Andy Farrington can fly. A member of the elite Red Bull Air Force, a team of the most accomplished BASE jumpers, wingsuit pilots, and paraglider pilots in the world, Andy is a bit of an expert. He can maneuver around buildings and along cliff faces with his wingsuit, and has jumped out of an airplane more than 19,000 times.
There are birds that haven’t flown as much as Andy. As a BASE jumper and skydiver, Andy is on the cutting edge of wingsuit flying. Andy has over 1,000 BASE jumps, two action films and numerous canopy piloting championships under his belt. But for Andy, this is just normal life.
If the first time you ever met Andy was at 12,000 feet after just having jumped from an airplane, strapped to your skydiving instructor’s belly, like I did, you might get a very different first impression. I hadn’t really noticed Andy on the plane ride. I was too nervous contemplating what I was about to do. When the cockpit door slid open, Andy jumped out. My stomach flip-flopped as a few other experts jumped out of the plane and disappeared with a freaky swooshing sound as if being sucked into outer space.
I first noticed Andy during freefall, when he swooped close by in his wingsuit and hovered for a moment. My brain registered his presence, even while my cheeks were inflating with wind as if I’d stuck my head out the window while riding shotgun at the Grand Prix. I looked at this winged man and thought, that guy is awesome; then he made an invisible adjustment of his limbs and darted away like a human hummingbird. Then I thought, that guy is insane.
When you’re about to BASE jump off a 2,000-foot cliff, you simply can’t hesitate. You cannot jump halfway. Andy Farrington lives his life without hesitation. There is simply no room for doubt. He claims he’s never walked up to a cliff and decided not to jump. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t without his own risk/reward calculus. When he’s up against something especially risky, he asks his mother for her advice. What mom says, goes.
Before he was born, his mother Jessie jumped 100 times while he was in utero. You could say he was born to jump out of airplanes. At age 10, he packed chutes at Skydive Kapowsin, his family’s skydive center, for $3 a pack. He now owns the drop zone with his sister, the third generation to carry on the family tradition. Andy and his wife Kasha recently had a baby, so perhaps the next generation is already queuing up to take over.
Some might think Andy is trying to escape the real world with all this time in the air. But for Andy, this is the real world. After meeting Andy in flight, I sat down and talked to him over a beer. It took a moment to connect the two images: one of a human bird capable of superhuman feats, the other a quiet, almost shy, man of great humility.
In the film Transformers 3, Andy flies between Chicago’s downtown buildings at 150 mph, and BASE jumped off the Sears Tower. Andy’s current movie Iron Man 3, in which he does stunt work with mom Jessie, is in theaters now.
Join me this week on The Edge Radio when I talk to Andy Farrington about BASE jumping, the Redbull team and stunt filming. You won’t want to miss this one.