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Wingsuit Flying: the human body in flight

Updated on November 25, 2016
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Chris describes and reviews books, music, merchandise, even laws as a result of personal experience.

Proximity Flight

wingsuit flying in Kjerag, Norway
wingsuit flying in Kjerag, Norway | Source

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When you watch the videos in this hub, click on the video title in the upper left hand corner of the video screen. This will take you to youtube where the video will play much better.

Extreme is the only word for the sport you are going to read about right now. If you haven't already heard of this, you are in for the surprise of your life. Man can now fly.


Imagine hiking from Sawtooth Canyon to Notch Peak in Utah. Suddenly you hear a loud swoosh sound over your head. You look up just in time to see a man or woman flying toward the valley below. No, it’s not Superman or Superwoman, although some might disagree.

What is this phenomenon? This is wingsuit flying and you are just about to see it up close and personal. The first video demonstrates wingsuit base jumping or WisBase. Get ready to switch to Full Screen because you won’t want to miss a thing.

Jeb Corliss "Grinding the Crack"

Modern Wingsuit Materials and Manufacturers

Materials used in modern wing suits:

packcloth 420,

Spandura,

ballistic nylon.

Manufacturers of wing suits:

BIRDMAN,

TonySuit

The History of Wingsuits

  • Eilmer of Malmesbury, 11th Century, constructed wings and leapt from the top of a tower, breaking both legs which crippled him for life.
  • Franz Reichelt, 1912, jumped from the first platform of the Eiffel Tower wearing a flight suit of his own design. He fell to his death.
  • Clem Sohn, 1910 –1937, constructed a successful wingsuit in the 1930s. At a show in France his parachute failed to open and he fell to his death.
  • Leo Valentin, 1919-1956, developed a set of wooden wings. He died at an air show in England when his wing struck the plane and broke. His parachute failed to open.
  • Patrick de Gayardon, 1960-1998, developed a successful wingsuit. He died when testing a modification to his wingsuit’s parachute container which failed.

The Best Wingsuit Skydive from Youtube, Part 1

GoPro HERO4 Black for Action Video

Prominent Wingsuit Flyers

  • Loic Jean-Albert, aka the flying dude-France
  • Jeb Corliss-U.S.
  • Steph Davis-U.S.
  • Ueli 'Sputnik' Gegenschatz-Switzerland-deceased
  • Tom Begic-Australia
  • Jari Kuosma-Finland
  • Robert Pečnik-Croatia
  • Visa Parviainen-Finland
  • Anthony Stepney-Great Britain

Elements of a Normal Flight


  1. Leaving the exit point: airplane, helicopter, cliff, tower etc.
  2. Gaining speed-either from speed of airplane or from free falling from a structure
  3. Reaching terminal velocity-the point at which the flier is no longer accelerating
  4. Glide ratio: 5 feet of forward movement for every 2 feet of drop
  5. Flight time: Time from exit point to beginning of free fall


Mechanics of Flight

The wingsuit is designed to allow the wind to pass through channels sewn into the wings of the suit. This creates an airfoil which produces lift, enabling flight. The glide ratio, also known as efficiency, is 2.5 for most wingsuits. This means that for every two feet dropped, there are five feet of forward movement. A combination of body maneuvers and suit design enables the flyer to control both the forward speed and the fall rate. A flyer can also control aspects of flight by changing the positions of the torso, shoulders, hips and knees. These actions change where the wind comes into contact with the wingsuit and thereby produce the desired changes in forward momentum and drop.

Records

  • First to fly through a waterfall-Jeb Corliss
  • Largest official formation-68 in arrowhead formation, 2009 Lake Elsinore, California
  • Highest-21780 ft by Heather Swan and Glenn Singleman of Australia at Meru Peak, India
  • Longest-Dean Potter, 4.6 miles, The Eiger, Swiss Alps 3:20
  • Greatest horizontal distance-26.257 km (16.315 miles)
  • Greatest absolute distance– 28.196 km (17.520 miles)
  • Longest duration– 9min 6sec
  • Highest altitude– 11,358 m (37,265 ft) see video below

Red Bull AirForce - Wingsuit Flying (Training Camp)

Some Popular Locations for Wingsuit Base Jumping

  • Kjerag and Trollstigen in Norway
  • Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland
  • Monte Brento in Italy
  • Carl’s Huge wall in Northern Norway
  • Norwegian Fjord in Southern Norway
  • Italian Terminal wall
  • Swiss Fungus
  • Table Mountain, South Africa
  • Notch Peak, Utah
  • Lake Elsinore, California
  • Tianmen Mountains, China

Dreams

I remember when my son first showed me these videos about four years ago. I was blown away by what I was seeing. I hope you were equally blown away and amazed at what men and women with dreams can accomplish.

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    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 22 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      integrater, Thanks for reading the article. There are requirements prior to your first wingsuit jump. You must be a certified skydiver with 200 jumps completed. Then you can enroll in a wingsuit fly school.

    • integrater profile image

      Certified Noob 22 months ago

      Must be amazing, to be able to fly in air just like a bird . Fantastic hub . Videos are great !!! . You cannot really start wingsuit flying without any skydiving experience or some thing of that kind , can you ?

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Cam8510 - that's strange that you're afraid of heights, yet can jump out of a plane! I knew an AIRLINE PILOT who was afraid of heights! He told me it is different, flying a plane.

      Maybe I don't need to go off the high dive at the pool after all...

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 3 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Say Yes To Life, Thanks for reading this hub and commenting. Wing suit flying would be awesome to do. My plans for the fall were to get certified in skydiving while living here in Albuquerque, NM for the next few months. Unfortunately, the company that did the lessons closed down their program. If I can find another company to do it, I'll go for it. After that I'd like to give the wing suit a try. We'll see. I'm not comfortable with heights , but for some reason, I don't have a fear of jumping from an airplane. Who knows, maybe you will decide to go for it anyway. Nice to have you visit my hubs.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 3 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      I read lots of people get in their 200 jumps by becoming tandem parachute instructors, so they get paid to acquire it. You can get your license with 12 jumps and school; it costs about $1000.

      My only problem is working my way up to skydiving for the first time. I can't even go off the high dive at the swimming pool!

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      You'll be in the Great Wide Open, no diapers necessary. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • johnwindbell profile image

      johnwindbell 4 years ago from - the land of beards and buggies

      I love this. Thanks cam8510. One day I will step out from a plane and leave my fears behind. Do they have diapers to wear, because .....

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      billybuc, Thanks for stopping by and reading. There is this little voice inside me that keeps saying "Go for it!" Yes, it is rather extreme, and exciting to watch. The thing is, you need 200 skydiving jumps to qualify to wingsuit jump, and those 200 jumps have to be in an 18 month period. That's 11 to 12 jumps per month. That is an intense requirement, but a good one I imagine.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Fascinating....not for me to try, but fascinating nonetheless. Thanks for introducing me to this rather extreme sport! :)

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