RIP Adrian Nicholas


Kit Reviewer
Those in the sport will have at least heard of Adrian who went in on Saturday. The bloke really did live his life at full speed and made sure he enjoyed every moment.
(He died pretty much the same way.)

Even allowing for the multitude of rules designed to make skydiving less fun, there aren't that many divers out there with the get up & go that Adrian possessed.

Sad he's gone & my thoughts are with Katarina and Ella.
I'll raise a glass or three to him at the DZ this weekend.

Blue skies mate.

The Telegraph said:
Adrian Nicholas
(Filed: 22/09/2005)

Adrian Nicholas, who died on Saturday in a skydiving accident in Holland aged 43, was not a man to let the trifling matter of his own mortality get in the way of a good time; known as "the man who can fly", he pushed the boundaries of "extreme" sports, pioneering new types of skydiving.

With curly fair hair and dashing good looks, Nicholas was an adventurer in the best British tradition of derring-do. He seemed to spend almost as much time in the air as on the ground, making more than 6,500 jumps in five years in 30 different countries. He baled out of a Russian jumbo jet on to the North Pole; jumped into a Dolgan Eskimo village in Siberia; made the first free fall flights through the Grand Canyon and over the Great Wall of China; and won numerous medals for extreme sports.

In 1998, wearing a webbed "Wingsuit", he set world records for the furthest unassisted human flight and for the longest free fall. Two years later he decided to test the theory that Leonardo da Vinci had designed the world's first working parachute.

In 1485 Leonardo had scribbled a simple sketch of a four-sided pyramid covered in linen. Alongside, he had written: "If a man is provided with a length of gummed linen cloth with a length of 12 yards on each side and 12 yards high, he can jump from any great height whatsoever without injury."

Defying expert predictions that it would not work, and with advice from Professor Martin Kemp of Oxford University, Nicholas and his Swedish girlfriend, Katarina Ollikainen, constructed a parachute according to Leonardo's design; and on June 25 2000, Nicholas launched himself from a hot air balloon 10,000 ft over South Africa.

Surrounded by two helicopters and two parachutists, he parachuted for five minutes as a black box recorder measured his descent, before cutting himself free of the contraption and releasing a conventional parachute.

Although aeronautical experts had predicted that it would tip over, fall apart or spin uncontrollably, Leonardo's parachute made such a smooth and slow descent that the two jumpers accompanying Nicholas had to brake twice to stay level with him. "It took one of the greatest minds who ever lived to design it," Nicholas observed, before adding modestly, "but it took 500 years to find a man with a brain small enough to actually go and fly it."

The son of a property developer, Adrian Nicholas was born on March 4 1962. As a boy he was always getting into scrapes, loved every kind of sport and was an avid reader of adventure stories in Boys' Own comics.

Nicholas was educated at Aldenham School, Elstree, and at a local sixth form college. He made his first parachute jump out of a plane aged 17 and went on to become a cave diver (a cave in Florida was named after him), skydiver, snowboarder, wrestler, jet pilot and rally driver before joining Capital Radio as the station's "Eye in the Sky" traffic and travel correspondent, working alongside Chris Tarrant.

He succeeded in raising what was once a prosaic element of Capital Radio's drive-time programming into an essential ingredient of its output. He even had his own fan club. "He's a madman," Chris Tarrant observed affectionately, "absolutely barking. He gave me a lift once from Charing Cross Road. I am never, ever getting into a car with that person again."

After 10 years with Capital Radio, in 1994 Nicholas decided to concentrate on skydiving full-time after meeting Patrick de Gayardon, a pioneer of sky surfing. They became friends and dived together everywhere, Nicholas supporting his adventures by working as a photographer, selling television footage and lecturing company employees about how to overcome fears and phobias.

But in 1998 Nicholas watched in horror as de Gayardon plunged to his death trying to become the first man to fly. De Gayardon had been wearing a specially-adapted Wingsuit, with webbing between the arms and torso and between the legs; but a technical malfunction prevented him from opening either of his two parachutes towards the end of his flight.

Instead of giving up, Nicholas determined to carry on where his friend had left off, and on March 12 1999, after making further adaptations to de Gayardon's Wingsuit, Nicholas attempted to break two world records for time and distance.

He jumped over California from 35,850 ft, wearing an oxygen mask, and nearly died in the attempt. "As I stepped out of the aeroplane, the exhaust valve in my oxygen mask froze solid," he recalled. "At 35,000 ft the temperature is -120C. It meant that, though I had taken in a breath of air, I couldn't breathe out. I couldn't take the mask off either because at that height I would have died."

