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Michel Fournier
Born 9 May 1944(1944-05-09) (age 77)
Place of birth Treban (Allier), France
Allegiance Flag of France.svg France
Service/branch Air Force
Rank Colonel

Michel Fournier (Born 9 May 1944) is a French adventurer and retired Air Force colonel. He has been involved in planning attempts to break freefall jumping height records, but has yet to be successful in carrying out an attempt. He was born in Treban (Allier), in the Auvergne region of France.[1]

Parachuting experience[]

According to the French version of his own biography, he (Michel Fournier) claims to have a total of more than 8,700 jumps in 2011, including a French record of height in freefall at 12,000 m.[2] However, his parachuting experience was disputed by Patrick de Gayardon[3] and the magazine Paramag.[4] No official institution has ever confirmed one of his titles.[5]

Le Grand Saut[]

Fournier has attempted to make record breaking freefall jumps on three occasions. In 1998, the French space agency chose Fournier to conduct a record jump to test the ability of astronauts to survive reentry without a space craft. This project was quickly canceled. In 2003, Fournier attempted his first privately financed jump but the balloon ripped while being filled. The New York Times reports that Fournier has spent "nearly $20 million" on his two private attempts.[6]

Fournier was scheduled to carry out the Grand Saut (Big Jump) project in May 2008, which would have seen him ascend to 40 kilometres (25 mi) in a balloon and freefall 34 kilometres (21 mi) to earth before opening his parachute at 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) to go.[7] In the process he was expected to attain a speed in freefall faster than the speed of sound,[8] and reach speeds upward of 1,000 miles per hour (1,600 km/h). His freefall was expected to last 15 minutes.[9] If successful, this would have broken records previously held by Joseph Kittinger, who set the previous parachute record by jumping from 31,333 metres (102,799 ft) in 1960 (with a small parachute for stability) under Project Excelsior; and Eugene Andreyev from the Soviet Union, who jumped from 24,483 metres (80,325 ft) in 1962, setting the longest free fall record.

The jump was expected to take place over the plains of Saskatchewan, Canada. After several delays due to weather, the attempt was made on 27 May 2008, but the balloon detached from its capsule as it was being inflated and floated away.[10] Another attempt was made on 16 May 2010 which was unsuccessful due to the skydiver's reserve parachute deploying inside the capsule during a pre-launch test while the balloon was being filled.[11]

The next attempt was announced for May 2011, delayed until August and then apparently postponed to 2012.[12]

See also[]


  1. "The man: Michel Fournier". Le Grand Saut project. 
  2. "Michel Fournier" (in fr). Le Grand Saut project. Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
  3. Paramag #125, October 1997
  4. Guillaud, Yves-Marie (July 2008). "Le grand saut" (in fr) (PDF). Paramag. Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
  5. "Complément d'information Paramag" (in fr) (PDF). Paramag. Retrieved February 28, 2011. 
  6. Higgins, Matt (May 24, 2008). "20-Year Journey for 15-Minute Fall". New York Times. 
  7. "French skydiver prepares for record jump from 40km up". ABC News Online. 26 May 2008. Retrieved 26 May. 
  8. "Skydiver to break sound barrier". BBC. 22 January 2002. 
  9. CBC Radio 1 newscast, 8am 26th May 2008
  10. "Jump record fails to take flight". BBC. 27 May 2008. 
  11. "Michel Fournier Free Fall Attempt". Popular Mechanics. 17 May 2010. 
  12. "Des élèves du Puy-en-Velay prêts pour Le grand Saut". Le 11 Jan 2011. 

External links[]

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