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Meet the Skydiver Who's Eating Pizza and Burgers Mid-Jump

VICE talked to aspiring food-meets-skydiving influencer McKenna Knipe about eating 10,000 feet in the air.

by Bettina Makalintal
Dec 19 2019, 6:12pm

Screenshot via YouTube

Earlier this week, a video of Florida-based skydiving hobbyist McKenna Knipe began making the rounds online. In it, Knipe hangs off a flight partner in a wing suit—the pair having just jumped out of a plane, of course—and while about 10,000 feet in the air, Knipe pulls out a Burger King Impossible Whopper and begins eating it, looking more satisfied than terrified. That makes sense: Knipe has been skydiving for three years, and goes out about 4 or 5 times a week.

And the burger wasn't the first time Knipe tried eating mid-jump. In fact, the model turned aspiring skydiving influencer is trying to make this her schtick, after a video of her eating pizza while skydiving picked up some traction earlier this year. Since then, she's tried several other foods in the air.

Though Knipe is currently based out of Florida's Skydive City, she's working on renovating a school bus in order to travel the country and hit every drop zone as she skydives and chases a childhood dream of BASE jumping. As part of that, she's hoping to make her eating-while-jumping videos a more regular thing, eventually working with brands and restaurants.

VICE talked to Knipe about eating mid-air and what she's hoping to do with it next. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

VICE: Do you work in the skydiving industry, or is skydiving a hobby?
Knipe: It started out just as a hobby, but I found that it's something that I want to do every day, all day, for the rest of my life. I'm trying to figure out a way to get it to where I make an income from doing it, and I'm able to support myself doing so. Social media has helped a lot with that, and I'm kind of building this little brand—like a flying food review type situation.

When did you decide to start doing food reviews while skydiving?
I posted a video just for my family and friends on Facebook of me eating a piece of pizza, and none of that was planned at all. There was pizza on the ground and I didn't have time to eat it on the ground and so I took it up with me. I posted that and the next day it kind of blew up. That's what gave me the idea that I could continue this and probably make a living doing it.

I've never gone skydiving before so I'm not totally familiar with the process. Do you start eating the food once you've initiated the parachute?
Yeah, so once I pull the parachute strap slider, there are a few things that you have to do in order to fly the parachute safely. You do all that and then I'll pull out the food and start munching.

What foods have you like eaten up in the air so far?
So far, pizza, Chick-fil-A, the Impossible Whopper, meatloaf, Cheetos. Um, what else? Cake—wedding cake.

In one video, you also had a White Claw. Have you been able to drink liquids in the air?
Yes, you can. I brought up milk and cookies, I was in a Santa outfit and did milk and cookies, so that's the only drink that I've actually [tried], I didn't end up drinking the White Claw. The milk was… yeah, I opened it and it kind of sprayed everywhere, so drinks aren't necessarily the best but they're doable.

How high in elevation are you when you start eating?
For the Impossible Whopper one, I was on top of a wingsuit. We jumped out at 14,000 feet, and then once we were stable—which was pretty quick—that's when I started pulling out the burger. When I do it under the parachute, it's about 10,000 feet when I'll start eating.

What is it like eating, say, an Impossible Whopper when you're up in the air, compared to if you ate one when you were on the ground?
The Impossible Burger was actually the closest to eating it on the ground. One, because I heated it up before I went up. I was on a wing suit and there's not much wind because you're kind of gliding more than you are falling so it's easier to eat it. Doing something like that but under the parachute [is harder]—like for instance, when I took out the piece of pizza, all the toppings flew everywhere. It's cleaner to eat it on the ground, it's not as messy.

Do you feel like anything like has tasted different?
I would say it's more dry. I'm up there and my mouth is dry and it's just more dry, I would say. Other than that, it is pretty much the same.

Is there a favorite food review you've done so far?
So far either the burger, or it would be the chicken nuggets.

Was there a your least favorite food to eat in the air?
I would say the wedding cake because it was very messy, and then it left my hands kind of messy for controlling the parachute when I was landing. But other than that they've been good experiences.

Are there any sort of like safety considerations that you have to take into account, while you're trying to eat while skydiving?
Yes, you need to make sure that there's no traffic around you so there's no other jumpers jumping. That's why we do high pull—that leaves you the only one up there. And then, you need to make sure you don't choke. And don't drop anything. I mean, it's okay to drop some food, but if you have anything heavy, you want to make sure that you don't drop it and it's tethered to you.

What has the response to the eating while skydiving thing been like so far?
I've gotten a lot of good responses that people have told me. I mean, it's something quite simple and yet no one else is doing it. I've been told it's a good idea, but then also some skydivers are just like, "So she's just eating in the sky—what's so cool about that?"

How often are you planning to do a food review?
I was thinking about weekly. I'm gonna start a YouTube channel and vlog going around to different drop zones; I'm gonna hit every zone in the US once the bus is done. I'm just going to record all the shenanigans on the ground and in the sky but also incorporate a weekly food review with different foods. I like little mom and pop shops; I want to help promote those.

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