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Breakfast with Frost
On Sunday, 03 August 2003, Breakfast with Frost featured an interview with Felix Baumgartner

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

Felix Baumgarter
Felix Baumgarter, the "human bullet"

PETER SISSONS: Now, was it a bird or was it a plane? Well actually it was 34-year-old human bullet Felix Baumgartner, who threw himself out of a plane at 30,000 feet above Dover, strapped to a pair of six foot carbon fibre wings.

He flew at a speed of 220 miles an hour across the English Channel before landing safely in Calais just six minutes and 22 seconds later. Well his feet are back firmly on the ground and he joins me now. Felix, welcome.


PETER SISSONS: When did you first decide you wanted to jump out of an aeroplane at 30,000 feet, strapped to a pair of untested wings?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: Well first of all I started skydiving when I was 17 years old, so it was a dream since I was a little boy.

And I had the idea actually the year 2000, I was testing a little wing which has not the same performance and there was one day when I was jumping out of a hot air balloon and we found out that this, this wing can cover a lot of distance.

So we had the idea, maybe we can cross the whole English Channel.

PETER SISSONS: How do you - you test them actually by jumping out with them?


PETER SISSONS: There's no other way I suppose.

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: Well of course there's no other way, you have to test the wing by jumping out of aeroplanes.


ELIX BAUMGARTNER: And we did a lot of research in the wind channel at Audi, in Germany.

PETER SISSONS: I mean most of us, when we think of birdmen, men wearing wings, those old black and white films of chaps jumping off the end of the pier and flapping their arms and they go straight in the sea. I mean, the survival rate of men who try to use wings to fly is not very high, is it?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: Well those pictures have been in the early days so they didn't know so much about, about skydiving and, and wing flying but now everything is developed very well so skydiving is not really a dangerous sport at the moment and to develop a wing is a lot of research that we did in the last three years and finally we were successful.

PETER SISSONS: Did you make the wings yourself?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: No there's an old guy, he's 75 years old, he's an aerodynamic engineer. He was working for the euro-fighter did all the aerodynamic stuff there, and we found this guy in Austria and he was developing the wing.

PETER SISSONS: And tell us about, about actually the event. You, you had to get out of the aeroplane, for a start, and it's very cold.


PETER SISSONS: It's what 40 below - something like that?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: Well it's 40 degrees minus so we had a special suit which was made in France.

PETER SISSONS: And there's no oxygen - there's very little oxygen up there.

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: There's very little oxygen, we had our own oxygen system because this was a very dangerous area.

We had a little accident just before the exit, the cameraman he got passed out, because he was, something was wrong with his camera, so he had to go back in the plane to pick up a new battery.

So he took out his oxygen pipe out of his mouth and after four or five seconds he passed out so we had to recover him with oxygen.

PETER SISSONS: What would have happened if you'd passed out? If you'd - you jump out of the aeroplane and you black out? I mean was that a possibility?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: Sure it's always a possibility if something goes with the oxygen system you have a big problem. But we have a little computer in the parachute called Cyprus and if you pass a certain altitude in freefall, if you're still fast enough, this little computer fires your reserve parachute.

PETER SISSONS: And there was an aeroplane flying in front of you, you followed it to find the way, you didn't have a compass or a directional finder, you followed the aeroplane that was guiding you across the Channel.

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: Well orientation was a major thing of the whole project because normally the whole area is clouded, that's what it was, that's how it was on the day when I crossed the Channel, so I couldn't see anything, the whole area was covered by cloud so I had to follow a leading plane.

It was a PC9, a ... flying in front of me and the skyline was guiding me, was guiding me at the back.

PETER SISSONS: Did you lose the plane from your vision at any time?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: No I could see the plane almost the whole flight, we had radio contact - so it was not that bad.

PETER SISSONS: So you were just a few hundred yards behind it?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: Yeah, it was - yeah.

PETER SISSONS: And you nearly came to grief when your descent started, you got your foot caught in the parachute rope.

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: Well I had to, to fly through the clouds 1,500 metres and as soon as I was through the clouds I could see the landing area down there so I had to pull my parachute in about 1,200 metres.

And normally in a normal sky dive you fall straight down, the parachute opens to the top. But in wing flying you're so far forward that that means your parachute opens to the back and this is really close to your legs.

And I never had any problem on all these test jumps but at this stage my legs got stuck in the lines so I was hanging upside down so the parachute started spiralling down so I had to use my rescue knife to cut off some lines and make sure that I had a safe landing.

PETER SISSONS: All in a day's work.

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: All in day's work.

PETER SISSONS: Does this have any practical use? I mean, could it help, could it supplant parachutes for people who want to escape from high-flying aeroplanes?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: Well the SAS were talking about buying my suit and my wings because maybe there is a reason to put this wing on some special military guys and fly over the enemy border and then operate there.

PETER SISSONS: Would you be picked up on radar, you'd be so small?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: I don't think so.

PETER SISSONS: So it does have a military possibility?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: It's not why we built it yet but I think there's a military possibility.

PETER SISSONS: So what's next for you - are you going to leap out of Concorde or something like that?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: Well the next big thing is to go to Red Bull flight day today.


FELIX BAUMGARTNER: It's a very nice event so I'm going to be one of the judges there. And developing a couple of events in the future with another wing, a bigger one, a faster one.

PETER SISSONS: Wow, what top speed do you reckon you could make?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER: This wing has a top speed of 360kph at 9,000 metres, because the air is so thin, so we can go a lot faster.

PETER SISSONS: Well Felix rather you than me but enjoy yourself.

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