Thanks to the work of an engineer from Nottinghamshire, UK, skydivers and mountain climbers are reaching record-breaking heights with the help of a new breathing apparatus known as MTOS.
Created by Royal Air Force veteran Ted Atkins, MTOS, or Multipurpose Tactical Oxygen System, has been gathering interest by military and sports enthusiasts alike as an innovative and efficient alternative to the oxygen supplies commonly used today. Utilizing a specialized helmet, which resembles a modified pilot mask, oxygen flow is controlled via an on-demand system, providing only how much the lungs are pulling in. This form of airflow dramatically reduces the amount of excess oxygen left unused by common “full-flow” supplies. As an added benefit, the on-demand system allows MTOS to adapt to its wearer’s air intake in both subtle and dramatic ways.
The best thing about Atkins’ breakthrough tech is that it is already in consumers’ hands, allowing participants of high-altitude sports to achieve things they had never thought possible. Atkins – who first prototyped his invention in 2004 using only a Coca-Cola bottle and a condom – received recognition from the Nepal Mountaineering Association from reducing the death rate of Everest climbs from 10% to a mere 0.1% over the past 12 years of his work.
But mountain climbing was only the beginning and MTOS is constantly evolving to include other high-altitude sports, such as skydiving and base jumping. Recently, Atkins has proven his own faith in the product by using MTOS to complete the highest tandem jump ever recorded. Alongside tandem master Tom Noonan, Atkins returned to the Himalayas to jump from Ama Dablam, a mountain not far from Everest. Together, they successfully jumped from a starting altitude of 15,000 feet above sea level. This is especially impressive considering that oxygen begins to thin at around 8,000 feet, leaving the unprepared susceptible to the beginning signs of hypoxia, such as reduced depth perception and impaired judgment. Without a proper and reliable source of oxygen, making such a jump would be labeled a death-wish.
It may be his equipment, but Atkins isn’t the only one using MTOS to jump from previously impossible heights. This past July, professional skydiver Luke Aikins used the tech to pull off his awe-inspiring skydive, sans parachute, over the South California desert as part of a Red Bull-sponsored televised event. Using MTOS, which is distributed under Atkins’ company, TopOut Aero, Aikens jumped from a jaw-dropping 25,000 feet, accompanied by three other jump masters – all of whom used TopOut’s oxygen supply systems. Luke wore Atkins’ breathing tech for the beginning of the fall as without it he ran the risk of losing consciousness due to the thinness of the air. Once Aikens reached a safe altitude to breathe without the mask, it was unclipped and removed by one of the other skydivers before he landed in a large net just over the desert floor. Without his remarkable air supply invention, Atkins does not believe the jump would have been successful or even allowed to proceed.
Atkins continues to modify and improve upon his invention, having most recently advertised his current venture into HALO (High altitude-low opening) jumping, a method of free fall commonly used to deliver military personnel, from a staggering 29,029 feet. What started as an improvised rig to help one man survive Mount Everest has become one of the most important success stories in the skydiving community. It is safe to say that as long as Atkins decides to continue his work in the oxygen business, we can expect that the next record-breaking height is right around the corner.
Photo by Jake Blick, Magpul Industries