Private astronaut Larry Connor achieved a new record for the highest HALO (high altitude, low open) formation skydive, setting a remarkable milestone. Connor, who was part of the Ax-1 crew on the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station in April 2022, completed this achievement in the skies above Roswell, New Mexico.
The Alpha 5 Team’s Incredible Feat
Connor was not alone in this daring endeavor; he was part of the “Alpha 5” team. This team included four current and former U.S. Air Force (USAF) Special Warfare Pararescue Specialists, known as “PJs.” Together, they embarked on a historic journey that would take them to incredible heights.
Soaring to New Heights
The Alpha 5 jump team took off aboard an enormous 115-foot-tall balloon, making it the largest balloon ever manufactured in the United States. The balloon ascended to an impressive altitude of 38,000 feet (11,600 meters). From there, the team exited the balloon and formed a five-person formation while in freefall. They then separated and landed approximately 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) east/southeast from the launch site.
Setting a Guinness World Record
This feat marked a new record for the highest-altitude HALO skydive formation, and an official from Guinness World Records was present to verify the achievement. The successful jump was not only a testament to the team’s skill and courage but also a moment of pride for Connor.
A Record with a Purpose
This daring endeavor was not just about breaking records; it was also driven by a noble cause. The Alpha 5 project aims to raise $1 million for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SWOF), which supports the education of children of fallen soldiers. As of now, the project has raised around $26,000 towards this goal.
Supporting the Children of Fallen Heroes
The SWOF’s mission is to provide educational support to the children of special operations personnel who made the ultimate sacrifice. Their commitment extends from preschool to college, ensuring that these children receive the education and opportunities they deserve.
The Significance of HALO Jumps
HALO (high altitude, low open) jumps have been a critical part of the U.S. military’s special forces operations for decades. These jumps are executed from altitudes ranging from 30,000 to 40,000 feet, with parachute openings occurring as low as 800 feet. Unlike recreational skydives, which typically start from no higher than 15,000 feet, HALO jumps are employed for stealth and to deliver jumpers into hostile regions while keeping aircraft out of harm’s way.
Challenges of HALO Jumps
While HALO jumps offer tactical advantages, they come with significant risks, including lack of oxygen at high altitudes. If pressurized equipment were to fail, jumpers could lose consciousness within seconds due to hypoxia.
The Alpha 5 Team
The Alpha 5 jump team consisted of Larry Connor, who served as team captain; project lead Brandon Daugherty, a USAF Pararescueman; USAF Pararescueman Rob Dieguez; and former USAF Pararescuemen Chris Lais and Jimmy Petrolia. Shane Wallace piloted the balloon, and Tad Smith served as the oxygen technician.
This remarkable achievement not only set a new record but also contributed to a meaningful cause, highlighting the incredible feats that can be accomplished when individuals come together for a greater purpose.