To celebrate his 80th birthday today, Pat Moorehead wanted to jump out of a plane over Lake Elsinore -- 80 times.
He got his birthday wish, despite cloudy skies and rain.
With today’s accomplishment at , the Long Beach resident set the world’s record for the most skydives by an 80-year-old in one day.
“He had a lot of energy when he finished – there were no mishaps. It was perfect,” said Nancy Gruttman-Tyler, a retired skydiver who witnessed today’s record-breaker.
Moorehead actually jumped 81 times today. After he broke the record, he went up one last time to fly the American flag.
"He finished just before the weather broke out," Gruttman-Tyler said.
The feat took a little over 6 ½ hours and was not without careful planning, including support from his wife, and volunteer help from about 50 friends who stepped up as riggers, cameramen, a pilot, and a doctor on standby. Equipment and an airplane were also on loan for the birthday celebration, and an international contingency of skydivers wished him well from all corners of the globe.
“This was never meant to be what it is today,” Moorehead said Saturday as he practiced for the big day. “I just wanted to do a few jumps on my birthday.”
But the idea snowballed into a promotional fundraising effort in support of constructing a National Skydiving Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
To promote the Nov. 20 “Team 80” undertaking, Moorehead and friends designed T-shirts and other “80” skydiving paraphernalia that has been selling like hotcakes online.
“We’ve raised about $15,000 (for the museum),” said Moorehead, who is a long-time member and supporter of the U.S. Parachute Association.
On Saturday, he made 14 practice jumps in preparation for his birthday and he explained his “80 skydives” tactics.
“Each jump should take no more than five minutes,” Moorehead said, noting that his team of riggers remove his parachute on landing then quickly outfit him with another pack before he jumps back in the plane and heads up to about the 2,200-foot level for his next dive.
Two skydiving cameramen were brought in to film the adventure from high above.
The jumps began around 6 a.m. today and concluded shortly after 12:30 p.m.
Obviously, Moorehead isn’t your typical 80-year-old. Tall, trim and fit, when he’s not jumping he’s doing adventure travel somewhere in the world with his 64-year-old skydiving wife, Alicia. Next year they are scheduled to spend time in South America exploring the continent’s rivers, and they plan to skydive over Holland.
Over the span of his skydiving career, Pat has jumped more than 6,100 times; Alicia is credited with 2,500 jumps.
Pat also makes a little extra cash through his California Aerial Circus Parachute Team, a “fun” side venture that has him doing sky-high movie stunts and commercials. Among his film credits, he said he can count appearances in blockbusters like “The Return of Maxwell Smart,” “Mission Impossible” and “Battlestar Galactica.”
So how’s he going to top today’s accomplishment? Ninety on his 90th?
“No, I don’t think so. Maybe nine,” he said with a sly laugh. “Who knows. You don’t stop skydiving because you get old. You’ve got to keep moving.”