WASHINGTON (AFP) ― Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday by carrying out his eighth parachute jump.
“It’s a wonderful day in Maine ― in fact, nice enough for a parachute jump,” tweeted the elder Bush, who has seemed frail in recent public appearances, and is often seen in a wheelchair.
The 41st commander-in-chief parachuted out of a helicopter near his family home in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Television footage showed the aircraft hovering over the target of the skydive, the jump and then the former president on the ground a short time later, with a swarm of people assisting him.
|Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush prepares to land on the lawn at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church while celebrating his 90th birthday in Kennebunkport, Maine, Thursday. (AP-Yonhap)|
“41 doing ‘great, exhilarated’ following his skydive and a ‘hot’ landing,” his spokesman Jim McGrath said on Twitter after the jump.
The tandem jump was Bush’s eighth, with the first on September 2, 1944 ― when he was shot down over the Pacific island Chi Chi Jima as a pilot in World War II.
He recalled that experience in an NBC interview with his granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager aired Thursday, acknowledging it actually made him want to jump again ― and do it right.
“I pulled the rip cord too early, hit the tail of the plane with my head, just a glancing blow,” he said.
“And that, I decided that later on, well I want to do it right. And so that did spark my interest in making another jump ― this time getting it correct.”
The Republican, who was in the White House from 1989 to 1993, also jumped to mark his 80th and 85th birthdays.
Washington wished Bush well, with President Barack Obama leading the way, telling NBC the 90-year-old was a “fine man.”
“And I just want him to know that from the whole Obama family, we wish him all the best,” the current president said.
The U.S. Senate, meanwhile, passed a resolution in honor of Bush late Wednesday, extending best wishes to him and his wife Barbara.