Skydiver brought back down to earth with bang by lawsuit
Published 27/12/2010 | 05:00
A SKYDIVER attempting to become the first man to break the sound barrier during free fall has been grounded by a legal case.
Felix Baumgartner (41) has been training to beat the world record for the highest altitude jump -- in which he would leap from the edge of space 120,000ft above the desert of New Mexico.
The Austrian stuntman is trying to exceed a record held for 50 years by Joe Kittinger, a US air force colonel who jumped from 102,800ft on August 16, 1960.
Mr Baumgartner was being sponsored by Red Bull, but a writ has been lodged against the drinks company in Los Angeles by Daniel Hogan, a promoter who claims the stunt is his idea. He claims he went to Red Bull with a detailed plan for a "Space Dive" in 2004 but the company backed out before resurrecting the idea years later.
According to the lawsuit, the stunt could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to a corporate sponsor. Red Bull has shelved the project indefinitely. It said in a statement: "Mr Hogan claims to own certain rights to the project and filed a lawsuit earlier this year in a Californian court.
"Red Bull has acted appropriately in its prior dealings with Mr Hogan and will demonstrate this as the case progresses. Due to the lawsuit, we have decided to stop the project until this case has been resolved."
Mr Baumgartner, who has been left kicking his heels, is hopeful he will get his chance.
"If justice does exist we will undertake this stratospheric mission and bring this record home safely," he said.
Several people have died trying to jump from similar heights, but Mr Baumgartner, known as 'Fearless Felix', denies the jump is a risk.
"I don't have a death wish," he said. "I'm just a person who likes a challenge."
On the space jump scientists are keen to study the effects of supersonic speed on the human body.
The plan was for Mr Baumgartner to ascend in a helium filled balloon that would expand to 600ft wide. He would wear a pressurised spacesuit for his 10-minute free fall. (© Daily Telegraph, London)