Hanging in the straps of his parachute and feeling the cold night air on his face, Brian Udell felt as if a freight train had collided with his body. As he struggled to inflate his life preserver before plunging into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, he realized it had shredded with the force of the supersonic windblast. With his teeth and one functioning arm, Brian feverishly retrieved a one-man life raft that hung from a fifteen-foot lanyard off his right hip only seconds before entering the water. After popping back to the surface like a bobber on fishing line, the salt water made him painfully aware of the open wounds, cuts, and scrapes that were strewn over his broken body. The thought of blood pouring into the water inviting sharks for a late night meal motivated him to attempt to get into the partially inflated raft. As he kicked his legs, Brian's lower limbs felt as though only a thread attached them. Exhausted and unable to enter the raft thoughts of death quickly consumed his mind. Knowing he would be unable to survive the night under the extreme conditions, Brian began to pray. The next several hours of survival and the many months of excruciating rehabilitation deliver an almost unbelievable story. Brian holds the record for surviving the highest speed ejection from a U.S. Fighter Aircraft at nearly 800 M.P.H. He survived four grueling hours 65 miles off the Atlantic Coast in 60-degree water, 5-foot seas, and 15 M.P.H. winds at night. Brian's determination, perseverance, faith, and shear will to survive is unparalleled. His story of survival, recovery, and return to the Strike Eagle is an inspiration to everyone.
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