success. We spilt the team into six groups and coordinated skydivers to fly away at different heights to find their own clear airspace to deploy parachutes. These heights were 6,000ft, 5,500ft, 5,000ft, 4,500ft, 4,000ft and 3,500ft.

I remember dropping away from the basket,  doing a small barrel onto my back and watched everyone execute the stunt perfectly. The balloon did rocket upwards and the ballon canopy did warp out of shape.  Everyone opened at their assigned height. With my canopy open, I looked around and started counting canopies, everyone was safe, open and flying! Looking up at the balloon, it was flying stable and looking good.

I looked down and Ossie was under his bright orange canopy and picking the landing spot in a nice green open field. I have to say I had a big cheshire grin, seeing everyone flying in formation and landing within metres of Ossie.

Thank you to the team of skydivers and especially Ossie Khan and Mark Fraser for putting in such an effort to make the event happen.

The event received national news coverage on TV, radio and local newspapers. We are now waiting for Guiness World recordist verify the event. A big part of me wants them to ask for more evidence just so we can do it all again.

Nir Davidson.
Co-Director / Co-Founder
Melbourne Skydive Centre.

For more information and details : https://www.ossiekhan.com/blog/world-record-greatest-number-of-skydives-jump-simultaneously-unofficial/

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