Former World Kangdukwon Federation Chairman breaks yet another world record with jump from 42,017 feet (12,807 meters).

My Last Halo

Former World Kangdukwon Federation Chairman breaks yet another world record with jump from 42,017 feet (12,807 meters).

Froze my hands and excruciating pain in my ears, but a new GUINNESS WORLD TANDEM ALTITUDE RECORD of 42,017 feet in honor of Thomas J Noonan lll, Folds of Honor and the Punya Thyroid Cancer Foundation.

I sent this to skydive people I am close with. I want to be clear about this most recent record jump and its purpose. I don’t care what anyone else thinks, but you guys are the most likely to read and try to understand.

Tom Noonan was not only a long time teammate, he was like a son. We spent years trying to make the altitude record happen. The seventh attempt was in Poland, and it was the most highly organized and professional of all the people we tried to work with. Unfortunately, when it came time to do the jump, Tom hurt his shoulder and couldn’t do it, and then had to have surgery and would be out for months. Because I had to have ear tubes put in, and we had gone through all the training and testing, and because we had the best team and they were ready, the decision was made to go ahead with the jump, with a great Polish T.I.

Tom was, understandably, disappointed, and I felt guilty.

Fast forward to 2021. Unbeknownst to me, Tom had been talking, first with Incredible Adventures, and then directly with the owner of the West Tennessee Skydive operation about his plane that could go to 41,000 ft. He called me and said he wanted to do it and wanted me to do it with him. Of course, I agreed, but made it clear I was only doing this for him, because that’s what teammates do.

We went there and I left the technical details to Tom. We did a practice jump and it was crap. The loading wasn’t right and we were too far away from the door. At that point we weren’t smart enough and didn’t know enough about the O2 system, and its limits, and didn’t ask and consider those critical details.

On the 41,000 ft jump, there were Tom and I and two sport jumpers, as well as a videographer, jumpmaster, and safety/O2 guy. We went off the onboard system way too soon, because the hoses weren’t long enough and we had to wait for the sport jumpers to get out. Unknown to us, mostly because we didn’t ask, there was only 2 1/2 minutes of O2 in the pony bottles(barely enough to cover the freefall time). The result was everyone who went of the onboard cylinders and some level of hypoxia, and in Tom’s case it was fatal.

Once that dust settled, I gathered a small group of experts to dissect the gear, the systems and the procedures, initially to try to shut down the 41,000 ft operations and initiate a deeper criminal investigation.

There are those who chose to fold their arms and just be mad at the owner and people at the DZ; I didn’t see that as constructive. My thinking was that we either get those jumps shut down (which happened temporarily) or force all the necessary changes to avoid deaths in the future, as it turned out, it did the latter.

I spent the next three years vacillating about doing this jump again. In the end I felt I owed it to Tom to be the guinea pig to test the systems and procedures, and I did it, but this time not with anyone close.

Tom died way too soon, and I have lived a life and am old enough I am ok to die, then or now. His death could have just been mourned and be the end, or there could be a lasting legacy that he would be proud of. My efforts, including the jump, were to cause the research and the changes that would help minimize (but not eliminate) the danger to this jump, and then prove out the system, so that would become his lasting legacy.

Everyone has an ego, but in this case, I was driven by a higher purpose. True friends didn’t need this explanation, and the haters will hate anyway. I am too old to care about things I can’t control.

Jim Wigginton