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Golden Knight, soldier to attempt wing-suit world record at YPG
A member of the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army's Parachute Team, and a special forces soldier will attempt to break the world record in wing-suit flying in the skies above Yuma Proving Ground this weekend.
Staff Sgt. Ben Borger, a demonstrator on the team, will not only be attempting to break the world record for distance, he may also be testing a new, high-altitude oxygen mask.
"I will be thankful to be able to do it when the time comes," Borger said. "I compare it to planning a party that only lasts about six minutes a year in advance."
The new, high-altitude oxygen mask is being tested for special forces units that perform high-altitude, low-opening (HALO) parachute jumps.
"We are just keeping in part with our heritage," Borger said. "When the Golden Knights were formed, one of our missions was to test and evaluate new parachuting techniques and equipment."
Formed in 1959, the Golden Knights, in addition to testing and evaluating new parachuting techniques and equipment, were also tasked with competing against the Soviet Union in parachuting competitions and performing aerial demonstrations for the public for recruiting purposes.
Jumping along with Borger and recording his effort will be Master Sgt. Scott Campos, a special forces soldier stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. The two will be jumping from an altitude of 30,000 to 35,000 feet.
Special oxygen masks will be needed that can withstand higher altitudes. In addition to allowing Borger and Campos to breath at that altitude, the oxygen masks the two will use will allow them to test temperatures and altitudes.
"It is this type of development and research that can help provide today’s soldier’s with the best equipment available,” Borger said.
The current record Borger and Campos will attempt to break was set in 2005 by a Spanish Birdman team who flew 12.47 miles for a total of six minutes over the Strait of Gibraltar.
"This is the record that was the most supported in documentation," Borger said. "We have a good shot at breaking it. Because YPG is a training area there is a large expanse of air space here, which provides a pretty good landscape to conduct a jump of this type."
Due to the high altitude, Borger and Campos will be required to wear beacons that will detect their location on radar to air traffic.
Borger says that he and Campos intend to fly 13 miles in this attempt, which will break the current record by six-tenths of a mile.
"In breaking the world record, we hope to make a substantial mark in wing suiting and through our research and development for U.S. Army," Borger said.
The suit Borger and Campos will wear for their flight looks like that of a flying squirrel. The wings inflate and it has cells that fill with air, similar to a parachute, making them more aerodynamic.
“It’s the closest thing I’ll ever come to flying," Campos said of the suit, which is manufactured and designed by a company called Bird Man.
Borger first displayed the suit during an air show demonstration this past August in Atlantic City, N.J. The jump was aired via a jumbo-tron for the public to view. Borger was able to fly demonstrating the capabilities of the wing suit.
Borger added that wing-suit flying is a relatively new discipline to parachuting and is starting to become very competitive.
"Guys are starting to compete against each other in the distance they fly and how long they stay aloft," Borger said. "It is one of those things in parachuting that will bring attention to the sport, as well as the parachuting team and what we have to offer."
The jump is set for Saturday, Feb. 21, at the team’s training site in Yuma. An alternate date is set for Sunday, Feb. 22.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854.
Cheryle Rivas, U.S.A.P.T. contributed to this article.