A Flying Leap: Truckee jumpers break world’s record in Malaysia
While many people tapped champagne glasses and blew noise makers to bring in the New Year, Truckee’s Brenda McGlynn and her husband, Dennis, and their friend John Huffman, leaped into the New Year from the world’s tallest skyscrapers with 13 other “extreme skydivers” from around the world.
Approximately five seconds before midnight, the team jumped from three different floors of Malaysia’s Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lampur, each 1,483 feet tall, and landed before a cheering crowd of an estimated 150,000 people on Jan. 1, 2001.
It was called the transmillennium jump – a BASE jump that set three world records: The most people to jump off a building at once; the first jump from one millennium into the next (a record that can’t be broken for 1,000 years); and the first jump from the highest building in the world.
“This definitely was the most intense BASE jump I’ve ever done,” Brenda McGlynn said just two days after returning from Malaysia. “It was really intense because we were jumping in front of a crowd of nearly 200,000.”
McGlynn, the only woman on the team, has been BASE jumping – an acronym that stands for building, antenna, spans and earth – with her husband since they first met 15 years ago. Dennis is one of the most experienced BASE jumpers in the world, and he worked closely with their friend and fellow BASE jumper Robin Heid to organize the millennium event for most of the year 2000. But there were some complications to be worked out, such as making the jump legal with Malaysian authorities.
“We planned on not going after all, but on Dec. 14 Robin Heid called us and told us to pack our bags,” Brenda said. “We met with Malaysian government officials for two weeks and we finally got the jump approved.”
Dennis was the choreographer and technical director of the complicated jump, which had the team jumping from three different floors from both towers to a very tight targeted landing area.
The timing had to be perfectly synchronized. If someone jumped out of count, dangerous results were more likely.
“Our timing was critical. If one person jumped two seconds late, the person above them could have hit them,” Brenda said. “If we had landed on any spectators it would not have been good, so we all had to stick the target. And we did.”
She added, “We knew if anything went wrong it was going to be really ugly. We brought the media into this and a lot of hype. But you have to be prepared if you do have any problems to deal with it.”
The team had radios to communicate the counts and the jump had been practiced many many times the day before.
“The crowd got so loud,” she said. “You had to be so totally concentrated on the jump, you had to shut the crowd out and ignore them.”
It was the highest jump for Brenda, who started skydiving when she was 25. She jumped from Angel Falls, 3,212 feet, in Venezuela years ago with her husband.
Skydiving is something she said she wanted to do since she was a teenager, when she used to watch skydivers at a park.
“I was hooked immediately,” she said. She met Dennis as he first started BASE jumping and helped with ground crew tasks, and finally decided to try BASE jumping herself.
“I have vertigo, which is not unusual for skydivers. BASE jumping was definitely a part of learning to control my fear of heights,” she said.
With her petite body, wild blue eyes and platinum blond hair, it’s hard to imagine Brenda leaping from thousands of feet in the air, free falling until she activates her equipment. But BASE jumping is something Brenda takes very seriously in light of its controversial nature. She works with her husband and several other BASE jumpers to get legal jumping sites, of which there are few, and promote safe, responsible jumping.
While she admits she has done some illegal jumps in the past, she said now she is only comfortable with legal jumps.
“I’m way too old to run. I prefer to be on the edge and soaking in the gorgeous sites,” she said. “I want to concentrate on my jump and not an escape route. To be on the edge thinking about the rangers isn’t fun. I’d rather soak up the beauty of my surroundings rather than worrying about getting arrested.”
The extreme sport of jumping off fixed objects is considered dangerous enough that the National Park Service has banned such stunts, but Brenda said jumping is legal in Southern Utah on Bureau of Land Management land, where there are some great cliffs ranging in height from 300 to 700 feet and where there is a competition every year in late February or March. In Idaho, there are some bridges BASE jumpers can leap from legally. Also, there is one day a year in a six hour time slot when it is legal to jump from New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia. It is limited to 300 jumpers, and Dennis is one of the organizers of the event.
“So far on our competition circuit we have a clean record,” Brenda said. “We try to impress these agencies in that we do hold the land in high esteem. We treat it like an extreme sport and we’re safe about it.”
Nationwide, an estimated 21 people have died during BASE jumps in the last 20 years.
Brenda and Dennis co-own Gravity Sports Limited, a home-based operation that manufactures extreme sport equipment and apparel. Brenda also teaches snowboarding, her other extreme sport passion, at Alpine Meadows.
For their wedding ceremony a few years ago, the couple leapt from the Forest Hill Bridge in Auburn, Calif. adorned in specialized rigs made out of lace and tuxedo material.
Like the transmillennium jump, their wedding jump was also a first. But at her wedding, at least, they got a celebration drink soon after they landed.
After cleaning up and packing equipment following the New Year’s jump, Brenda didn’t have a drink or a moment to relax until 4 a.m. Jan. 1. By then, newspapers across the world were rolling off the presses with photos and stories of the event.
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