Texas man reclaims world’s oldest skydiver record at 106 years old

After retaking – at age 106 – the Guinness World Records (GWR) mark for oldest person to tandem skydive out of an airplane, Alfred “Al” Blaschke hailed his feat as living evidence that “everyone is more capable than they think”.

“If you think you can’t, you’re just underestimating yourself,” the resident of Georgetown, Texas, remarked. “[You] just need to make the decision to try.”

Blaschke’s motivational comments came in a write-up published recently by the GWR website, whose organization is known for maintaining a database of more than 40,000 world records.

The particular record which Blaschke has now captured twice made international news because of an entirely different person altogether this past fall. On 1 October, 104-year-old Dorothy Hoffner of Chicago made a tandem skydive aimed at landing her the world’s record for essentially being the oldest person ever to jump from a plane.

But eight days later, while awaiting Guinness’s official certification of her achievement, Hoffner died in her sleep at her senior living community.

Blaschke then soared to the skies on a plane the morning of 27 November 2023. After reaching an altitude of 9,000ft (2.7km) over Fentress, Texas, Blaschke attached himself to a skydiving instructor and jumped out of the plane into a free fall with him. The pair then safely parachuted the final 5,500ft (1.7km) to the ground while his children, grandchildren, journalists and government officials cheered on below.

It was the third occasion that Blaschke had gone tandem skydiving. His second time was in 2020 – when he was 103 years and 181 days old, jumped out of a plane at 14,000ft (4.3kme) to celebrate his twin grandsons’ graduation from college, and broke the Guinness record for oldest tandem skydiver.

“That was my dream,” Blaschke said after the 2020 jump, which was three years after he celebrated his 100th birthday with his debut skydive, according to Guinness. “I never thought I’d be around this long.”

Sweden’s Rut Linnéa Ingegärd Larsson surpassed Blaschke’s mark by a relatively slim margin in 2022, at 103 years and 259 days old. It was her exploits that inspired Blaschke to resolve to recapture his mark, according to Guinness.

Blaschke, who turned 107 in January, was born into a farming family in Janesville, Wisconsin. He moved to Milwaukee with his relatives when he was seven – and as the US fell into the grips of the Great Depression, Blaschke helped support his family by selling newspapers through high school and beyond.

Eventually, Blaschke completed trade school and embarked on a 40-year career in the tool-and-die industry in South Bend, Indiana, building aircraft parts during the second world war before retiring in 1982.

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He and his wife, Eleanor, moved to Texas in 2004 to be near their grandsons. She died in 2010 on their 49th anniversary, a 2020 article in the Austin American-Statesman newspaper said.

Blaschke, in that article, explained how he did not take up skydiving – which many people much younger than him do not have the courage to try – “just … for the hell of it”.

He said its purpose is to commemorate big milestones.

As he put it, whether it’s to celebrate his grandsons’ birthdays or set to world records, “it’s got be something … extra special”.

The Guardian