I think today was the most memorable jump I’ve had yet, jumping at Sebastian as the space shuttle launched. This photo was taken by Scotty Burns, and I’m still filled with appreciation for the opportunity to be on this historic wingsuit jump.
As we climbed to altitude, the excitement was as thick as the air we were jumping into. All of us on the load were concerned we were late, but it turned out we were just on time.
When the pilot called “time to go” the fun jumpers/high pullers exited, and we stayed in the plane for a moment. Grey Mike looked out the door and said “We’re not going yet, it’s not right.” The pilot started to argue, and Mike simply said “No.”
A tandem that was scheduled to go after us pushed their way past the four wingsuiters where Grey Mike stubbornly stood in the doorway, counting out the time and the launch of the shuttle. The pilot even tipped the plane a bit to express the thought of “get the hell out!” Mike held his ground.
And then he called “Let’s go!”
The timing was PERFECT thanks to his experiences with previous shuttle jumps.
We exited way out over water.
GreyMike took the lead, I brought up the rear with Scotty hanging in the camera slot on the outside rear of the Otter door. It was “hustle” from the start, flying very, very fast. In hindsight, it could have been a slower float, but it worked out as it was.
GreyMike laid a very fast base, so it was a surprise to get any photo from the event at all. It was a real trip for a newbie wingsuiter like me to be able to keep up with GreyMike and PurpleMike, but I did, and it went wonderfully.
The roar of the shuttle didn’t reach us until around 8k, and it was as if Thor’s Hammer had struck, the air pressure and thunder were so enveloping and sudden. Nothing like a thunder clap, but more like a physical presence. It was magnificent, magical, and humbling all at the same time.
Scotty hung with us until the shuttle was out of the headline (where our bodies were in relation to the sky and the shuttle), and then he deployed. I believe he dumped around 8k, as he got some gorgeous shots from under canopy.
The next concern was getting back to the DZ. We were out, really out, and hauling ass back to the DZ. As we crossed over US1, I knew Mike had safely led us home and as we landed, I reflected on the moment with these guys. All of em’ are men I trust with my life, although I might not trust them with my wife, girlfriend, daughter, or beer….we came together as brothers to experience something virtually no one on the planet has ever experienced quite in the way we did. and with fewer than 10 shuttle launches planned for the future, perhaps no one else ever will.
I hope for the opportunity to repeat it one day. Thank you Scotty, for making this happen. I hope this moment in time catapults you to heaven. It surely gave me a piece of heaven, even if only for about 2.5 minutes.
Editing to add: This photo won the USA Today photo competition. Not only was it picked as the best by the staff at USA Today, it was also chosen out more than 50,000 reader votes as the best photograph.
Congratulations Scotty! One cool aspect, is all three wingsuit manufacturers are represented. Mike M is wearing a Mach 1 from TonySuit, Mike S is wearing a PhoenixFly Vampire, and I’m wearing a Birdman Blade.