A Sporting Life: President George H.W. Bush Skydives on 90th Birthday

A Sporting Life: President George H.W. Bush Skydives on 90th Birthday

Once again former President George Herbert Walker Bush, often called Bush I, has indulged his hobby of skydiving, this time to celebrate his 90th birthday.

“I got one more left in me,” the former president said on NBC’s Today. “It’ll be fun.”

The former president made the jump in Kennebunkport, Maine, where he has long vacationed, at about 11:15 a.m. Eastern time. Son and fellow president George W. Bush waited for his father on the ground. The leap of faith marks his eighth from an airplane.

Bush has one harrowing jump forever etched into his mind. As an aviator during WWII the future President was forced to bail out of his bomber when it caught fire during a wartime mission. He has said that he didn’t do it right back then and that spurred him to try it again in later years.

“I did it wrong, I pulled the jump cord too early and hit the tail of the plane,” Bush said. “I decided later on that I wanted to do it right. That did spark my interest in making another jump.”

President Bush also noted that he often reflects on that terrible day and he thinks about the two crew members who died in that fire.

The former President performed dives to celebrate his 80th and 85th birthdays as a way to keep himself active and vital, and this year he went for one more jump.

But skydiving isn’t necessarily a cakewalk, even without a war going on. Even in today’s more controlled environment, skydiving remains one of the most dangerous sports in the world, especially for a 90-year-old man confined to a wheelchair, as Bush sometimes is these days.

Out of an average of 3 million jumps per year since the year 2000, there has been an average of 25 to 30 some deaths each year.

While the sport has improved its safety record–in the 1970s the average deaths per year topped 42 fatalities–the sport has also grown from only a few thousands jumps in 1961–from which 14 skydivers perished–to 3.2 million jumps in 2013.

While it is amazing that the 90-year-old Bush would take to the skies like this, he has had a no less momentous and active life on the ground. During his long life he has achieved many accomplishments. He won election to the House of Representatives from the Texas 7th District in 1966. President Nixon appointed him in 1971 to become the US ambassador to the UN. He subsequently served as chairman of the Republican national Committee, became a liaison for the US to China, moved on to become director of the CIA in 1976, and won election as vice president on a 1980 ticket with Ronald Reagan before moving into the White House for his own stint as president in 1989.

As the ex-president’s close friend, Ron Kaufman, says, “He really enjoys life to the fullest.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com