Exploration

Wingsuit Distance Record Shattered

Former Navy Seal Andy Stumpf traveled more than 18 miles in a wingsuit after jumping out of a plane.

After the plane rose above 36,500 feet, Andy Stumpf let go and rolled into the sky. The former Navy Seal donned a wingsuit and had his sights set on the world record for distance.

The risks are enormous. Record-holder Jhonathan Florez, known as the Birdman, died last July during practice in Switzerland. The Colombian had achieved a distance of 17.520 miles in 2012. Last month American flier Johnny Strange died in the Alps when he lost control during a jump.

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Stumpf is a wingsuit flier, BASE jumper, military free fall instructor, pro skydiver, and father to three kids. He wasn't just pursuing the record for himself. He'd teamed up with the audio gear company Skullcandy with the goal of raising a million dollars for the Navy Seal Foundation, which supports the Navy's special warfare community and their families.

"It really takes one error and you're done," Stumpf says in a YouTube video showing his record-breaking jump over the summer. "If your oxygen failed at that altitude, you could black out. You could die just from spinning in that suit."

After letting go, Stumpf does roll. Wingsuited arms out, he looks a little like a stealth fighter jet. Even though the video, Wired, and PopSci don't say, his jump seems like it took place in California. Stumpf's GoFundMe profile says he's based in the San Diego metro area.

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He told Skullcandy that he started skydiving out of jealousy. Navy Seals don't get to learn free fall until they've been on a team for five years. "After two weeks of watching guys laugh at us static line jumpers, I decided I was going to go learn to jump on my own."

He did break Florez's record, achieving a distance of 18.257 miles. Back on the ground, his buddy Miles Daisher asks how it went. "Gnarly," Stumpf responds as the YouTube video shows him getting out of his gear. His hands are cold. They're four miles away from the airport.

"The air speed - I tried to go out tight, and it was just like whoosh," he says. "As soon as I went out, it just grabbed my left wing, and it started with a barrel roll. And then I got out of it, but the suit wasn't really flying that fast."

He figured flying on his back while spinning could help with the record so he did that for a few rotations.

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You can tell he was a little shaken by this jump, despite his extensive experience in the air. Ultimately he hopes it will help him with the fundraising effort, but I seriously doubt he'll try and beat his own record in the future. In the end he looks at the camera and says, "Let's not do this again." Yeah, dude. Once was more than enough.

Nik Wallenda will attempt to cross part of the Grand Canyon on a tightrope in June 23, live on the Discovery Channel.