Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Felix Baumgartner's Leap of Faith

The wait must have been excruciating…three hours or so to achieve sufficient altitude.  People all over the world watched in amazement as Felix Baumgartner willingly jumped out of a balloon-borne capsule 25 miles above the ground.  He sped to earth so fast he broke the sound barrier.  He literally became a human sonic boom.  Then he pulled his ripcord and floated to earth, landing on his feet like it was just another day in the park.

I was fascinated.  But what puzzles me is why people think that the higher you go the scarier or more dangerous it must be.  For sheer mileage, I agree that it was phenomenal.  But the thing is, if your parachute doesn’t open, it really doesn’t matter whether you fall 25 miles or 2500 feet…splat is splat.

I’m not afraid to fly, mind you.  I’ve done some commercial flying.  I’ve even been up in a double, open-cockpit bi-wing and ridden in a hot air balloon.  I’m just not one of those people who really feel they haven’t arrived until they jump out of an airplane.  I don’t think I would hesitate if the plane was likely to crash, but as long as it has no problems, it’s not in my personality to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft. 

I do admire Felix Baumgartner for his leap of faith.  Faith is what it takes to make that jump:  believing your chute will open, you won’t have catastrophic decompression, you won’t freeze to death, you won’t pass out and not regain consciousness until it’s too late to pull the cord.  I would love to possess that kind of faith.  But even if my faith grows, I’m still not jumping out of any airplanes!