A former member of Austria’s Special Forces, Felix Baumgautner has not been nicknamed Fearless Felix by his fans for no reason. The Austrian daredevil has a strange penchant for jumping off buildings and is preparing to attempt an even more extreme sport. He intends to fall to Earth from a helium filled balloon on the edge of space, and he hopes to drop further and faster than any parachutist before him has ever achieved. The forty year old aspires to be the first freefalling human to break the sound barrier. He has attained the support of energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull, and has even attracted the attention of former US air force pilot Joe Kittinger.
Kittinger holds the current record which Baumgautner longs to beat, having jumped from a balloon 20 miles above the New Mexico Desert in 1960. Kittinger is now by Baumgautner’s side, acting as his “mentor”. The Austrian is already an extremely accomplished parachutist, having jumped from some of the world’s tallest buildings including Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers. He has even leapt from the statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro and sky-dived over the Channel. His planned jumped later this year will be from 120,000ft – 23 miles.
Baumgautner is not without competition, however. Former French paratrooper Michael Fournier has spent a huge portion of his life as well as most of his savings also trying to surpass Kittinger’s record. He follows an intense physical training programme of parachute jumps, jogging and yoga, and plans to make another attempt at the record in May this year.
If you fancy either of these two daredevils to achieve the unthinkable and break the sound barrier, the effects of which we should add no one is quite sure, you can bet on your champion of choice at Paddy Power, who are offering odds of 1 / 2 that it will be Baumgautner who succeeds first and 4/1 on Fournier.