On October 27th, 1997 John Kallend, then fifty-two years old, made his first jump as a skydiver. On October 17th, 2015 he made his 3,000th. Now, seventy years young, he was the oldest participant in a group that set a new world record. The group of sixty-one wingsuited skydivers jumped from three planes over Skydive Perris in Southern California. They started at 13.500 feet, came together in mid-air to form a diamond, and then broke apart at 5,500 feet. They successfully completed their jump and the record was confirmed official the following Monday by three judges from Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the international group that keeps track of skydiving and other aviation-related records.
The skydivers were a diverse group from twelve nations including the United States, Canada, Australia, Poland, South African, Russia, Britain and Israel. “It was an absolutely incredible experience,” said Taya Weiss, who both organized the event and participated in the jump. “We’re a very small community, although we’re growing, and to get everyone together from all over the world, especially to achieve such a difficult goal, is very rewarding.” The group actually broke the record twice on Saturday Weiss said. After fifty skydivers completed one jump successfully eleven more joined in for a second successful attempt.
John Kallend, who also participates in a group called Skydivers Over 60 said, “Instead of falling straight down, the formation is actually moving forward at 100 miles per hour,” making the success of their record-breaking jump even more impressive. “It’s the nearest someone can get to being a super hero,” he said. The group Skydivers Over 60 has broken records before. Back in 2012 they organized a jump with sixty skydivers over sixty, and they hope to break that record next year with a seventy-two diver jump.
Kallend, who is a professor of mechanical and materials engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology, had a message for anyone who asks him why he jumps out of perfectly good airplanes, “If they were perfectly good airplanes, we wouldn’t use them for skydiving.”