Hey everyone, may you have seen it and didn’t know what it was called, or just don’t much about it. Wingsuit flying, it has a reputation for attracting daredevils, but most jumpers prefer seeking safety to courting danger.

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Ok, let’s get a little more help on this with the help of Wikipedia to help you understand.

Wingsuit flying (or wingsuiting) is the sport of gliding through the air using a wingsuit which adds surface area to the human body to enable a significant increase in lift. The modern wingsuit, first developed in the late 1990s, creates a surface area with fabric between the legs and under the arms. Wingsuits are sometimes referred to as “birdman suits” (after the makers of the first commercially available wingsuit), “flying squirrel suits” (due to their resemblance to the animal), and “bat suits” (due to their resemblance to the animal or perhaps the superhero).

A wingsuit flight normally ends by deploying a parachute, and so a wingsuit can be safely flown from any point that provides sufficient altitude for flight and parachute deployment—normally a skydiving drop aircraft or Base-jump exit point such as a tall cliff or a safe mountain top. The wingsuit flier wears parachute equipment specially designed for skydiving or BASE jumping. While the parachute flight is normal, the canopy pilot typically unzips arm wings (after deployment) to be able to reach the steering parachute toggles and control the descent path.

An early attempt at wingsuit flying was made on 4 February 1912 by a 33-year-old tailor, Franz Reichelt, who jumped from the Eiffel Tower to test his invention of a combination of parachute and wing, which was similar to modern wingsuits. He misled the guards by saying that the experiment was going to be conducted with a dummy. He hesitated quite a long time before he jumped and was killed when he hit the ground head first, opening a measurable hole in the frozen ground.

 

A wingsuit was first used in 1930 by a 19-year-old American, Rex Finney of Los Angeles, California, as an attempt to increase horizontal movement and maneuverability during a parachute jump. These early wingsuits were made of materials such as canvas, wood, silk, steel, and whalebone. They were not very reliable, although some “birdmen”, notably Clem Sohn and Leo Valentin, claimed to have glided for miles.

In the mid-1990s, the modern wingsuit was developed by Patrick de Gayardon of France, adapted from the model used by John Carta. In 1997, the Bulgarian Sammy Popov designed and built a wingsuit which had a larger wing between the legs and longer wings on the arms. His prototype was developed at Boulder City, Nevada. Testing was conducted in a vertical wind tunnel in Las Vegas at Flyaway Las Vegas. Popov’s wingsuit first flew in October 1998 over Jean, Nevada, but it never went into commercial production. Popov’s design was a great improvement in creating lift; it was able to slow the vertical speed to 30 km/h while gliding horizontally at speeds over 300 km/h (186 mph). In 1998, Chuck “Da Kine” Raggs built a version which incorporated hard ribs inside the wing airfoils. Although these more rigid wings were better able to keep their shape in flight, this made the wingsuit heavier and more difficult to fly. Raggs’ design also never went into commercial production. Flying together for the first time, Popov and Raggs showcased their designs side-by-side at the World Free-fall Convention at Quincy, Illinois, in August 1999. Both designs performed well. At the same event, multiple-formation wingsuit skydives were made which included de Gayardon’s, Popov’s, and Raggs’ suits.

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Wingsuit flying has soared in popularity in its short history of 15 years or so. The Nylon suits are simple; chambers in webbing between the legs, and between the arms and body, inflate in freefall, turning jumpers into flying squirrels capable of steering and gliding at more than 100mph. Viewed by millions on YouTube, the flights are thrilling, and perhaps more than any other extreme sport appeal to a universal instinct, one as old as Icarus. Not all of us dream of dropping off a cliff on skis, or performing motorbike stunts, but who hasn’t dreamt of flying?

In a sense, wingsuit flying is a cross between skydiving and hang gliding. Like both of these activities, wingsuit flying requires the flyer to either jump out of an aircraft or off a precipice to achieve a high enough altitude. While hang gliders can coast in for a safe landing, wingsuit flyers must deploy their parachutes and float the rest of the way to the ground — they simply can’t reduce their speed fast enough for a safe landing without the use of a chute.

­But, until the moment they pull their parachute chord, wingsuit flyers can soar horizontally at high speeds and perform aerial acrobatics — all while descending at a rate much slower than that of a typical skydiver.

The average skydiver plummets towards the surface of the Earth at a rate of 120 mph (193 kph) and can soar horizontally at 30 to 60 mph (48 to 97 kph). Typical wingsuit flyers fall at a rate of 50 to 60 mph (81 to 97 kph) and can jet through the air at 70 to 90 mph (113 to 145 kph) [source: Birdman, Inc.]

