A Horley town and borough councillor is aiming to enter the record books this summer as the oldest person to skydive from 30,000 feet.
David Powell is in training to make the tandem jump over West Tennessee, USA, on June 16 - at the age of 78 – smashing the current record set in 2012 by eight years.
David, town councillor for Horley Central Ward and Reigate and Banstead borough councillor for Horley West, a former co-founder and managing director of a waste management company, and regimental sergeant major in the Royal Military Police (RMP), is hoping his skydive will raise £5,000 for the Royal British Legion (RBL).
Dame Judi Dench, who lives in the area and famously played M in a number of James Bond blockbusters, has called him her hero, and donated £500 to his cause.
David, who is a member of the Outwood branch of the RBL and also a school governor for Horley Infants School, said he is not daunted by the challenge in which he will be falling at almost 200mph for nearly two minutes.
He said: “This doesn't strike me as being a scary thing to do.”
He made his first jump last May, leaping out of a plane 15,000 feet over Old Sarum, near Salisbury, to raise money for the Surrey Care Trust, which helps people in crisis.
He described the jump as “exhilarating” and “wonderful,” in which he was “just taking in the view.”
He said the centenary of the start of the First World War and the fact his father was killed in action in the Second World War, had prompted him to do “something special” this year.
But David said when the idea was hit on, he didn't know it would be a new world record.
“I just wanted to do it to raise money for the Royal British Legion,” he said.
David served 22 years in the RMP, retiring as a regimental sergeant major.
From 1967 to 1970, he served in Vietnam, commanding a senior police detachment and Ghurkas guarding the British Embassy in Saigon at the time the Viet Cong overran towns and cities.
On leaving the RMP, he went into the waste management industry, working for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and later moving on to start up the company Onyx, which later became Veolia, with two other people.
He retired as managing director, and then went into waste management consultancy, working with local authorities across the country.
Currently writing his memoirs, David is aiming to add this summer's record-breaking skydive to them.
Citing the RBL extreme sports team jumpsuit he will be wearing, he said: “I have to keep in reasonable condition.
“Those suits are made to fit young, athletic, slim guys, so I've got to lose some weight to get in it ok and wear a considerable amount of thermal underwear, because coming out at 30,000 feet, the temperature is minus 45 degrees.”
He will also be jumping with an oxygen canister as at that height, there is no oxygen.
His son, Nicholas, who lives in the USA, will be on the plane with him when he makes his jump, while his wife, Birthe, will be staying behind and waiting for news.
David is bearing the record attempt's entire cost of about £2,500 himself, so that all money raised will go to the RBL.
People who would like to support David's record-breaking jump can do so online at: www.justgiving.com/David-Percy-Powell-RMP Alternatively, cheques payable to the Royal British Legion can be sent to Horley Town Council, The Council Offices, 92 Albert Road, Horley, Surrey, RH6 7HZ.
There are also sponsorship forms available at the town council offices.