November 03, 2015 - 1:00 PM
KAMLOOPS - Reg Hurlbut doesn’t remember how he got the nickname ‘Veggie Reggie’. He knows there are many stories surrounding it, but he also knows if he sees ‘Veggie’ written on a jump order, it’s go-time.
To some, he’s a 66-year-old semi-retired grandfather. But others know him as go-to for wingsuit flying — a risky sport in which he holds numerous world records. The most recent record jump was in California two weeks ago.
The Kamloops man and 60 other wingsuited skydivers jumped out of planes over Perris, Calif., on Oct. 17 and 'flocked' to make a diamond formation in the sky before dispersing at speeds of 128 kilometres per hour.
“The margin of error can be inches. Wing-tip to wing-tip, it’s about five feet,” Hurlbut says.
To make the world record, Hurlbut says representatives from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, a regulator for air sports, looked at photos of the jump and decided on whether it met grid regulations.
Hurlbut says it took 17 tries and a week of practice to make the jump a success, adding while in the air it’s tough to determine if the formation is sound or not. The only way to really know is through a photo.
"I think I slept four hours a night," he says.
This photo taken, Oct. 17, 2015, and provided by Skydive Perris shows 61 wingsuit skydivers setting a new world record for the largest aerial formation in the sky over Perris, Calif., about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Exiting from three airplanes at 13,5000 feet, flyers formed a diamond shape in flight, covering a distance of more than two miles, before dispersing at 5,500 feet. The record event included participants from 12 countries.
Image Credit: Mark Harris/Skydive Perris via AP
Wearing the wingsuit helps slow the speed of the drop and allowed the divers from 12 different countries to come together to make a diamond in the sky. It’s already dangerous flying close together and there’s limited ability to communicate with other flyers once the jump has started, Hurbut says.
“Wingsuit it is inherently more dangerous than regular skydiving. Any time you add paraphenialia to an already dangerous sport there can be malfunctions. A parachute not opening is more likely to happen… you can end up with flat spins and twists in your lines,” he says.
The accomplishment in California was met with tears, exuberance and many celebrations, but the former logger has his sights on a new jump — landing on Panama’s tiny Pearl Island from a 13,000-foot elevation.
In the meantime, he’ll keep getting use of one of his many wingsuits in Kamloops, where he flies from his jump near the Domtar plant back to the drop site near the airport. He also hopes to teach experienced skydivers the adrenaline-rushing technique.
"I jump out of an airplane. That’s safe,” he says with a smile. “I fly close to the ground. That’s fairly unsafe."
Hurlbut flying in one of his wingsuits.
Image Credit: Contributed/ Reg Hurlbut
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015