Pitching headfirst out of the planes, they dove one by one into the frigid air at nearly 20,000 feet. Usually skydivers get into a flat position with their arms and legs stretched out horizontally, like some strange birds. Not this time.
The 65 women pouring out of the aircraft maintained their nosedives. Then, as they sped down toward the ground below, they joined hands to create an intricate formation — all while continuing to hold completely vertical poses to set a world record. A ton of preparation and sinus pain had gone into the feat.
Skydiver and member of the Red Bull Air Force Amy Chmelecki spearheaded the effort. Dozens of women from 18 different countries met at Skydive Arizona in Eloy, her home drop zone. Chmelecki and her team had spent two years getting ready for this attempt by organizing training camps and all-women trial jumps, according to Red Bull.
Although 90 jumpers arrived in Arizona, they didn’t all make the cut. Training lasted for several days, and involved inadvertent kicks to the head as well as maneuvering at high speeds in temperatures as cold as -13 degrees Fahrenheit outside the plane. Weather rolling in cut things close, but the attempt last Sunday ended up being a successful 8.5-second flight.
The 65-woman formation, which included Chmelecki, set a record for highest number of women skydivers linked in a vertical formation. Currently the women’s world record for largest sequential freefall formation — meaning a more traditional horizontal formation on the way down — is held by 117 participants from P3 Skydiving. That international group linked up over Perris, California, two years ago.
“We had to work really hard for this,” Chmelecki told Red Bull after the successful attempt. “You could just feel this buzz, an electric energy.”
Earlier this year the site Skydive Mag called Chmelecki “the skydiving queen of Red Bull Air Force” and highlighted that she was the first woman to join the team. “My entire life I dreamt of flying,” she told the publication. “In my imagination gravity had no effect on me. I could just fly everywhere.”