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Balloon Ride Too Tame as 93-Year-old EAAer Makes Tandem Jump

Fred Leidel
93-year-old Fred Leidel falls away from the Twin Otter on his first skydive.

Fred Leidel
Fred Leidel makes final preparations to jump, an event that was set in motion the previous year following a balloon ride.

Fred Leidel
Fred Leidel is a member of EAA Chapter 93 and definitely had something to talk about at the last chapter meeting.

April 1, 2010 — Fred Leidel, EAA 420640, has led a full life with such activities as a university professor, propeller engineer, and EAA volunteer. At 93, Fred still felt unfulfilled after taking a balloon ride the year before, so he decided to try skydiving. The path to that first jump started with a balloon rally in New Mexico a year ago. Fred expressed his excitement at the experience, and when challenged by a relative about what he would do next, he said, “Maybe a parachute jump would be fun.”

Last month when Fred was visiting his brother in Florida, he had found that his relatives had already arranged a tandem jump at a skydiving center. He was last of 15 out the door of the Twin Otter. “Boy! That was great!” Fred told Wisconsin State Journal columnist Doug Moe.

Fred first fell in love with airplanes when his family moved near the Madison Airport in Madison, Wisconsin. The nearby air traffic cemented his desire to learn. While in college in the late 1930s, he convinced the airport manager to let him make wing ribs for Corben Ace kits that were being sold at the time in exchange for flight lessons.

Fred’s flying adventures wouldn’t stretch past a few early solo flights, as a failed vision test ended his chances of earning a license. Despite this setback, Fred has filled his life with aviation as a longtime volunteer with EAA Chapter 93 and at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Fred’s other life is filled with many accomplishments, including an engineering job at Hamilton Standard designing propellers for military aircraft during WW II. After the war, he returned to Madison and embarked on a long career in education as a professor of engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, rising to the position of associate dean before retiring in 1982.

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