Top-secret mission: Edmonton pilots helped Google exec set near-space skydive record
Published Monday, October 27, 2014 8:13AM EDT
A space jump by a Google executive which broke the sound barrier and set a new record for the highest freefall has a Canadian connection.
Two experienced pilots from Edmonton helped Dr. Alan Eustace complete a high-profile freefall last Friday. The pilots' mission was so top secret that their co-workers didn't even know about it.
Eustace was lifted more than 41,000 metres above the New Mexico desert on Friday, before he plunged from the stratosphere at a speed topping 1,300-kilometres per hour. His freefall lasted a total of about four minutes.
His jump broke the record set by Felix Baumgartner two years ago.
Edmonton Skydive pilots Dylan Todd and Nick Beale were among a team whose job it was to watch for Eustace as he approached Earth.
Todd told CTV Edmonton that watching the dive was amazing.
"The feeling I got was a lot of awe," he said.
When the two pilots saw Eustace approaching, they steered their plane toward him. A skydiver on their plane then dove toward Eustace, and steered him toward the drop zone.
"That was the moment of sheer relief and that was our primary goal, and it was achieved," Todd said.
The two Canadian pilots have a wealth of experience, and have helped more than 50,000 people skydive. But they had to keep details about this particular jump secret.
Edmonton Skydive Marketing Director Joey Allen said very few people in the company knew exactly what the two pilots were doing, only that it involved them going to Roswell, New Mexico.
"We knew that our pilots were going down to Roswell to do some kind of thing…. it was very quiet, it was mostly all confidential," he said. "We found out basically when the rest of the world found out."
The plane used in the record-breaking jump is the same model that's used all summer at Edmonton Skydive, and the company hopes that the connection to the space jump will boost the centre's reputation.
"The first thing that pops up is that our pilots are doing something of this calibre... there's a lot more confidence that you instill in the customers," Edmonton Skydive Instructor Jay Rechner said. "As for us, it's bragging rights."
With a report by CTV Edmonton's Amanda Anderson