106-Year-Old WWII Veteran Sets Skydiving Record as Gov. Greg Abbott Makes First Jump

The WWII veteran set a new record as the oldest person in the world to skydive.
106-Year-Old WWII Veteran Sets Skydiving Record as Gov. Greg Abbott Makes First Jump
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (L) and 106-year-old World War II veteran Al Blaschke skydived at Skydive Spaceland San Marcos in Fentress, Texas, on Nov. 27, 2023. (Courtesy of the Office of Greg Abbott)
Jana J. Pruet

On the morning of Nov. 27, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made his first skydiving jump while his guest of honor made a record-setting jump.

Al Blaschke, a 106-year-old World War II veteran, set a new record as the oldest person in the world to skydive—beating his own record from three years ago. Mr. Blaschke was an aircraft engineer during the war.

Mr. Abbott said his jump was made to honor the service and sacrifice of U.S. military veterans.

“Texans and Americans owe so much to the brave men and women who serve our nation and protect the freedoms that we enjoy each and every day,” he said in a news release. “I am proud to share my first skydiving jump with Al Blaschke to honor veterans, like him, who helped safeguard the freedoms and promise of our country for generations of Americans.”

The two men made their tandem jumps at 8,500 feet from a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft at Skydive Spaceland in San Marcos, Texas, about 30 miles southwest of Austin.

Former state Rep. John Cyrier was on hand for the pair’s successful skydiving event, according to a video he shared on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Nice landing for both @GregAbbott-TX and a 106-year-old WWII veteran,” wrote Mr. Cyrier, who is also a skydiver.

Mr. Cyrier’s 44-second video showed Mr. Abbott and Mr. Blaschke gliding their red, white, and blue colored parachutes to the field, where they landed about 30 seconds apart. Each of the men was attached to an instructor for the dives.

Military veteran advocate Betty Schleder and Texas National Guard soldiers also attended the jump.

Blaschke’s Other Jumps

In 2017, Mr. Blaschke of Georgetown, Texas, made news headlines when he made his first tandem skydive jump on his 100th birthday.

Three years later, he did it again, but that jump was one for the record books.

“In 2020, Mr. Blaschke broke the Guinness World Record for the oldest tandem parachute jump alongside his twin grandson and longtime friend, Ms. Schleder,” according to a news release.

Mr. Abbott, who sits in a wheelchair, was a recent law school graduate when he became paralyzed. In July 1984, he was taking a break from studying for the bar exam by going on a jog. While he was running, a large oak tree on the path broke and fell on his back, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

The 66-year-old Republican governor first met Mr. Blaschke about a year ago after hearing about his record-breaking jump, making a promise to join him on the next one.

The governor described jumping from the plane after he was safely back on the ground.

“The most shocking sensation is when you immediately exit the plane, and you’re just in a freefall,” he told local news station KXAN-TV. “I had no clue where we were. We stabilized and then flew for a while without the parachute. [You] feel the parachute. It’s a lot of fun. It’s just amazing peace out there. It’s nice and calm.”

Mr. Blaschke, whose life motto is “keep smiling,” reportedly sang Frank Sinatra’s “When You’re Smiling” during the freefall to earth.

“Every letter I write and every Christmas card, I say ... ‘keep smiling.’ Always. Everybody should,” Mr. Blaschke reportedly said.

On Jan. 4, the centenarian will turn 107. His family told the local news outlet they expected this jump would be his last.

Jana J. Pruet is an award-winning investigative journalist. She covers news in Texas with a focus on politics, energy, and crime. She has reported for many media outlets over the years, including Reuters, The Dallas Morning News, and TheBlaze, among others. She has a journalism degree from Southern Methodist University. Send your story ideas to: [email protected]
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