Kittinger, Joseph W.

1984 Vatican City cover honoring his 1984 1st solo transatlantic balloon flight

Price: $25.00

Description:
(b. 1928) USAF colonel, (retired) most famous for participation in Project Manhigh and Project Excelsior in 1960, setting the record longest skydive from a height over 31km (19 miles). He was also the 1st person to make a solo crossing of the Atlantic in a gas balloon and 1st person to witness the curvature of the Earth. In 2012, at 84, he was capsule communicator in the Red Bull Stratos project, directing Felix Baumgartner on his record-breaking 39km (24mile) freefall from Earth's stratosphere. In 1950, he was commissioned USAF 2nd Lieutenant, assigned to the 86th Fighter-Bomber Wing in West Germany, flying the F-84 Thunderjet and F-86 Sabre. In 1954 Kittinger was transferred to Holloman AFB, New Mexico, and the Air Force Missile Development Center (AFMDC). He flew the observation/chase plane that monitored Col. John Stapp's 1955 rocket sled run of 632MPH. Stapp later fostered the high-altitude balloon tests that would lead to Kittinger's record-setting leap from over 102,800’. In 1957, as part of Project Manhigh, Kittinger set an interim balloon altitude record of 96,760’ in Manhigh I, and was awarded his 1st Distinguished Flying Cross. Capt. Kittinger was next assigned to the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. For Project Excelsior, he made 3 extreme altitude parachute jumps from an open gondola carried aloft by large helium balloons. On his 1st high-altitude jump, from about 76,400’ on Nov. 16, 1959, an equipment malfunction caused him to lose consciousness. The automatic parachute opener in his equipment saved his life. He went into a flat spin at a rotational velocity of about 120RPM, g-forces calculated to be over 22x the force of gravity, setting another record. On Dec. 11, 1959, he jumped about 74,700’ and was awarded the A. Leo Stevens Parachute Medal. On Aug. 16, 1960, he made the final jump from the Excelsior III, at 102,800’. Towing a small drogue parachute, he fell for 4 minutes and 36 seconds, reaching 614MPH before opening his parachute at 18,000’. Kittinger set the highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (four minutes), and fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere. These USAF records were not submitted for aerospace world records to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). His records for the highest ascent, highest parachute jump, and fastest velocity stood for 52 years, until broken in 2012 by Felix Baumgartner. For this series of jumps, Kittinger was decorated with a 2nd Distinguished Flying Cross, and was awarded the Harmon Trophy by President Eisenhower. Kittinger took part in Project Stargazer on Dec. 13–14, 1960. He and astronomer William C. White took an open-gondola helium balloon packed with scientific equipment to about 82,200’ and spent 18+ hours performing astronomical observations. Kittinger later served 3 combat tours of duty during the Vietnam War, flying 483 combat missions. During a voluntary 3rd tour 1971-72, he led the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the noted "Triple Nickel" squadron, flying the F-4D Phantom II. Kittinger was shot down on May 11, 1972, captured, and spent 11 months as a POW in the so-called Hanoi Hilton prison, tortured soon after his arrival. He was senior ranking officer (SRO) among POWs captured after 1969. He returned to the US March 28, 1973, promoted to full colonel, and attended the Naval War College. Kittinger retired from the Air Force in 1978 still interested in ballooning, set a gas balloon world distance record for the AA-06 size class (since broken). He then completed the 1st solo Atlantic crossing in the 106,000 cubic foot (3,000 m³) Balloon of Peace Sept. 14-18, 1984, the longest gas balloon distance flight in that size category. He participated in the Gordon Bennett Cup in ballooning in 1989 (ranked 3rd and 1994 (ranked 12th). In 1997, he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio. Signed cacheted philatelic envelope with Vatican City September 17 1984 postmark honoring Kittinger's 1st solo balloon flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

Condition: Very good
Type:Signed Cover






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