Ten minutes to jump. Outside temperature minus 50 degrees Celsius. We were flying into a head wind - air speed 141 knots. Our rehearsed sequence began. Personal oxygen systems on. Cameras on. Disconnect from the plane’s oxygen system. Open the plane door. Wait for the green light.
We formed up in the door of the plane and looked down for the prominent feature of our exit point over Toroweap Point. It took one and half minutes to reach it. Glenn nodded at us. I exited the plane first. I was flying fine, but Glenn, then Roger, Vicente and Paul all barrel-rolled in the thin air. I held my breath and to my huge relief they all recovered quickly. They were a long way beneath and in front of me. I put my suit into a dive to give chase. My entire focus was on reaching Glenn. I got to him perhaps ten seconds later. We were all together and moving fast, but flying our diamond was proving illusive, it was more like a misshapen rectangle.
We passed the deepest part of the canyon at over 100mph, yet it felt like we were floating, and I could count every crease and crevasse in the landscape. It was cold but the chemical hand warmers in my gloves were working. I could hear Glenn’s laboured breathing in my headphones – he was head down, going for it. After what seemed like an eternity, we soared over the V-shaped formation I knew was our marker point on the South Rim of the canyon. We were across. Not long after that my audible altimeter sounded its first alarm. The next next alarm signalled break off. Glenn and Vicente flew offset diagonals ahead. Roger turned left and I went right. Paul opened where he was. We’d practiced this opening sequence many times.
I had a perfect clean opening, and once under canopy I took time to look at the breathtaking landscape around me. Everything glowed in the early morning light. A sheer cliff wall fell away 1000ft directly beneath my feet. Behind that, the central part of the Canyon dropped another 3,000ft. I knew where I was. The dirt track we’d driven along a few days earlier was right in front of me. The small clearing in the forest was to my left, but too far to make safely (and not nearly as nice a place to land). The road was a soft obstacle free runway so down I went, landing safely nearly 7000ft above sea level. Glenn, Paul, Roger and Vicente demonstrated their impressive canopy skills putting down safely in the landing area near the astounded crew from 60 Minutes and a jubilant Bennett.
Grand Canyon Wingsuit Flight 9/4/15
North Rim to South Rim
A World First
Time from Idea to Execution: 14 months (fund raising, project planning, official submissions for permission to fly and land, oxygen system refinements, training, weather).
Wingsuits: the Apache series from Tony Wingsuits (the X-3 through to the Rebel 2).
Plane used: SkyDance Davis' Grand Super Van with Texas Turbine upgrade
Pilot: Ray Ferrell, USA
Oxygen consultant: Tad Smith, USA
Dr. Glenn Singleman. Australia. Team Leader. Wingsuit BASE flyer. Flying wingsuits since 2004. Over 1000 wingsuit jumps.
Heather Swan. Australia. Sponsorship & Funding. Wingsuit flyer. Flying wingsuits since 2004. Over 1000 wingsuit jumps.
Paul Tozer. Australia. Wingsuit Camera Flyer. Over 1000 wingsuit jumps. Roger Hugelshofer. Switzerland/Australia. Wingsuit flyer. Over 1000 wingsuit jumps. Flew across Brisbane city with Glenn and Heather in January 2015.
Vicente Cajiga. Meixco/USA. Wingsuit Flyer. Over 800 wingsuit jumpsSponsors and Supporters: Sony Action Cam, Australian Geographic, Toyota, the Australian Parachute Federation, Sydney Skydivers, Cookie Composites.
Cameras used: Sony 4K Action Cams, Sony 4K AX100, Sony A7-S (stills).
Grand Canyon Flight
Exit Altitude: 28,000ft
Exit Temperature: -50c
Exit Speed: 141 knots
Exit position: Directly above Toroweap Point, North Rim of the Grand Canyon
Distance Flown: 11kms
Top speed: 110 miles per hour.