What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when someone mentions their first jump? Does your heart start thumping in the rhythm of your favorite drum & bass tune? If so, we’ve got something special to show you today!
Ever heard of a neat little (extreme) sport called wingsuit flying? Or it might be better to ask you: have you ever seen a flying squirrel in action? These questions have a lot more in common than meets the eye. For all we know, you could’ve easily thought we’d gone mad. As always, the truth’s not so simple! Anyway, about wingsuit flying…
First of all, you’ll have to gain some experience skydiving. Most wingsuit courses require you’ve jumped at least 200 times in the past 18 months. Once you’re experienced enough, sign up for a first-timers wingsuit flying course. You can either buy or rent the wingsuiting equipment. Lastly, if you want to move forward, seek help from a personal coach.
That was just a quick preview! For more information about this wonderful sport, feel free to read the whole thing!
Table of Contents
What is wingsuit flying?
Remember the flying squirrel we’ve mentioned above? Well, let’s just say wingsuit flyers resemble this animal a lot. Also, this sport is very similar to skydiving. Let’s get a bit more formal! Wingsuit flying (or wingsuiting) is an extreme sport (more like a discipline within skydiving) in which a skydiver is using a webbing-sleeved suit (a so-called wingsuit) to add surface area to the flyer’s body in order to enable a significant increase in lift. This allows the flyer extra air time. In other words: a wingsuit flyer is gliding through the air instead of just free falling.
Just like in other skydiving disciplines or skydiving-related sports (however you choose to call it), the wingsuit flight comes to an end by deploying a nylon parachute. That being said, a wingsuit can be flown from any point high enough for flight and parachute deployment. It might be a drop aircraft or a base-jump exit point (a tall cliff or a mountain top). Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s talk about the two most popular disciplines within wingsuiting itself:
- Wingsuit BASE jumping (Wingusit BASE). The flyer jumps off a fixed point.
- Wingsuit skydiving. The flyer jumps off an aircraft.
One can assume which one’s more dangerous. We’ll talk more on the subject of safety down below. Anyway, if all this info seems too bookish, just stick to the flying squirrel image. Even better: imagine a flying squirrel eager to try skydiving.
Needless to mention, a wingsuit flyer wears special equipment, without which the whole flying-like-a-bird/bat/squirrel experience wouldn’t be possible. We differentiate between:
- Birdman wingsuits. They got their nick after the brand name the makers of the first commercial wingsuit chose to use.
- Squirrel wingsuit. There ain’t no superhero called Squirrelman, unfortunately. These resemble flying squirrel’s wing membrane.
- Batman wingsuits. These resemble either the wings of a bat or the superhero’s battle costume. Whatever’s to your liking.
Let’s continue and find the answer to the question most internet users will ask the first time they see a wingsuit flyer gliding through the air. Besides the good ol’ boy, I wonder how these flyers have the guts to… To be completely honest, guts isn’t exactly the word that they’ll be using.
How dangerous is wingsuit flying?
Well, it depends on what kind of wingsuit flying are we talking about. One should be really careful discussing this topic since there’s a great difference between the two types: wingsuit skydiving and wingsuit BASE. As we’ve already said earlier on, it’s not so hard to tell which one’s more dangerous.
Wingsuit BASE is definitely more dangerous than its skydiving counterpart. Regardless of the level of skill a certain wingsuit flyer possesses, the death rate is estimated to be as low as 1 in 500. Now, those aren’t good news. For instance, the death rate from skydiving is estimated at 1 in 100.000 jumps. Most wingsuiting-related accidents come from attempts at wingsuit BASE. If you’re wondering if regular BASE jumping’s worthwhile, click right here.
What’s the deal with wingsuit BASE? The main thing is: it involves leaping into the air by jumping from a fixed (grounded) object. The fixed point is usually much closer to the ground level than an airplane from which you’d jump would be. There’s significantly less time to react if things choose to go awry. Not to mention the fact you must navigate dangerous objects as soon as you jump.
As you could’ve guessed, wingsuit skydiving is a totally different story. Even the most ignorant person would notice this version of wingsuiting is safer than wingsuit BASE. You’re given a lot more air time and there are no objects obstructing your path towards the ground. Additionally, you’ve got more time to react if anything goes wrong. All in all: you can say wingsuit skydiving is as dangerous as regular skydiving (that means it ain’t unsafe at all).
Where can I go wingsuit flying?
One might ask: since wingsuit BASE is such a dangerous sport, is it legal to jump off a random cliff? Or maybe: how does one choose the location of a wingsuit jump? Lastly: where can I go wingsuit skydiving?
First of all, you can’t do wingsuit BASE from whichever point you choose. For instance, in the US – wingsuit BASE is banned in all national parks. However, it is allowed in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Forest Service spaces. Also, there’s no way anyone will let you jump without experience. You’ll have to be an experienced skydiver if you want to try out wingsuit BASE. In other words: it’s necessary that you’ve completed about 200 jumps (C license).
As you can guess, wingsuit skydivers don’t worry so much about the location of the jump. You can sum it up like this: as long as there’s land below, we’re good.
What is the average speed of wingsuit flying?
This is a question most folks like to ask before heading towards their first wingsuit flying adventure. Here’s the answer: the average wingsuiting speed is about 100 mph, and it boosts the glide ratio to 3:1. Your traditional skydiving (without a wingsuit) speed goes between 120 and 160 mph (depending on the jumper’s axis). The webbed design of a wingsuit creates an additional surface area. It affects your life like the wing of an airplane, for instance.
So, how does one get started?
Okay, so we’ve gone through some introductory details concerning this amazing sport. Let’s get more practical! So, how does one start wingsuit flying?
Step #1: Learn to skydive (obtain a solo skydiving license)
Your first stop should be a basic skydiving course. Obviously, there’s no going around that one! Your goal is to earn a solo skydiving license. Don’t think that’s an easy task to handle. Being patient (the wingsuit can wait) is the key to success. Of course, this ain’t the last thing you’ll need to do to start wingsuit flying.
Step #2: Consistency!
You’ll need to reach a certain level of consistency! For instance, the US Parachute Association recommends that a person should’ve made at least 200 jumps in the past year and a half (18 months) before putting the wingsuit on. If you’re eager to start before you reach that level of consistency, there’s a fair chance you won’t find any worthwhile wingsuiting teacher. The skydiving community is very careful about these things, so make sure you do everything by the book.
Also, it’s not safety we’re talking about here. With 200 jumps behind you, you’ll feel a lot more confident trying out wingsuiting for the first time. You’ll be less stressed out, faster, and more in control, if you do this process one step at a time.
Step #3: Sign up!
Once you’ve reached the number of 200 jumps in the past year and a half, or 500 jumps in total, it’s time to sign up for a quality wingsuit jump course. You’ll get to enjoy your first wingsuit skydive in the company of a well-qualified wingsuit instructor.
Step #4: Invest in equipment!
Once you’ve signed up for your first wingsuiting adventure, you’ll want to gear up! In other words: you’ll want to have your own parachuting equipment. At the very least, it should contain the main parachute, container, reserve parachute, automatic activation device, and at least one altimeter. And, of course, don’t forget the helmet. This is a pretty important investment, even if you’re buying used equipment. Alternatively, you can rent the equipment.
Step #5: Hey, coach!
If you want to move forward at a normal, steady pace your best bet is to work with a wingsuit coach. They’ll help you dial in the tricky parts of the jump. Also, for any beginner – feedback is more than necessary! It can even be an online coach. You’ll just have to send your video over to them.
That’s about it, dear adventure-loving folks! Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed reading this one as much as our last addition! For more skydiving-related tips, feel free to visit his page.