By contorting his face, he was able to break the seal slightly, so that he could at least exhale; but he was not able to breathe properly for about four minutes. "The main thing I remember was feeling embarrassed that all these people were there and I was going to muck it all up and die." Despite nearly choking to death, Nicholas flew for four minutes 55 seconds and covered 10 miles, establishing new world records for the longest sky dive and the furthest human flight. "I don't think of myself as a nutter but I believe I can fly," he said afterwards. "I'm a real life Peter Pan."

Nicholas featured in the IMAX film Adrenalin Rush and appeared on many television programmes, including Tomorrow's World and Top Gear. In 2000 BBC1 screened a 50-minute documentary about his life, as part of its Extreme Lives series, called Lord of the Skies.

"I'll die skydiving," Nicholas predicted. "It will happen. We all die skydiving, eventually. But it will be worth it."

Adrian Nicholas is survived by his girlfriend Katarina Ollikainen, and by their infant daughter.

For those that are interested the Service will be held at Beaulieu Abbey on Fri 30 Sep 05 at 1100 hrs.
Family flowers only, others, donations please to:

Make-A-Wish Foundation UK
329-331, London Road
GU15 3HQ


The Astrid Lindgren Hospital
Children's Hospital
His AAD (Automatic Activation Device) fired as he was making a hook turn (high speed landing) deploying his reserve at about 300ft. With both his main and reserve parachutes out they downplaned and rather than slowing him down, flew him into the ground before he could cut his main away and land under just the reserve.
heard about that - it was on the news over here!

Not a nice way to die I'd imagine


Is there a nice way? I suppose the bloke was happy enough.............he wouldn't have had too much time to have got p*ssed off about it. At least he died happy.
Harry_Webster said:
RIP Adrian A true pioneer who pushed the envelope and a nice bloke to boot.

See you on the great rail in the sky!
Another good man gone, and didn't even make the 6 o'clock news.
It breaks my heart.

Lessons learned: The most common cause of death in modern skydiving is a fully inflated, correctly functioning parachute, and a low hook turn. Adrian seems to have been doubly 'blessed'.

Be very very careful out there.

For technical discussions around the causes see:;so=ASC;forum_view=forum_view_collapsed
from whence, also this: said:
"The trouble with skydiving; If you stink at it and continue to jump, you'll die. If you're good at it and continue to jump, you'll see a lot of friends die..."
That's why I don't hang my best skydive pictures any more: in every single one I can find a face that's no longer with us.

This obituary from Sat 15 Oct 2005 (better late than never. . .):

The Times said:
Adrian Nicholas
March 4, 1962 - September 17, 2005
Daredevil skydiver who explored the sport to its limits
ADRIAN NICHOLAS was a skydiver who represented the UK at the First World Air Games, the World Games and on the Extreme Games pro Tour, and won numerous awards for extreme sports. He appeared on most major television networks, and he was featured in publications ranging from the National Geographic to Hello! magazine.

One of his most notable accomplishments, documented in the IMAX film Adrenaline Rush: The Science of Risk (2002), was to test Leonardo da Vinci’s 500-year-old design for a parachute. His partner, Katarina Ollikainen, made the parachute according to the artistinventor’s instructions, and in June 2000 Nicholas successfully used it in a jump from a hot-air balloon over South Africa. The experiment came to be part of a project on dynamic modelling at Salford University, which awarded Nicholas an honorary degree.

Adrian Nicholas left his sixth-form college in Elstree, Hertfordshire, after his A levels, an enthusiast for extreme sports. After his first parachute jump at the age of 17, he also became involved in cave diving, rally driving and circuit racing.

After a number of jobs, in 1986 he became a presenter at Capital Radio. He worked with several charities, including Help a London Child, and each year he compèred at the Stoke Mandeville Special Olympics.

In 1996 he took up skydiving full time and gave motivational lectures, illustrated with film clips, on how to overcome fear and phobias. He also sold dramatic television footage.

Over the next few years he made more than 8,000 jumps in 30 countries. Among his feats was a skydive from a Russian airliner on to the North Pole and the first skydive over the Great Wall of China. He also flew through the Grand Canyon using the “wingsuit”, designed by a friend, Patrick de Gayardon, which had webbing between the arms and torso, and between the legs. It allowed the wearer to travel two metres horizontally for every metre of fall. Nicholas and Ollikainen worked on developing the suit with Gayardon, who in April 1998 fell to his death owing to a technical malfunction of his parachute.

Nicholas was parachuting alongside his friend on that occasion, but was spurred to further achievements. A year later he flew, unassisted, ten miles for 4min 55sec, breaking two world records.

Nicholas and his partner had recently settled in Sweden with their infant daughter. He died when his parachute failed to open properly during a jump in the Netherlands.

Adrian Nicholas, skydiver, was born on March 4, 1962. He died on September 17, 2005, aged 43.
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