The adrenaline rush of jumping from a parachute thousands of meters high takes years and countless attempts to control feelings during the fall to take it to the next level. This is the case of Alexander Montagna, 52-year-old industrial engineer, who discovered his passion from a young age and was the protagonist in an event that entered the record book by diving along with 25 other professionals from different countries to 16,500 feet forming two figures before landing on US soil.
The main detail that added difficulty to the test is that it was carried out at night and that it forced each paratrooper to have the obligation to wear led lights on their suit so that there is no collision that endangers the lives of the participants. The appointment was last Monday, November 15 at 9:00 p.m. and the sky of Lake Elsinore, located in southern California, It was illuminated in various colors in what was a true spectacle and the Argentine had the privilege of filming it with his camera that captures 360 °.
– How difficult was the record you managed to break?
– I would tell you that it was the most complicated in which I had to participate. The organizer designs a training that is practiced during the day and attempts to replicate at night which, due to complexity, is ten times worse. Between the nerves, the darkness, the collision risks and other things that make night jumps so much more demanding. On top of that, we are going to make record attempts and there are times when you come back empty-handed. This time we made 17 attempts and it literally came out on the last one. The organizer told us “now or never” and luckily the 26 of us were able to do things well.
– They also had a technical problem in one of the attempts …
– It’s very unusual. We jumped from two planes and the big plane that has a ramp, the Skyvan, had its engines planted. In other words, the turbines stopped working at 5,500 meters above sea level and with the ramp open. The driver had a problem with the fuel gauge indicating that he had half a tank but they were actually empty. He ran out of gasoline in the middle of the flight. But being a very experienced pilot with 25 years of experience, he put him into a tailspin and brought us down so he can glide without turbines to the runway.
The mastermind behind the procedure was the South African Steve Woodford, the most experienced organizer in the world in this type of night jumps, who diagrammed the practices to perfection to achieve the objective that was set in advance. The acrobats had 50 seconds of free fall to reach the objective, which was to perform two different figures where all the people were involved and thus set a new world record that will be very difficult to beat in the coming years.
To make the jump possible, it was necessary for the planes to be equipped with oxygen equipment so that the paratroopers could support the necessary height. In addition, significant training and practice was required before the final test: A total of 17 daytime attempts were made during the previous days so that on Monday night everything goes perfectly. Similarly, it took three attempts that day to break the record in night skydiving.
– Setting the world record in the final jump must have been like an epic goal in the last second.
– Something similar, ha. It was a jump with a lot of tension and with emotional content. We managed to put together the first figure very quickly and neatly. When we went to the second, the center of the formation fell for five meters and it occurred to us that we were not making it. There was a wonderful teamwork there to be able to build that second point the 20 seconds that we had left of free fall. Because when the helmet alarm goes off, you have to disperse and open the parachute, which for me is the most dangerous of the entire test.
– How much did darkness and night weigh in the test?
– It is a very important point. The lights that each one carried is essential because the formation is divided into six segments that are sectorized by a color. Red, blue, pink, yellow, green and purple. So I, who have been assigned a color, know that I have to go meet with my group. as fast as possible when I jump out of the plane. You see them quite far at first and that approach is quite a difficulty. Also the exhausts to open the parachute: it is rotated 180 ° to move away at maximum speed from the formation and take it out in clean air. It is an impact of 40 kilometers per hour and it becomes fatal.
Alejandro was not the only Argentine present as he shared the experience with three compatriots: Fernando Disipio, Marcelo Vives and Lucas Peribrusa. One of the exclusive points to be a participant was to have an important experience in the sport, equivalent to approximately a minimum of 4000 jumps throughout the career of each of the protagonists. In this type of tests the route is very important so that there are no accidents in the middle of the free fall and, in case something happens, they know how to solve it.
– Where on the podium do you place this experience in your life?
– I think it is the most difficult jump, compared to previous records (NdR: maintains three world championships, two daytime and one night). When you drop someone in the air, it is impossible not to separate in height. Imagine 26 people. The experience of all the boys was key, we all had more than 3,000 jumps and it was a worldwide gathering. There were paratroopers from the United States, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, only us from South America and from Ukraine. There are many who do not get on the plane to do this at night or fart, but at least those of us who dare were able to enter history.