Man has always dreamed of flight; from the prehistoric days, to the days of the Wright brothers, it’s something we’ve only seen in the movies – but don’t tell that to the Red Bull Air Force.
For years Red Bull has boasted that their energy drink “gives you wings” and it might be safe to say that it does for this skilled – and slightly insane – group of 13 daredevils.
The Red Bull Air Force focuses on anything flight related, whether it’s BASE jumping, heli-acrobatics, plane-acrobatics, paragliding, skydiving or wingsuit flying, but it’s the work of the aerial jumpers that’s most incredible.
Equipped with just a parachute and a wingsuit, these thrill seekers will jump off just about anything – planes, cliffs, famous landmarks, you name it. But it’s not something learned overnight.
Take team captain and manager Jon DeVore for example.
DeVore, 38, is an adrenaline junkie and has been for as long as he can remember. Growing up in Alaska, there was never any shortage of outdoor activities, but after giving skydiving a try in high school – with the help of a fake ID – DeVore immediately fell in love with the sport. After saving up nearly $60,000 working in the local mines, he decided to move to move to Eloy, Ariz. – the skydiving capital of the United States at the time. He spent most of his money jumping and soon discovered the art of vertical flight.
In 1999 DeVore met with Red Bull – a small company with just 12 employees in the states – and became one of the company’s first sponsored athletes. Since then DeVore has grown just as much as the company, winning multiple national and world championships in both individual and three-man flying and logging more than 17,000 skydives and 500 BASE jumps.
“[Working with Red Bull] has been absolutely amazing and hard to put into words,” DeVore admitted. “I got to grow in my sport, while at the same time, watching my sponsor grow up. Being a Red Bull athlete is basically like winning the Super Bowl, no matter what the sport.”
There’s plenty of science and planning behind each and every jump the team does, whether it’s scouting the area, gathering weather conditions, or making sure there’s no issues with their flying suits.
The suits are comprised of zero-porosity nylon, basically the same materials as a parachute, so that air is unable to breathe through it. There’s a little inlet that air gets rammed into while flying, allowing the suit to pressurize as though it’s an airlock. While gravity does the work, it cuts their angles, allowing the user to float like a magic carpet or fly like an F16, giving the athlete the ability to not only move more freely but also be more in control – though it can’t help with the pre-jump jitters the athletes sometimes experience.
“There’s no nerves [before a jump], unless I’m trying something new that I haven’t done before,” DeVore added. “For the normal, typical skydive out of an airplane, I’m not nervous anymore – that’s my office. The nerves don’t come into effect until it’s something outside the norm like BASE jumping, wingsuit jumping or doing a movie shoot.”
The Red Bull Air Force has become one of the biggest names in aerial jumping and because of that the group was approached to provide the aerial stunt work for Transformers 3, with three of the five acrobats involved coming from the group. The project allowed DeVore and his cohorts to become the first to BASE jump Willis Tower – also known as the Sears Tower – something rarely ever done, as it is illegal in a downtown environment. But with 60-plus shows a year, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
The Hollywood sign, the Christ the Redeemer statue and the Space Needle are just some of the famous landmarks that have been invaded by the group. And there are still plenty of locations each member of the group has yet to jump, with several on each of their bucket lists.
“I would really love to find a way to become the first person to do a wingsuit flight down Mt. MicKinley, the largest mountain peak in North America,” DeVore claimed. “It would kind of bring it all home and tie it all together. I’m working on a project now to explore the last frontier, so it’s a step in the right direction.”
Photo Credit: Red Bull