"We had Joe as our guest speaker at our Safety Day. He was terrific. Everyone really enjoyed it. The tip-off was the number of folks that stuck around afterward to shake his hand. Joe was the best we have seen. I couldn't recommend him highly enough."
Sandy Sanderson VTARNG.
"It turned out to be a great evening. Joe was a very entertaining speaker. After his address I concluded that he is the craziest man I have ever met in my life. Everyone enjoyed his presentation and plenty of people stayed afterward to meet him, shake his hand, take pictures, and get an autograph. He shares quite a story."
Jeff Ramsden, So. Florida Business Aviation Association.
Joe Kittinger, Jr.
Joe Kittinger served three combat tours in Vietnam in 1963-64 flying B-26s, in 1966-67 flying A-26 and 1972-72 flying F-4s. He was shot down near Hanoi in 1973 and held as a prisoner of war for over a year. As Squadron Commander of the famous 555 (Triple Nickel) TFS-F-4s, this gregarious pilot with bright red hair was well-liked and respected by the pilots in his command. Joe has been awarded the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Harmon Trophy and a host of other military and civilian awards. After 483 combat missions and 28 years in the United States Air Force, Joe became Vice President of Flight Operations for Rosie O’Grady Flying circus. For the next 14 years, his duties included banner towing, skywriting, and operating the Rosie O’Grady helium balloon and hot air balloon. He is currently an aviation and aerospace consultant and barnstorms in a 1929 New Standard open cockpit bi-plane. He was enshrined into the National Aviation Hall of Fame as well as named an Elder Statesman of Aviation by the NAA. Joe Kittinger is a genuine American hero.
A few highlights from his colorful career include:
World’s record parachute jump, 102,800 feet – August 16, 1960
First man to exceed sound barrier in free-fall and longest free-fall – August 16, 1960
First Atlantic Ocean crossing solo balloon flight – September 14-18, 1984
Five stratospheric balloon flights
Over 16,000 hours of flight time in 68 different types of aircraft
Four time winner of Gordon Bennett Trophy (Gas Balloon Race)
Joe Kittinger—Expanded Bio
After attending the University of Florida, Joe joined the US Force in 1949. Upon graduation he was assigned to a Fighter Squadron in Germany flying the P-47, the F-84 and the F-86 all in a 3 year period. His next assignment was to the Fighter Test Section at Holloman AFB, NM. While there he became involved with several projects in preparation for the coming Space Age. Led by Dr John Paul Stapp, Kittinger did the first human research of weightlessness in a T-33 jet trainer, followed by the F-94, F-89, F-100 and F-104.
In June 1957, Joe made the first flight of the Project Man High- flying a stratospheric balloon solo to 97,000 ft. He was then assigned to the AeroMed Lab in Dayton Ohio where he made 3 research stratospheric parachute jumps from 67,000, 67,500 feet and 102, 800 feet-a record that stood for 52 years. For his jump from 102,800 feet, Joe was presented the Harmon Trophy by President Eisenhower. A photo of Joe jumping was on the front page of Life Magazine.
Following another stratospheric balloon flight to 86,000 feet, with Bill White, an astronomer, Kittinger was assigned to the Air Commandos where he flew combat in Vietnam in 1963-64 in B-26’s, followed by a combat tour in 1966-67 in A-26’s, followed by a combat tour in 1971 to 1972 where he was the Squadron Commander of the famous Triple Nickel Squadron flying the Phantom F-4 aircraft.
In March 1972, Joe shot down a Mig 21 and in May 1972 he was shot down by a Mig 21 and ended up as a POW at the Hanoi Hilton until released in March 1973. He had a total of 1,000 hours of combat with 483.5 combat missions.
Upon retiring from the USAF in 1978, Joe stayed connected to aviation—barnstorming in a 1929 New Standard aircraft, skywriting, banner towing and flying gas and hot air balloons around the world. Joe won the prestigious Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race four times.
In 1981, Joe made a flight in a Cessna 180 from Orlando Florida to Salzburg Rhodesia, for a total flight time of 96 hours.
In 1984, he made the first solo gas balloon flight across the Atlantic Ocean; launching from Caribou Maine and landing some 86 hours later in Northern Italy, setting several World’s records.
Joe was the Capsule Communicator in Oct 2012 on Project Stratos where Felix Baumgartner jumped from a stratospheric balloon from 128,000 feet, excelling Kittinger’s record set in 1960. It took 52 years before someone broke Joe's record, and Joe helped in the effort.
Joe is a Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, A member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame, The Parachutist Hall of Fame, The Balloon Hall of Fame, the Florida Aviation Hall of Fame and a Medalist in The Explorers Club.
In 2008, Joe was awarded the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Lifetime Achievement Award for his aeronautical achievements and contribution to aviation.