Alan Eustace | D-7426
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Alan Eustace | D-7426

Alan Eustace | D-7426

Profiles
Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Alan Eustace started skydiving in 1975, and since his first jump, he’s given selflessly to the sport in a variety of ways. What he’s most known for, of course, is his October 2014 ascension under a gas-powered balloon to 135,908 feet above New Mexico. He released himself for a four-and-a-half-minute freefall, reaching freefall speeds of up to 822 miles per hour, and ever since has held the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Records for Highest Altitude Skydive, Maximum Vertical Speed Using a Drogue and Longest Distance of Fall Using a Drogue. He designed many of the components himself for the freefall from space, which garnered significant attention worldwide. A pilot as well, Eustace has done much for USPA and its relationship with the FAA, and is a trustee-at-large for the International Skydiving Museum and Hall of Fame.

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“Much has been said about Alan Eustace’s courage, humility and generosity of spirit (all of it true) on the ground, in the sky and even in space. I find myself at a loss for how to preface this profile of one of our sport’s greatest. So I will leave it at that—he is one of our sport’s greatest.” —James Hayhurst, Parachutist profilee #129


Age: 68
Height: 5’10”
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland
Marital Status: Married
Children: Three
Pets: Bluey the fish
Occupation: Engineer
Education: B.S., M.S, Ph.D, Computer Science, University of Central Florida
Transportation: Tesla Model 3
Pet Peeves: Complaints without doing anything
Hobbies: Flying (helicopters and fixed wing), ultimate frisbee, rock climbing
Favorite Food: Thai
Rock, Rap or Country? Primarily rock and roll, but it depends on my mood
Life Philosophy: Extreme optimism that great teams can find a way
Hard opening or line twists? At my age, line twists
Neat packer or a trash packer? Try for neat, get trash.
Student Progression: Static line
Would you rather swoop or land on an accuracy tuffet? Gentle swoop
Jump Philosophy: Pinch yourself. That we can do this at all is a technical miracle.
Team Name: StratEx
Sponsors: United Parachute Technologies, Vigil America
Container: UPT Vector
Main Canopy: Aerodyne Pilot 150 and 210
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs PDR 170 and 210
AAD: Advanced Aerospace Designs Vigil
Home Drop Zone: More time at Skydive DeLand in Florida and Skydive Perris in California than anywhere else.
Year of First Jump: 1975
Licenses: A-4905, C-11499, D-7426
Club Memberships: Skydivers Resurrection Award and the Parachutists Over Phorty Society
Total Jumps: 736
    FS: 600
    CF: 75
    Accuracy: 25
    Space: 3
Largest Completed Formation: 30
Cutaways: 2

Which jump stands out the most?
Is that a trick question?

I skydive because …
I love to fly, whether it’s skydiving, airplanes, hang gliders, balloons, paragliders or helicopters, it doesn’t matter. I’m happier in the air. I can’t wipe that grin off my face.

What was the jump from 135,889 feet like?
The darkness of space was indescribable—inky black, with no stars. You are looking down at a thin, delicate, beautiful atmosphere. And the earth is definitely round.

Did your engineering and scientific background make the big jump (and planning period) a labor of love?
I love hard problems, great teams, skydiving, flying, balloons and learning from smart people. Hard to imagine a better project!

What was the feeling after successfully returning to Earth?
Total exhaustion, followed by the warm enveloping love of the team. In 10 years, I’ve forgotten a lot of the details from the jump, but I’ll never forget being part of that team.

Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares about space?
No, unless you mean the extraterrestrials.

Most people don’t know this about me:
I love to play golf.

Who was your skydiving mentor?
Daniel “Blikkies” Blignaut. We started as teammates in StratEx and ended up as brothers.

What are your future skydiving goals?
More precise belly flying and canopy control. Better no-wind landings.

How did you become interested in the sport?
My friend David Lane wanted to skydive on his 18th birthday and asked me to come. I was going to be a one-and-done, but my instructor, Tom Plonka, said that I had a great static-line exit. I’m a sucker for a compliment!

Any suggestions for students?
Be curious, ask questions, enjoy and stay safe.

What is your favorite jump plane?
I have a soft spot for the DC-3, but the Twin Otter is my favorite modern jump plane. I have a few jumps from a Gulfstream 550 that climbs at 10,000 feet per minute.

If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with?
I’d love to take my dad on a tandem. He was such a special person and had a huge influence on my life and my outlook.

If you could make everyone on the planet do something to make Earth a better place to live, what would it be?
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and truly empathize.

Most embarrassing moment at a drop zone:
All the “landings” in the space suit were controlled crashes, but one in particular was terrible, and right in front of the team and the cameras. For a beer, I’ll show you the video!

Someday I am going to own …
The undersea vehicle that finds Amelia Earhart’s missing Lockheed Electra. My team first needs to build it.

The toughest thing to do in skydiving is:
Picking from all the cool disciplines.

What kind of skydiving student were you—typical flailer or complete natural?
Somewhere in the middle. More enthusiasm than talent.

What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
Managing Google Engineering for over 10 years. An amazing team of engineers elegantly solving really hard and important problems.

What was your strangest thought in freefall?
Pre-GPS, we once jumped through a hole in the clouds and landed 17 miles from the drop zone. A huge surprise!

Suggestions for USPA:
Keep supporting creative people doing new things in freefall and under canopies.

Worst skydiving moment?
In the first spacesuit jump from an airplane, everything went wrong. The exit sheared off my GPS and comms antenna, I couldn’t control the spin in freefall and I couldn’t decompress the suit or reach the toggles. But in the end, the safety divers stopped the spin, pulled the chute, and the team found me in the desert in under 10 minutes. I love those guys!

What is your perfect day like?
Taking on an important and hard problem, and making progress.

Explain Alan Eustace in five words:
Curious, creative, appreciative, teammate, dad.

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