Using 6 aircrafts, 138 skydivers jumped at 18,500 feet and created a snowflake shape by holding hands and remaining vertical (head down feet up) to set the new vertical world record. Skydivers traveled from all over the world to take part in the record attempt, including from France, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, Russia, Italy, Belgium, Australia and the U.K.
Photographer and skydiver Brian Buckland was one of 4 photographers there to capture the event while falling below the group. This is his image of the completed shape.
Nelson explained that vertical flying is "basically doing a headstand" in the air. The lack of wind resistance speeds the skydivers' fall rate to an average of 170 to 180 mph. Ahead of the record attempt, he said some of those involved would need to reach much higher speeds. And that increased the risks.
If they're not paying attention when diving into the formation at upwards of 220 mph, "it's going to be like someone running a red light and you taking them out," Nelson said.
Each skydiver knew exactly when to exit the aircraft, whom to follow and where in the formation they should be. At 7,000 feet, the skydivers began to peel away on a last-in, first-out basis, and each wave deployed their parachutes at altitudes specified according to their positions in the formation.
"We don't want everyone to open their parachutes at the same altitude because then everybody lands at the same time. We stack the sky vertically" to avoid collisions, Nelson said.