Civil Air Patrol To Rename Squadron In Honor Of Joe Kittinger
January 11 , 2007 — Col. Joseph W. Kittinger, USAF-Ret., will be honored by the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) when it renames its Austin, Texas-based TX-352 squadron in his honor during a special ceremony on January 23 at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Kittinger, EAA 263461, holds the longstanding record for the highest parachute jump in history, from 102,800 feet, achieved on August 16, 1960.
Then-Captain Kittinger, test director of the Project Excelsior government research project, piloted a gas balloon to the high altitude and jumped from his open capsule in -94 degree F temperatures above the New Mexico desert. He reached the speed of sound as he sped through the stratosphere in a four minute, thirty-seven second free-fall before opening his parachute at 17,500 feet and continuing safely to earth.
The historic 15-minute journey became known as the Long Lonely Leap and began the manned space-race and was the precursor to NASA's Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Kittinger is the subject of two books, The Long Lonely Leap and The Pre-Astronauts. He also served multiple tours as an F-4D Phantom II pilot in Vietnam and was one of the few Air Commandos to score a victory over a MiG-21. Toward the war's end he was shot down and spent 11 months in the Hanoi Hilton. Kittinger also holds many aviation and aeronautical records, including the first solo crossing of the Atlantic in a balloon in 1984.
The ceremony begins at 7 p.m. at TxDOT Flight Services, 10335 Golf Course Rd. Austin. The program will include film footage and several speeches by CAP members, as well as a patriotic lecture by Colonel Kittinger. The public is invited to attend the free event.