Wingsuit Flying Guide
It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman
You'll be familiar with the above line if you are a comic book fan and if you are not, no matter. Just know that you can soar through the sky like the 'Man of Steel' thanks to wingsuit flying. And that's probably the closest you can get to becoming a superhero. Perhaps it's time to think of your superhero name, haha.
It takes a special kind of mentality to participate in wingsuit flying. After all, we humans are naturally scared of heights.
Wingsuits aren't to be taken lightly. You can't just wake up one day and get into one. The path to becoming a wingsuit hero is not as difficult as you think as long as you receive proper instructions, have the appropriate gear, and prior skydiving experience.
This article aims to educate you on all you need to know about wingsuit flying. So here we go.
What Is Wingsuit Flying?
Wingsuit flying is a variation of skydiving (see it as skydiving with extra adrenaline) and involves a person flying using a special suit called a wingsuit. Also referred to as bird man suits or flying squirrel suits, wingsuits consist of two arm legs and a single leg.
The wingsuiter controls his/her direction, lift, and speed using their body. Takeoff is usually from a high mountain or a plane. And at the end of the sport, the wingsuiter uses a parachute to land.
How To Get Into Wingsuit Flying?
Step 1: Learn to skydive
As I said earlier, wingsuit flying is a version of skydiving where you fly or get as close to flying as possible. So you need to have skydiving experience before even thinking of wingsuit flying.
If you don’t have skydiving experience, then you need to sign up for skydiving lessons and undertake the training. The eventual go is to earn your initial license. After getting your skydiving license, you can now start to think about wingsuit flying.
If you are in the US, you have to be over 18 before you can earn a diving license and you have to prove it with a photo ID.
Step 2: Skydive consistently until you reach the threshold jump-number requirements
According to the United States Parachute Association, everyone looking to make their first wingsuit dive must have made a minimum of 200 jumps in the past 18 months. Until you meet this requirement, you are going to have a hard time finding a qualified teacher/guide. Wingsuit diving isn’t without risks and the guides want to work only with those that are ready. And rightly so.
Your safety is paramount and that’s why there’s not and you should not take shortcuts as long as wingsuit diving is concerned. Having the necessary experience also makes the sport less difficult and dreadful. You’ve made several skydiving jumps and are already comfortable being in the air.
Step 3: Signing up for a Well-administered First Wingsuit Jump Course
After meeting the requirements of 200 verified jumps in the last 18 months, it’s time to sign up for a well-administered first wingsuit jump course (FWJC). The name of this course tells you all that it’s about and you should get ready for your very first lessons in wingsuit diving.
Step 4: Get the necessary gear
I expect you’d already have your own parachute by the time you make 200 verified jumps. So you know you are going to your wingsuit flying school with one of the needed gear. Other essential gear include a container, a reserve parachute, a helmet, an altimeter, and an automatic activation device. I’m not going to lie to you, all this gear are a significant investment.
When it comes to wingsuits, you can rent your first wingsuit. Of course, you should rent it from a reliable source. And the good news is that there are many reliable wingsuit rentals around.
Step 5: Get a coach
Your wingsuit diving education doesn’t end after you finish the FWJC. Nah, you still have more to learn and coaching is what you need at this stage. A wingsuit coach will fine tune all you’ve learned and help you dial in the tricky bits. You’ll be shown videos of others wingsuit diving and after making your first jump, your video will also be analyzed by your coach and tips given on how to improve.
How Dangerous Is Wingsuit Flying?
According to WingsuitFly, the fatality rate for skydiving is around 1 death per 100,000 jumps and wingsuit diving has a slightly higher fatality rate. The reason for this low fatality rate is due to the high altitude giving divers ample time to fix things or recover from problems.
Wingsuit base jumping, however, is a different matter altogether. For base jumpers, jumping from a high altitude isn’t exciting or adventurous enough. Instead, they jump at low altitudes on man-made buildings like cliffs and buildings, especially skyscrapers. This means the divers only have a few seconds to deploy their parachutes and small margins of error are very deadly. There is also no time to deal with problems and malfunction and that’s why base jumping is illegal in many countries.
Yes, wingsuit base jumping looks cool on YouTube but it’s very deadly and a lot more dangerous than wingsuit skydiving. Fatality for base jumpers is closer to 1 death per 500 – 1000 jumps.
Wingsuit Flying Essential Gear
A helmet is an essential wingsuit flying piece of gear that contains your hair, helps you hold on to your goggles, and also keeps the rush of the wind off your face making sure your cheeks don’t end up flappy after every jump. Many helmets for wingsuit diving are more about comfort and aren’t rated for impact.
Wearing a full face diving helmet provides better protection for your face against the wind and eliminates the need for goggles. You can also wear an open face helmet especially if you want to mount a camera and this requires you to wear goggles to protect your eyes.
It’s common to see many wingsuiters wearing ski goggles. The reason for this is that ski goggles have a lesser tendency to fog up. Fogging reduces your visibility which is very dangerous in wingsuit flying. Some manufacturers include an extractor, which removes fog, in their helmets.
As I said earlier, you don’t need goggles if you are wearing a full face diving helmet. However, open face helmets are common among wingsuiters as it’s easy to mount cameras on them and wearing goggles in this scenario is very important.
More of a popular wingsuit flying gear than an essential gear. Cameras are all the rage in wingsuit diving especially since the arrival of the GoPro. While most skydivers and wingsuiters are guilty of taking things too far with cameras, many divers usually have a GoPro sticking Teletubby-style sticking out of their chins or top of their heads. It’s now seen as a norm in the sport.
However, you can use a camera for skydiving or wingsuit flying until you meet the United States Parachutes Association requirement of 200 jumps.
These are essential skydiving gear that are capable of detecting and displaying a wingsuiter or skydiver altitude. Digital altimeters are capable of automatically logging jump data like flight time, deployment/exit altitude among others.
US altimeters typically measure altitude in feet while that of the UK and other European countries uses meters.
Also referred to as the container or the entire skydiving gear system refers to a piece of gear that holds the main parachute and reserve parachute. The rig is essentially a backpack.
Inside the rig is a device called the Automatic Activation Device (AAD). It’s a small gadget that sits in your rig and detects the speed of your descent as well as your altitude. If the AAD detects that you are still falling really fast at a certain altitude (which means your parachute hasn’t been deployed), the AAD will automatically deploy your reserve parachute.
Note that the AAD is designed to be a fail safe or last resort and should not be relied on during wingsuit flying.
What’s wingsuit flying without a wingsuit? A wingsuit is what will actually make you flu as it allows you to transform yourself into a giant wing with your body acting as the rigid framework. Thanks to the fabric between your legs and underneath your arms, you are able to create an airfoil or large horizontal surface.
Note that your weight is going to pull you down after jumping from a high altitude. However, as you spread your arms and legs, you’ll be able to generate enough air resistance to slow your descent and guide horizontally in the air which is the flying part of the sport.
A wingsuit is not enough to slow your descent for safe landing and that’s why your parachute must be deployed.
Other useful gear includes a knife to handle entanglements and gloves which not only protect the has but can be useful in case of bad landing.