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Birthday treat: Chris Howard marked his 40th trip around the sun recently by jumping from a plane

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Most people celebrate a milestone birthday with a nice dinner, maybe sharing a bottle of champagne with friends.

Chris Howard marked his 40th trip around the sun recently by jumping out of an airplane 101 times between sunup and sundown at Pennridge Airport.

Besides setting a state record that has stood since 1986, the Perkasie resident also managed to raise about $4,500 for Bucks for Kids, a local nonprofit that provides much-needed services to foster children in the area.

“It’s something I’ve thought about for several years,” said Howard, an instructor at Skydive Philadelphia based at the airport in Perkasie. “But I kept it to myself. This year I decided to do it. Unless you put a deadline on something, it will never happen. I couldn’t back out on my own birthday.”

Starting at about 5:30 a.m. Howard was completing jumps at frenetic pace, about every six minutes. As soon as he landed from one jump, a ground crew helped him switch parachutes before he sprinted to another Cessna 182 that was ready to go. Within a minute, he was back in the air ready for another jump.

By about 10:30 a.m., he had already broken the record of 40 jumps. The pace slowed down a bit after that, including one extended jump around noon when he was joined by fellow jumpers from Skydive Philadelphia with a 220-foot American flag. As he approached 70 jumps later in the afternoon, Howard began to experience some minor cramping due to dehydration, his only physical challenge during the entire 12-hour stunt. Realizing the end was in sight, however, Howard caught a second wind and averaged about six minutes per jump over the last 10 or so jumps.

When it was all over, he had dropped a total of about 53 miles during his 101 jumps.

“Actually it was easier than it should have been,” he said. “We had all the logistics in place to save time and conserve energy.”

An Australia native with almost 15,000 jumps in his 20-year skydiving career, Howard said he was shocked by the amount of community support generated by the event. Dozens of people were on hand at any one time during the picture-perfect weather day, some sitting at picnic tables while they ate hot dogs and sipped cold drinks, others lounging on blankets as they gazed skyward.

“It was a massive, massive surprise,” Howard said of the onlookers. “We never guessed there would be so many people on a weekday in the middle of summer. It blew us away. The community really ran with it.”

The crowd swelled a bit as Howard neared 100 jumps around 6 p.m. For the finale, he jumped from 14,000 feet in formation with 12 other skydivers.

As he hit the ground for the 101st time and made his way toward the hangar, the crowd erupted in applause.

Pennridge Airport

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