Pilots use special suits, called wingsuits, that are custom made to fit the individual and feature inflatable wings. These wings inflate during flying, creating a semi-rigid surface, a bit like an aircraft’s wing, to enable the pilot to glide through the air. The suits come in different sizes, offering differing levels of performance, though all of them work using the same basic principles. Using a wingsuit, the pilot is able to significantly reduce the vertical speed towards the ground, and increase the horizontal speed, in effect, becoming a human glider. In regular free-fall, a jumper will fall at anywhere between 120-200mph. In a wingsuit, that can be easily reduced to around 30mph, with a forward speed of about 100mph. Because the suit itself can present a level of restriction when worn, there are experience requirements to try one for the first time. These are 500 skydives overall, or 200 skydives within an 18 month period. Similar to other disciplines there’s an initial training course called WS1 that needs to be completed before flying with others. For more advanced pilots, they can go on to complete WS2. Once you’re competant in a wingsuit, the real fun can begin. Now you can start working on the different aspects of flight, and perhaps enter competitions. You can compete based on forward speed, longest time in free-fall, and now, in artistic flight. This is where a team of two pilots, plus camera flyer, are judged on performing certain manoeuvres, like barrel rolls and holding on to each other, in a given time frame. Alternatively, if you’re like me, it’s about just getting out of the aircraft with your friends, spreading your wings and smiling as you fly through the sky.
Team Need for Speed by Jarno Cordia
Wingsuit flying, or wingsuiting, is a relatively new skydiving discipline, having become mainstream about ten years ago. Despite being so new, it has become very popular with experienced skydivers and, thanks to the growing number of videos on social media, is one of the main disciplines that brings new people in to our sport.
‘Macca’, to his friends, is a very experienced wingsuit pilot and Coach Examiner. Based at our Sibson centre, he’s always on hand to help you fly.
Published on May 4, 2016