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Record-Setting Skydiver is Keynote Speaker at EAA Wright Brothers Banquet on Dec. 17

Joseph Kittinger reached speeds up to 614 mph during 102,800-foot jump in 1960

 EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wis. — (Nov. 15, 2010) — GJoseph Kittinger Jr., who holds records for having the highest, fastest and longest skydive, will be the featured speaker at EAA’s annual Wright Brothers Memorial Banquet on Friday, Dec. 17. The banquet, held in the EAA AirVenture Museum’s Eagle Hangar in Oshkosh, will commemorate the 107th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Kittinger, a former Command Pilot and career military officer in the U.S. Air Force, is best known for his high-altitude balloon flights and parachute jumps that he made while heading the U.S. Air Force’s “Project Excelsior” in the 1950s. The project’s goal was to solve the problems of high-altitude bailout, using a high-altitude balloon with an open gondola to travel to the edge of space before the pilot parachuted from the gondola to the ground.

On the third Excelsior flight that was made in August 1960, Kittinger set records by climbing to 102,800 feet, approaching the speed of sound with a top speed of 614 miles per hour on his freefall that lasted 4½ minutes before opening his parachute at 18,000 feet. Temperatures reached as low as minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit during the jump, which was made without protection of an aircraft or space vehicle. 

“We are very honored to have Joseph Kittinger Jr. join us as EAA celebrates the anniversary of powered flight,” said Rod Hightower, EAA president/CEO. “Joseph’s pioneering jumps established the potential for humans to survive in space, setting the stage for manned space programs. He has earned his place in aviation history from many different perspectives.”

For his work on this project, President Dwight D. Eisenhower awarded Kittinger the C.B Harmon Trophy in 1960, and he also received an oak leaf cluster to the Distinguished Flying Cross, the J.J. Jeffries Award, the Leo Stevens Parachute Medal, and the Wingfoot Lighter-Than-Air Society Achievement Award.

Kittinger, who also was the first man to complete a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a gas balloon, served three combat tours in Vietnam and spent 11 months in captivity as a prisoner of war. After retiring from the military in 1978, he competed in various balloon competitions through the country, winning the Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon race four times during the 1980s.

Tickets for the banquet can be reserved through the secure website available at www.airventuremuseum.org or by calling 920-426-6880. Tickets are $35 each for EAA members and $40 each for non-EAA members.
EAA embodies the spirit of aviation through the world’s most engaged community of aviation enthusiasts.  EAA’s 160,000 members and 1,000 local chapters enjoy the fun and camaraderie of sharing their passion for flying, building and restoring recreational aircraft.  For more information on EAA and its programs, call 800-JOIN-EAA (800-564-6322) or go to www.eaa.org .  For continual news updates, connect with http://twitter.com/EAAupdate .

EDITOR’S NOTE: Images of Joseph Kittinger’s skydive are available at EAA’s FTP website:
                     http://media.eaa.org         Username: eaamedia        Password: airventure2011

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