Five unknown facts of record Burj Khalifa jump

It was a moment in history that soared into the record books when two brave men leapt off the pinnacle of the world’s tallest building for a death-defying base jump on that morning of April 19.

While the world reacted to the new Guinness World Record by daredevils Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet as they base jumped off the top spire of Burj Khalifa, few are aware of the engineering feat that went behind conducting this feat.

A month later, engineers from WSP reveal some of the challenges faced by the base jumpers and the architects behind the world record, including building a 3.5-metre platform at the dizzying heights of 828 metres, with 1.28 metres of moving space.

Designing the jump

Brian Hillesdon, director of structures, revealed that when Emaar first approached them and narrated the idea of the base jump, everyone looked at it with a level of ‘trepidation’.

He said: “We had trepidation as to how to build a platform at that height for the base jumpers to leap from, with just 1.28m of space to work with at the top of the Burj Khalifa spire.

“We decided to throw the idea out to our engineering teams and ran a competition, giving them three hours to design a concept that would allow us to erect this platform from which the men could base jump.”

Andy Veall, Associate Director of Structures, stated: “The challenge was to get the materials lifted at that height. Finally, the Royal Air Wing was brought in to helicopter the platform to the spire, but even that proved a challenge with the downdraft of the aircraft deeming the job too high risk to attempt.”

Finally, the engineers hit up on the designing of building the platform into small pieces and lifting it through a pulley system to the top, where it was bolted together.

Veall revealed that 270 pieces were used to bolt the platform in place, with extra measures used to ensure not a single nut could fall out of place, adding: “We couldn’t take the risk. From that height, even a coin can have an impact of a bullet as it hits the ground.”

Safety, with a few challenges

Daniel Paul Eede, Group IRATA Compliance Manager, which had the job of building the physical structure of the platform, said it took four weeks to put the structure in place at the pinnacle, even as the project remained top secret.

However, Eede finally also revealed that it wasn’t all easy going.

“When I went for the first site check, I discovered the platform was built in the wrong direction,” he laughed. “It was decided the base jumpers would land on the lawn in front of the Armani Hotel. The direction which the platform faced would have them land in the waters of Dubai Fountain.”

Six jumps

The released video footage of the base jumpers reveals two separate leaps, one which saw Fugen and Reffet take a straight dive to the Armani lawns, while a second one sees the duo complete a 360-degree spin around the Burj Khalifa with the help of their specially designed wingsuits.

Eede further stated: “Altogether, six jumps were conducted from the pinnacle at different times. The first one was on the morning of April 19, around 6am. We chose that early hour because the wind speeds were favourable for the base jumpers.”

The French duo attempted the climb up to the platform four times in that one day, which required an 84-metre vertical climb up the spire or the size of a football field.

Eede added: “By the fourth climb, both of them were cramping up with exhaustion. The only respite was the gear itself that was carried up via a pulley system, which allowed them to change at the top before taking the leap.”

Light up the night

The organisers have also revealed that a second video is likely to surface in June, which features a special night jump.

The Frenchmen donned special LED-designed suits that lit up their nocturnal descent down the 828 metres of the Burj Khalifa, which will be showcased as a “special treat” next month as a part of a 30-minute documentary that will reveal how Dubai set a new Guinness World Record with this base jump.

And there were four...

While Fugen and Reffet have heaped the accolades of successfully attempting this death defying base jump, few are aware that were actually four people who leapt off the Burj Khalifa for this world record.

Two special cameramen worked behind the scenes, mounting the camera on their person, as they leapt off the spire with the recordbreakers to capture the close-ups of this feat.

The names of these two cameramen have yet to be revealed.


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