Not much scares Glenn Quillin. Ever since the Carlsbad retiree had to bail out of an airplane with a dead engine in 1931, he’s had a taste for thrill rides.
On Saturday, he celebrated his recent 102nd birthday by setting the Guinness World Record for the oldest person to ride a zip line.
This year’s aerial adventure, accomplished at the La Jolla Zip Zoom park in Pauma Valley in San Diego County, was simply the latest daredevil stunt for Quillin. He marked his 100th birthday in January 2016 with a tandem skydive in Jamul.
“There’s always a lot of anticipation when you log one of these new adventures, and I felt very comfortable along the way,” he said afterward. “It’s a great location and the people were wonderful.”
Chad Gutierrez, who manages La Jolla Zip Zoom, said he was amazed at Quillin’s bravery. The mountainside attraction has three “extreme” zip lines, where passengers in helmets and harnesses travel at speeds up to 50 mph at distances up to 2,700 feet and a vertical drop of as much as 800 feet.
“He’s been having a blast,” Gutierrez said, just as Quillin was heading down the mountain for his third and final ride Saturday afternoon. “He’s braver than most of the people who come out here. We’ve had people quit on the first one, and he couldn’t wait to do them all.”
Once certified by the Guinness World Records organization, Quillin will own the record held by a 90-year-old, according to Quillin’s grandson Mike Welch, who organized both the skydiving and zip-lining adventures.
“He’s always had an adventurous spirit and he loves doing things that make people’s jaws drop,” Welch said. “They had suggested that he skip one of the shorter runs today and take a rest, but he wanted to do them all. He just charged through it all and enjoyed the whole thing.”
Quillin was raised in Illinois and has lived in California for most of his life. During World War II, he worked on the Manhattan Project in New Mexico supervising a mechanical engineering team that supported the radiation labs. He went on to work for Hughes Aircraft for many years in Los Angeles and owned a real estate business with his wife, who died in 2010.
He has lived in the Carlsbad By The Sea retirement community since 1998, where he stays fit by visiting the gym several days a week.
“He’s busier than I am,” Welch said of his grandpa. “When I want to visit him I have to make sure to check his calendar because he’s got so much going on.”
Quillin’s colorful life is the subject of a new play, “The Price of Peace,” by Oceanside actor-playwright Lance Arthur Smith. It premiered in December in a new play festival at New Village Arts in Carlsbad. Smith said he sees Quillin as a hero.
“He is, he absolutely is,” Smith said. “He’s extraordinary. He’s a cool cat — I like him a lot.”
Quillin is already looking ahead to his next big adventure. A hot-air balloon ride is on the list, along with one more skydive.
Welch said that the Guinness World Record for the oldest skydiver is 102, so he and Quillin are hoping to break that record next January when Quillin turns 103.
“I have my eye on that airplane,” Quillin said. “I wouldn’t mind doing that again, not one bit.”