BALDWIN, WIS. - Kevin Burkart was planning to jump from a plane 200 times in a single day on Wednesday, beginning before dawn and finishing at sunset.
The weather didn't cooperate. "I woke up and opened the curtains at my motel," said his father, Gary, "and it was just solid fog" -- impossible conditions for skydiving.
The start was delayed by more than six hours -- and yet the Prior Lake man and his dozens of crew members were determined to make 200 jumps happen by the end of the evening. By the time they finally called it quits shortly after 10 p.m., the tally stood at 150 leaps -- and landings.
That meant steep climbs and fierce, body-jolting corkscrew descents in three-minute loops for hours on end, with occasional breaks to refuel the plane and put IV fluids and oxygen into Burkart..
But it was probably harder on pilot Kerry McCauley than it was on him, Burkart said.
McCauley didn't disagree. "It just all happens so fast," he said during his first extended break, at about 3 p.m., after going full-steam for more than four hours. "With the late start, you're going so hard and so fast. We don't want to finish in total darkness -- to be doing that when we're so tired."
The goal was to raise $60,000 in sponsorships in a day for the Parkinson Association of Minnesota.
Burkart's father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a decade ago. Knowing that it can be hereditary, Gary said, the younger Burkart threw himself into the cause.
"He joined the association board," said Jackie Hunt Christensen, a Parkinson's activist. But he stayed in that role for only two years. He wanted to take a more direct role in fighting the disease.
Two hundred dives is "traumatic on the body," said Jim Magnusson, a staff member at Skydive Twin Cities in Baldwin, Wis., where the event took place. "It's a shock when the chute opens. It shakes you up, and he's doing that all day long."
Normally the plane rises to 13,000 feet, giving the diver a moment of freefall. But to save time, Burkart, 38, only went to about 2,000 feet and did "hop and pops," opening his chute right away.
Within the first few dives, he had "a deployment bag lock," in which his main chute failed to open, he told reporters, "and I went to the reserve. At this height you can't stop and think about it. The reserve performed perfectly for me."
A major adjustment was needed by mid-afternoon, as the effects of breathing engine exhaust sucked into the cabin through its open door took its toll on him. Burkart needed medical attention and a rest.
The door had been left open to make things go faster; thereafter, others jumped aboard to close and open the door for him to protect him from those fumes.
David Peterson • 952-882-9023