Still buzzing after yesterday’s record-breaking skydive, and coming rapidly to terms with stratospheric fame, Felix Baumgartner has announced his intention to quit while he’s ahead and retire from the “daredevil business.”
The 43-year-old stuntman, who learned his trade as a paratrooper in the Austrian air force, said that he now intends to settle down with his girlfriend and pursue a (comparatively) low-octane second career flying rescue helicopters.
"I'm retired from the daredevil business," he told reporters in Roswell, New Mexico, where Sunday’s spectacular jump was staged. ”I want to find a nice decent job as a helicopter pilot. I'll fight fires and rescue people. No e-mails, no phone calls.“
First, though, Baumgartner must fulfil his obligations to Red Bull, the fizzy drinks company which bankrolled the 128,100 foot skydive. To that end, he spent yesterday re-living the nine-minute journey from the edge of Space.
Footage from his helmet camera revealed exactly how close the freefall came to disaster during its early stages, when he entered what is known in skydiving circles as a “death spin” and was forced to consider deploying his parachute early.
“I never thought I was going to lose my life, but I was disappointed because I'm going to lose my record,” he recalled. “In that situation, when you spin around, it's like Hell. And you don't know if you can get out of that spin or not. Of course it was terrifying.”
Baumgartner’s $200,000 pressure suit, designed to cope with the high altitude, made it harder to regain control. “As a skydiver, you can feel the air and so you know what to do. When you’re trapped in this pressure suit there’s no feedback. So I really had a hard time.”
A second hiccup, when his facemask began to steam up, helped persuade Baumgartner to open his parachute after 4 minutes 22 seconds. That was slightly earlier than planned, meaning he did not break the world record for longest freefall. He nonetheless achieved the highest skydive in history, and become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier, hitting 834mph. “I didn't feel the sonic boom,” he said. “I think it happens behind you.”
Baumgartner also set a new altitude record for balloon flight. The eleven by eight foot capsule in which he completed the journey came to earth via a parachute and was retrieved from the New Mexico desert 55 miles east of his landing site.
After a proper night’s sleep, he now intends to head to Hollywood with girlfriend Nicole Oetl. “I'll go back to L.A. to chill out for a few days,” he said. “We will take it easy as hell, trust me.”
He’s also looking forward to some proper meals: prior to Sunday’s jump, doctors had him on a “low residue, low fibre” diet designed to prevent flatulence. In a low pressure environment, gas in his digestive system could have expanded, with disastrous consequences.
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