Dangers of Wing flying

While the fatality rate for wing-suit jumping is hard to calculate (the number of deaths are tracked, but not the number of jumps), a 2012 study of BASE jumpers reported that 72 percent of jumpers “had witnessed death or serious injury of other participants in the sport, 43 percent (of) jumpers had suffered a significant BASE jump injury, and 76 percent had at least one ‘near miss’ incident (an incident which would most probably result in serious injury or fatality but was avoided),” study author Dr. Omer Mei-Dan, a BASE jumper and sports medicine doctor wrote in his textbook, “Adventure and Extreme Sports Injuries.”

It’s a sport dangerous enough that some areas ban it. While BASE jumping and skydiving in regular clothes are both risky, wing-suit jumping steps up the danger level a notch. That’s because the suit actually makes you fly faster, said Mick Knutson, editor/founder of the online BASE jumping magazine, BLiNC, who has logged almost 1,000 BASE jumps, including 500 in a wingsuit.

From this we can see it is dangerous and risky.

How much does it cost to go Wingsuit Flying?

A wingsuit typically costs between $1,000-$2000USD new, depending upon the type and options added. You also need a parachute system to land you wingsuit, a complete rig will run about $8,000, also depending upon what is selected and optional add-on’s.

Some say The Most Dangerous Part About Wing suiting Might Be the Wingsuit

Advances in wingsuit technology allow pilots to go farther and faster, with more precision. It’s also easier than ever for them to get in over their heads. Some pilots theorize that the latest spate of deaths is due to a common factor: advances in wingsuit design that have allowed less experienced pilots to pursue terrain flying, where they skim sometimes feet from a mountain slope. 

Recent design improvements allow even intermediate pilots to fly three feet forward for every foot of descent, a ratio once reserved for only the most experienced. Suits are also more comfortable and simpler to fly, which is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it enhances the skills of experienced pilots; on the other, it allows pilots to perform risky flights with less technique and training.

“You can fly a higher performance suit with less experience now because they are easier to use,” says Matt Gerdes, an advanced pilot and co-designer and chief test pilot at Squirrel, a leading wingsuit and BASE gear manufacturer.

The recommended progression for a BASE jumper requires first amassing hundreds of skydives. Then they can advance to BASE jumping—first from bridges and antennas and later to buildings and cliffs. Flying wingsuits requires training in skydiving, too. Only with years of experience in both jumping and piloting should a person combine the two and pursue wingsuit BASE.

For most of the history of BASE, the sport’s ranks were filled by already experienced skydivers who gained entrée by finding a mentor willing to teach the skills necessary for survival. The process was slow, personal, and clandestine.

Some things no one will tell you about Wingsuit flying

  1. You’ll fly faster than you thought possible

“Typically, they fly at about 120 – 140mph. When they are going for the record speeds they are effectively diving the suit to an angle of about 45 degrees. We are sure when they are shooting across the sky at over 200 mph, it’s pretty mind-blowing stuff.”

Per Francis Blagburn

  1. The best bits are the most beautiful

“You still get the adrenaline, that still kicks in every time you jump, but for me the highlight is the visual. I’ve jumped with a space shuttle launching behind me on my birthday many years ago and that was humbling. I did another jump in New Zealand over mountains in snow where I ended up flying over forests, back over valleys, and deploying next to a lake. That was just simply beautiful. I’ve also been flying with friends, 27 of us jumping out the back of a Hercules in Sweden, all grinning to each other and flying like a flock of birds.

  1. You train away the risks (but they never disappear completely)

“The suits are not very forgiving if you don’t fly them properly. When you deploy your parachute, you’ve got to collapse that whole wing off. You’ve been pushing 140 mph wind on that wing. If you don’t do it symmetrically you can go into a spin or a dive. 

 

  1. You are not a BASE jumper

 

“Everyone has seen the guys flying through trees down valleys on YouTube. It’s still wingsuit flying because it uses the same equipment, but the problem is that if something goes wrong you have no margins. You have no altitude to recover in.

Learning to Wingsuit Fly

We’ll start with the truth: you’re not going to be able to hop onto a plane or wander off a cliff in a wingsuit tomorrow, much the same as you wouldn’t expect to be let loose on an F18 bomber a day after joining the Air Force.  Learning to fly a wingsuit requires building up a few years of skydiving experience, a bit of patience and a good mental attitude. A great site to learn about learning to Wingsuit Fly is at WingsuitFly

Here, we think it sounds dangerous, and can take a long time to have the knowledge to do it most safely. It is cool watching though😊

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