A Former Chilean Air Force Pilot Flew in and out of an Active Volcano

Playing with life and and death.
Ameya Paleja
Alvarez flying out of the volcanoRed Bull/YouTube

Former Chilean Air Force pilot, Sebastian Alvarez has become the first wingsuit pilot to fly in and out of a volcano, CNN reported. Alvarez achieved this feat last month at the Villarrica volcano in southern Chile, which last erupted as recently as 2020. 

Even as a kid, Alvarez was fond of flying, CNN says in its report. So, he joined the Chilean Air Force, where apart from flying planes, he was also taught how to skydive. Alvarez was hooked and even went skydiving during his holidays while at service. The adrenaline-pumping activity opened new doors for him as he took to BASE jumping and wingsuit flying. 

Alvarez wanted to push the boundaries of the sport and decided to take up the challenge that if not executed to perfection would see him slam against the volcano wall. The preparation not only involved multiple rounds of calculations to get the flight path correct but also changes to the wingsuit design, Red Bull said on its website. During the year preceding the jump, Alvarez traveled to Europe and South America for training and performed around 500 jumps. 

Smoke columns from the volcano produced turbulence and instability but the weather in South Chile presented its own set of problems. Between the rain, snow, high winds, and storms that lasted up to a week, there were very small windows where Alvarez could attempt his jump. 

As the weather cleared, Alvarez sat on the edge of a helicopter almost 11,000 feet (3,350 m) above the ground when the helicopter was in position, he jumped. His three-minute flight saw Alvarez hit a top speed of 179 mph (288 kph) as he entered the 649 feet (198 m) wide crater of the volcano.  Alvarez entered the crater to a depth between 23 feet (7 m) to 32 feet (10 m). Here's point-of-view footage of the jump. 

Alvarez used the flaring technique to achieve this feat where the speed gathered during the vertical drop was transferred to horizontal speed after opening the wingsuit. Red Bull confirmed that this was the first time the technique was used in a project of this type, especially inside the crater of a volcano. 

He also narrowly missed the fastest flight in a wingsuit

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