skydiving world record
164 skydivers link arms in a head-down formation for a 2015 world record; (photo/Skydive Chicago)

200 Skydivers, 10 Planes, One World Record: Second ‘Vertical Jump’ Takes Stab at History

Sky pilots will form a rapidly descending, head-first human daisy chain when they attempt a world record feat in August.

What do you get when you send hundreds of skydivers to abnormally high altitudes in a veritable squadron of planes and tell them to jump at once?

Answer: a world record, as long as they can all manage to link arms at the same time while they freefall.

When conditions are right in late August, 200 men and women will descend on Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Ill., to attempt a 200-way Head-Down Vertical World Skydiving Record.

In the “single-point skydive,” each jumper will exit their plane, and then fly together to create one large paper angel-like formation. If they can pull it off, they’ll immortalize themselves in the annals of Guinness as the most people to accomplish the feat.

skydive chicago
Practicing for a formation at Skydive Chicago; (photo/Skydive Chicago)

But How? Record Skydive Attempt Details

The attempt will utilize 10 aircraft flying at 19,000 feet, an altitude so high the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires onboard supplemental oxygen. The dizzy height should give the group 60 seconds’ worth of air below them.

All 200 jumpers must carefully lock arms in a preassigned, intricate pattern (with no errors) before separating and filling the sky with 200 parachutes to break the record.

Divers first attempted the 200-way record in 2018, but “unfavorable conditions” prevented their success. The last completed Vertical World Record came in 2015 when one team built a 164-person head-down formation.

This year’s athletes will face a task not only of magnitude but also of cutting-edge performance. The last time anyone completed such an enormous formation dive was in 1998 (incidentally, also at Skydive Chicago) when 264 people locked arms in the traditional belly-to-earth orientation.

Wait a minute, wouldn’t that already be the world record? No, because diving bellyflops style is an entirely different game regarding airspeed.

According to Skydive Chicago, divers only reach about 120 mph with their bellies down. The group said that the swan dive-style head-first orientation cranks airspeed up to a blistering 180 mph.

The skydiving school and resort asserted the new record attempt “illustrates the sport’s progressions as skill sets, training, and equipment have improved.”

Where and When

To watch it, look to the sky alongside the Fox River between August 22 and 26. That’s where Skydive Chicago’s 220-acre private airport lies and the location where it hosts various skydiving services and amenities that have earned it a (self-applied) reputation as the “Mecca of Skydiving.”

The company said the record dive could take place anytime between 8 a.m. and sunset. Bring your shade umbrella, but you can forget the binoculars: It’s hard to miss 200 people falling out of the sky.

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Sam Anderson

Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.