When he was a child, Adrian Nicholas, like many children, I had dreams in which he flew, gliding silently from cloud to cloud, riding the wind far above the world of the earth-bound. Unlike other children, though, Nicholas, now 37, grew up to make his dreams come true. On March 12 he soared for 4 minutes and 55 seconds, covering 10 miles, both world records, before descending safely. He didn’t have a plane.
Instead, he stepped out of a plane at 35,000 feet, wearing a “wing suit”—basically a jumpsuit with nylon, batlike wings—and glided to earth, activating his parachute only when he was within 500 feet of the ground. “It reminds you of those sensations from the dream,” he says. “And you realize you knew how to do it all along. It’s the most beautiful experience, too good to be true.”
Nicholas, who grew up in the suburbs of London the son of a property developer and a homemaker, is an experienced sky diver with more than 6,500 jumps in the last five years. He makes his living teaching skydiving and by lecturing corporate leaders on how to handle pressure.
Nicholas’s suit was invented by Patrick DeGayardon, a French skydiver who died last year on a jump in Hawaii. Now, Nicholas and his girlfriend, Katarina Ollikainen, 34, work to refine its design. Because of the sport’s danger, the suit is available only to skydiving’s elite. “I don’t need someone getting hurt to remind me to be careful jumping out of an airplane,” says Nicholas.