Page last updated at 11:55 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 12:55 UK

Jump record fails to take flight


The helium balloon drifted away

A French skydiver's attempt to break the world free fall record failed to get off the ground when his balloon lifted off without him on board.

Michel Fournier, 64, hoped to break four world records by free falling 40,000m (25 miles) from a balloon in Saskatchewan, western Canada.

He hoped to bring back data vital for astronauts and those at high altitudes.

But his helium balloon detached from its capsule as it was being inflated, and drifted away into the sky.

French skydiver Michel Fournier
It is not the first time Michel Fournier has had to abandon his record attempt

Mr Fournier was hoping to break the record for the fastest and longest free fall, the highest parachute jump and the highest balloon flight.

He was planning to jump from a point three times higher than a commercial jetliner flies.

A former paratrooper, he originally planned to make the jump in France, but the government refused him permission, saying it was too dangerous.

The fall was expected to last around 15 minutes, and Mr Fournier planned to deploy his parachute about 6,000m above ground.

Graphic showing how jump compares to previous records, aircraft flying heights and Everest

He has made two unsuccessful attempts before, in 2002 and 2003.

Mr Fournier was to wear a pressurised suit to protect him from the extreme low pressure and temperatures down to -100C. Sophisticated camera equipment was supposed to record key moments of the jump, particularly when he broke the sound barrier at 35,000m.

His parachute was set to open automatically if he lost consciousness during the jump - though there was no facility to eject from the balloon during the ascent.

The current altitude record for a parachute jump is held by Colonel Joe Kittinger of the US Air Force. In 1960 he jumped from 31,333 metres (102,800 feet).

Frenchman ready for daredevil dive
08 Sep 02 |  Science/Nature

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