Who is Felix Baumgartner?
Felix Baumgartner is a record-breaking Austrian skydiver, BASE jumper, stuntman, and racer. He became the first person in human history to break the sound barrier while skydiving, which means, he is the first person ever to freefall at a speed faster than the speed of sound. On October 14, 2012, Baumgartner skydived from a helium balloon hovering in the stratosphere at a height of 128,000 feet. With this feat, he created a world record for the greatest vertical freefall, covering a phenomenal altitude of 24 miles. Baumgartner also happens to hold the record for the world’s lowest BASE jump. He is famous for his adventurous stunts and his affiliation with extreme sports. Before undertaking his major stunts, he trained in the Austrian army, honing his parachuting skills.
Childhood & Early Life
Felix Baumgartner was born on April 20, 1969, in Salzburg, Austria. He is the elder of the two sons of Eva and Felix Baumgartner and has a brother named Gerard Baumgartner.
Baumgartner was passionate about flying from an early age. He skydived for the first time at the age of 16, at a skydiving club in Salzburg.
Before beginning his career in adventure sports, he was in the Austrian military’s ‘Special Forces’ demonstration team. During this period, he trained to improve his diving and acrobatic skills.
In his early days, Baumgartner supported himself by working as a mechanic and a racecar driver. In 1988, he collaborated with ‘Red Bull’ for the first time for a skydiving stunt. Following this, ‘Red Bull’ sponsored a lot of his record-breaking skydiving ventures.
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In the year 1999, Felix Baumgartner set multiple records with his parachute jumps. His first record was for the highest parachute jump, created by his leap from the famous ‘Petronus Towers’ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This was followed by another parachute jump, from the ‘Pirelli Tower’ in Italy, Milan.
In 1999, Baumgartner also scored the world record for the lowest BASE jump (95 ft) by plunging from the arm of ‘Christ the Redeemer’s iconic statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There were, however, rumors that claimed that other BASE jumpers (who avoided publicity) had already created the said record.
On July 20, 2003, Baumgartner created his next major record by flying across the English Channel with the assistance of a specially designed carbon fibre wing. The SKYRAY carbon fibre wing used for this skydiving expedition was reportedly designed by Alban Geissler and Christoph Arns, who had later sold the prototype to ‘Red Bull.’
Between 2004 and 2006, Baumgartner created two more records. In June 2004, he became the first person to BASE jump from the ‘Millau Viaduct’ in France. In August 2006, he set an unprecedented record by first skydiving onto and then BASE jumping from the ‘Turning Torso’ in Malmö, Sweden.
On December 12, 2007, he took a plunge from the observation deck of the 91st floor of the ‘Taipei 101,’ which was the tallest building in the world at the time. No person had attempted this before Baumgartner, and this was yet another record for him.
In January 2010, Baumgartner started his preparations to score a skydiving record from the highest altitude ever, assisted by a team of scientists and sponsored by ‘Red Bull.’ His goal was realized on October 14, 2012, in New Mexico. With this, he bagged the records for the highest-altitude jump (24 miles) and the fastest freefall recorded in history (4 minutes and 19 seconds).
With the 2012 jump, Baumgartner broke Joseph Kittinger’s record of the highest parachute jump. The jump not only created world records but also contributed to the advancement of scientific researches related to the stratosphere, helping scientists develop better space equipment and space suits.
Between 2013 and 2014, Baumgartner undertook another intense physical training for two consecutive car races. He joined ‘Audi Motorsport,’ raced ‘Volkswagon Polos’ in 2013, and drove the ‘Audi R8 LMS’ for the 2014 ‘24 Hours of Nurburgring,’ helping the team acquire the ninth position in the race.
Baumgartner was the first person to skydive across the English Channel. It was a stupendous achievement that brought him attention and accolades from all over the world.
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Felix Baumgartner’s 2012 skydiving feat in New Mexico was acknowledged by the authorities at the ‘Guinness World Records.’ After setting multiple records with just one jump, Baumgartner became an immensely popular celebrity in the realm of extreme sports.
Awards & Achievements:
In 2012, Felix Baumgartner won the ‘Bambi’ award in the ‘Millennium’ category. The same year, in December, ‘Top Gear’ magazine listed him as one of ‘The Men of the Year 2012.’ In 2013, he won the ‘National Geographic Adventurer of the Year’ honor.
At the 2013 ‘Spike Guys’ Choice Awards,’ Baumgartner was honored with the ‘Mankind Award.’ In March 2013, he was named the ‘Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year.’
After the successful highest-altitude jump of 2012, Baumgartner’s name was added to Vienna’s ‘Street of Champions.’ He was also nominated for the ‘NEA Extreme Sports Awards’ and the ‘World Sports Awards.’
He was featured by ‘Flying Magazine’ on their 2013 list of the ‘51 Heroes of Aviation.’ He was ranked 46th and was the youngest living man to make it to the list.
In 2015, he won the ‘Steiger Award.’
‘Global Fashion Network’ featured Felix Baumgartner on their list of the ‘Most Stylish Men 2017.’ He graced the second position on the list.
The daredevil was presented with the ‘Living Legends of Aviation’ honor in Beverly Hills, US, in 2018.
Family & Personal Life:
Baumgartner briefly dated Gitta Saxx of ‘Playboy German Playmate of the Century’ fame. Later, he was engaged to Nicole Öttl, the winner of the ‘Miss Lower Austria 2006’ pageant. They called off the relationship in 2013. Since 2014, Baumgartner has been in a relationship with Mihaela Rădulescu, a Romanian TV presenter.
Baumgartner was dragged into controversy a few times because of his brawls and political comments. In 2012, he was penalized with a fine of €1,500 for slapping a Greek truck driver after the two of them got into an argument.
In 2016, his ‘Facebook’ fan page with more than a million followers was deleted due to some of his unorthodox political stances, including his endorsement of Norbert Hofer of the right-wing ‘Freedom Party of Austria.’
Prior to this, he had also expressed controversial opinions against refugees while recommending Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, as a nominee for the ‘Nobel Peace Prize.’
Presently, he claims to have retired from extreme sports. He now mostly remains busy with his helicopter and also serves the community as a firefighter.
Felix believes that the air is where he is “at home” and has a tattoo on his forearm that reads “Born to fly” in Gothic font.
Felix’s record-breaking 2012 jump from the Earth’s stratosphere was a high-risk endeavor that required him to wear a pressure suit, like the ones used by astronauts, for safety purposes. He found the suit extremely confining and required the help of a psychologist to make himself comfortable inside it.
Felix first approached ‘Red Bull’ to sponsor him for his jump from the ‘River Georgia Bridge’ in Virginia (860 ft). The company denied him but he carried out his mission nevertheless. 32 more stunts later, ‘Red Bull’ decided to sponsor this now world-record-holding adventurer.