Odette Balési-Rousseau : a parachuting pioneer passes away

odette-balesi-rousseau 2It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Mrs. Balési-Rousseau on 7 December 2012.

Very few are those who had such an eventful and fascinating life as Odette Balési-Rousseau. Her strong character, tenacious will and infallible courage that all of the aviation community vividly remembers made of her one of the most remarkable pioneering women in parachuting.

odette-balesi-rousseau 3Born at the end of the 1920's in Saigon of a father who flew private planes as a hobby, she went to Paris in 1946 to pursue her studies. This was where her life changed, when in 1950 she noticed a poster from the French Ministry of Transports promoting air sports, including parachuting. That was all it took for Odette to join the Saint-Yan Aeroclub where she – the only woman in the club - learned how to jump. Bitten by the bug of parachuting, from then on she never ceased to improve her skills, first obtaining her license and then taking part victoriously in the 1st French Parachuting Championship in 1953 and becoming an instructor in 1954.That same year she married Vincent Balési, President of the International Parachuting Commission. 

It was around that same time that the seed of capturing the free-fall record held by the Russian Sultanova germinated in her mind. On 25 August 1955, after meticulous preparation, she reached her objective by jumping from an altitude of 8700 meters, opening her parachute at only 408 meters.

Very active within the FAI, she held the position of Technical Secretary at the FAI Parachuting Commission from 1967 to 1982, when she was elected as a lifetime FAI Companion of Honour. During her “career” at the FAI she took part in numerous FAI General Conferences as a Companion of Honour, Observer or Delegate until this year’s Conference in Turkey.

Her achievements didn’t go unnoticed: in addition to her election as an FAI Companion of Honour she was the recipient of several awards and marks of recognition including the FAI Bronze Medal, the Leonardo Da Vinci Parachuting Diploma and she was promoted to Officer of the prestigious National Order of the Legion of Honour.

With her passing away, the FAI has lost a strong and highly-respected voice, and we extend our deep and sincere condolences to all of her family.

odette-balesi-rousseau 5 copyO. Balési-Rousseau and FAI Executive Director B. Henderson at the 2012 FAI General Conference