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Skydiver aims to be 1st to jump without chute

November 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
He's jumped from the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge and Seattle's Space Needle. Jeb Corliss doesn't just like to laugh. He likes to laugh at death.

"Sure I take risks, but I'm a happy person," said Corliss, laughing.

The 34-year-old Corliss is a professional jumper. He jumps out of planes, off of buildings and from cliffs -- really tall cliffs.

And he does it wearing a "wing suit," which essentially turns Corliss into a flying squirrel, gliding at more than 100 miles per hour, just a few feet away from disaster.

"It's called 'proximity flying,' which is the apex of the sport right now," said Corliss.

"We can get glide ratios when you're flying really well, of 3 to 1, meaning flying three feet forward for every foot you fall, so if you leave an airplane two miles in the sky, you can fly for six miles before you have to open a parachute," said Corliss.

But as technically advanced as these wing suits are, they're nothing more than a very expensive funeral suit without parachutes. But Corliss wants to change that. He wants to be the first person to land in a wing suit without a chute.

"We will be touching down at close to 100 miles an hour," said Corliss.

Which means no feet-first landings. To get into the record books, Corliss plans to touch down on his chest, face-first, like an airplane coming in for a landing -- just without any wheels.

To do that he needs a ramp. A really big ramp that towers a good 600 feet above the ground.

"I can tell you that it will be an engineering marvel unlike anything man has ever created before," said Corliss.

That's about all Corliss will say about his scheme. He's keeping most of the details top secret, worried other "wingmen" around the world may steal his plans.

"Well I know that there's five other groups all over the world working on making this happen," said Corliss.

But from hints he's dropped Corliss's game plan would go something like this: Jump out of an airplane, glide for a while until he sees his target, get just the right angle, and skid to a stop on the wingman ramp.

"And we've hired some of the greatest engineers the world has ever known, in order to create this thing," said Corliss. "The only problem is it's very expensive."

Corliss's biggest problem: Building his ramp will cost a cool $3 million, he says.

He's hoping some Las Vegas casino will pay for the stunt and let him prop his ramp against their hotel. But he's still waiting.

"It goes back to when people were trying to be the first to summit Everest. Well, here we are, here's another first, and we'd like to be first, you know?"

The first to quite literally cut the cord, to lose the chute and win the race to the bottom.


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