Winds force skydiver to delay record leap

Mon May 26, 2008 3:47pm EDT
 
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CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Strong winds forced French parachutist Michel Fournier to postpone plans on Monday to leap from a balloon 40 km (25 miles) above Western Canada, but he will make another attempt at setting the world-record freefall on Tuesday.

Fournier's website, www.legrandsaut.org, said the launch of the balloon that will carry the daredevil to the upper atmosphere above North Battleford, Saskatchewan, was delayed by two hours because of overcast conditions. By the time skies had cleared, the wind had picked up, forcing the delay.

The forecast for Tuesday is promising, according to the website.

Fournier, 64, a former colonel in the French army reserve, holds France's freefall record with a 12 km (7.5 mile) jump.

If he successfully completes the jump from high above Canada's Prairies, he hopes to claim four records: the freefall altitude record, the highest manned balloon flight, the longest time in freefall and the speed record for freefall.

Fournier will use a helium-filled balloon 90 meters (295 feet) high to reach the jump altitude. The balloon is expected to take 2-1/2 hours to make the trip, carrying a pressurized basket with oxygen and flight data instruments.

Fournier will jump wearing a spacesuit capable of withstanding temperatures of -100 Celsius (-148 Fahrenheit) for as long as 10 minutes.

Should he carry off his "Super Jump," he'll surpass official world freefall record of 24,483 meters, set in 1962, though in 1960 a U.S. Army captain fell 31,333 meters in an uncertified attempt.

He also expects to be the first human to break the sound barrier in freefall.

(Reporting by Scott Haggett; editing by Rob Wilson)

 
<p>File photograph of Michel Fournier posing in his supersonic freefall suit. REUTERS/Benali-Poulet/POOL</p>