Omar Alhegelan was a pioneer in the discipline of freeflying in the 1990s as a member of the Freefly Clowns with Charles Bryan, Stefania Martinengo, Mike Vail and Olav Zipser. Known for being Zen in freefall, he has won 11 gold medals at national and international competitions and has performed stunts and acted in numerous commercials, TV shows and movies. An international traveler who is fluent in Arabic, English, French, Italian and Spanish, Alhegelan has skydived in numerous places, including the North Pole and Mount Everest. Most recently, he organized a skydiving excursion to Antarctica. Along with skydiving, Alhegelan is now giving motivational speeches and Facebook Live talks on happiness and other topics.
Birthplace: Madrid, Spain
Nationality: Saudi Arabian
Marital Status: Married
Children: Dunia, my 5-year-old daughter
Occupation: Skydiver and motivational speaker
Education: Georgetown University—a Bachelor of Arts in history with a psychology minor. Certified in neuro-linguistic programming.
Jump Philosophy: Have fun. Land safely. Repeat. And always learn at least one thing from every jump.
Team Names: Freefly Clowns, O2, AZ Freeflight
Sponsors: Airtec, Larsen & Brusgaard, Liquid Sky Sports, Performance Designs, Sun Path Products, TonFly
Container: Sun Path Javelin Odyssey
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Comp Velocity 79
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs PDR 113
AAD: Airtec Sport CYPRES 2
Home Drop Zone: [Skydive Arizona in] Eloy will always be my home DZ. Homegrown.
First Jump: An AFF at Kevin Gibson’s DZ in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, in 1993
Licenses and Ratings: A-17837, D-16239, expired coach, AFF and PRO. Started the tandem rating process, did all the prerequisite jumps then moved to Dubai and never finished my USPA certification.
Championships and Medals: 1998 USPA Nationals, gold in freestyle; Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Cup, silver in freestyle. 2000 USPA Nationals, bronze in freefly; FAI World Cup, bronze in freefly. 2001 World Air Games, silver in freestyle; 1st FAI Freefly World Championships, gold. 2002 USPA Nationals, gold in freestyle, silver in freefly; FAI World Cup, silver in freestyle. 2006 USPA Nationals, gold in skysurfing.
Total Number of Jumps: I stopped counting after 17,000 Freefly: 90 percent of my jumps
Camera: A few thousand FS: A few hundred
CF: Three parabatic jumps Tandems: Six
Accuracy: Three. Never made the bull’s eye but hit the target every time! Demos: Many … never counted nor logged. My favorites were always into local schools in Arizona. Wingsuit: A handful in the late ‘90s Balloon: Most from Burner’s balloon in Eloy, Arizona BASE: A few hundred. Again, never logged other than my first 50 or so. Stunt Jumps: A few hidden rig jumps using a custom-made BASE rig, a few jumps wearing my rig backward, even a couple jumps suspended by the leg straps of a container. Thank you Kevin McGuire, Joe Jennings and Greg Gasson.
Largest Completed Formation: 108-Way World Record for Largest Head-Down Formation Skydive at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois, in 2009.
Total Number of Cutaways: 17? 20? Something like that … some intentional.
Most people don't know this about me: I’m certified in neuro-lingustic programming and hypnosis. I love behavioral science.
Of all your skydives, is there one that stands out most?
So many, actually! Doing a one-on-one coach jump with a deaf student who could read my lips and follow my instructions and corrections in freefall. Jumping with a vet who had lost one leg and watching him struggle and finally nail a sit fly! Doing the plane-to-plane stunt (jumping out of a Twin Otter and entering a Pilatus Porter along with Steve Curtis and Greg Gasson). Sharing the sky during the launch of the space shuttle in Florida with Sean MacCormac and Brian Erler. Doing a couple 4-way jumps with Sarge, John Eagle and Mark … and the list goes on and on …
What is your favorite jump plane and why? I must admit that jumping from an IL76 over the arctic was pretty awesome. It’s such a beast! We had a ridiculously fast exit speed, and we were over the frozen ice plate of the arctic with nothing but ice and polar bears for hundreds of miles in every direction!
What are your future skydiving goals? Make Skydive Antarctica a yearly event. Skydive over the geographic South Pole.
What safety item do you think is most important or most often neglected? A second audible altimeter.
Do you have any suggestions for students? Have fun. Learn from the mistakes of others. Listen to those who have the jump numbers and experience. Don’t ever be complacent! Ever.
What's the most bad-ass thing you can do in the air? Make the people I jump with feel great and happy!
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
The Dalai Lama over Tibet or Bob Marley over Jamaica; I can’t decide between the two.
What’s your most embarrassing moment while at a drop zone? No one knows this, but on a back-to-back I grabbed my helmet, opened the door of the hangar, took one step and realized I didn’t have my rig on!
Someday I am going to own … All my mistakes.
The toughest thing to do in the sport of skydiving is: Outlive your peers.
Of all your skydives, is there one you would like to do again? My first! I would love to do it over and over again for the simple reason that it was so amazing. It is comparable to reading an amazing book the first time: You can’t re-read it and get the same amazement and excitement. It will be good, maybe even great, but never the same as the very first time.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement? Raising my daughter.
What has been your strangest thought while jumping? In Eloy on an unusually cold morning jump, I was wearing winter gloves with liners. I had a violent opening with spinning line twists; my canopy was diving toward the ground. Once I grabbed both my handles, I pulled my cutaway handle, but the glove and liner were slipping. I tried a second time, but I could not get a good enough grip to pull the handle from the Velcro! At that point, I had the thought, “So this is how I am going to die!” It was very strange, a very lucid moment, everything in slow motion. I remember smiling almost as if to give in to the grip of the grim reaper, then I shook my head, shoved my thumb between the top of the handle and the bottom of the cable housing and cut away my main.
Do you have any suggestions for USPA? Keep fighting for the small DZs and the average-Joe weekend jumpers!
What has been your best skydiving moment? Being in a Patrick Passe/Wendy Smith feature film.
What do you want this generation to know about the Freefly Clowns and what they accomplished? We were anti-establishment rebels. The norms and the rules were there to be broken. Led by Olav Zipser, we wanted to prove to ourselves and to the world that there was more to skydiving than RW.
What was it like to skydive while the space shuttle was launching? A real honor. To simultaneously share the sky, not only with talents like Sean [MacCormac] and Brian [Erler] but the iconic space shuttle, was an incredible blessing. The sound, the surreal visuals … it’s hard to explain.
Explain Omar Alhegelan in five words or fewer: Husband, father, friend, sensitive, stubborn.