PUBLISHED: 10:41 26 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:23 20 February 2013
Imagine skydiving from 120,000ft and falling to the earth at 700mph. That is what Wanstead's Steve Truglia is willing to go through to become a world record holder. Mark Jacobs reports
EX-SAS member, Steve Truglia, is one of the country's leading stunt arrangers and performers. It takes a particular kind of daring (and optimism) to bale out of a balloon more than 120,000 feet above the surface of the Earth, on the very edge of space, and plummet to the ground at more than 700mph.
But that's exactly what this man with a mission plans to do. The Space Jump Project - a world high altitude parachuting record attempt - will take place in August following a 52,000 feet jump in the USA as a final test.
The final date of the jump is dependent on a number of factors. The right weather conditions are critical as a gap in the jet stream needs to be found as Steve has a mobile launch which will allow him to take off from anywhere within a 1,000 square mile area of Oklahoma.
It will take him two hours to ascend to 120,000ft and just seven minutes to get back down to the ground, during which time his body will break the sound barrier. Steve feels this is the last great stunt challenge left on earth. It is the best, the biggest and the toughest and he is determined to beat his French rival, Michel Fournier, whose failed attempt at this record earlier this year saw his $200,000 Russian-made balloon leave without him before being recovered about 25 miles away.
Steve is leaving nothing to chance and is determined to make his attempt a success. 'It is a daunting prospect, but I'm looking forward to it. I always achieve what I set out to do. My job is in risk assessment, so I naturally take into account every variable and every scenario. I definitely feel prepared.'
His team are extremely experienced, with some of them previously having worked on NASA-funded research projects. And they have also learned from Michel's failure: 'I have two balloons, so if the first attempt fails I can re-launch,' Steve adds.
'For the Space Jump I'll be wearing a custom-made pressurised spacesuit from the same Russian company that produced Yuri Gagarin's. The suit will be plugged into the life support system on board the balloon's gondola for the ascent and I'll be carrying my own oxygen when it comes to the jump.'
When he's on terra firma, you're likely to find Steve at Esporta in Repton Park - Chigwell's swish adult only health club - keeping his 13 stone, 5 foot 9 frame in shape and training intensively for a slew of stunts designed for TV, films and commercials.
Born to Italian parents in Forest Gate, Truglia (the g is silent) has lived all his life in Wanstead and cites its great sprawling park as his first real adventure playground. The other was at Aldersbrook Primary School where the child's penchant for physical pursuits first kicked in.
'My life ahead was almost predestined. I gained something of a reputation at Wanstead High School in the 1970s for scaling the heights of the squash court.'
At 16 he went to Glasbury House, an outdoor education centre that involves youngsters in adventure activities. Two years later he began his association with the British Special Forces, joining the SAS and Royal Marines Reserve.
'When I first became a professional stuntman in 1996 I got a call asking if I was available to work on a Bond movie,' recalls Steve. 'Within a week I found myself doing precision car stunts and hanging out of helicopters on the set of Tomorrow Never Dies.
'When I looked into the stunt business, it had everything I'd always wanted - to travel, meet people and to utilise the skills I'd developed from my interest in extreme sports and as a reservist.'
Steve has numerous film credits including The World is Not Enough, Saving Private Ryan and Entrapment.
With the Space Jump on the horizon, the Wanstead boy faces his biggest challenge yet. 'Watching the world get smaller and the sky turn black will be awesome, I can't wait to be there, with the stars at eye level.'
Now that really is living the high life.