Sports / Wingsuit Skydiving

Wingsuiting is an exciting discipline of skydiving and basejumping that employs a specially designed suit with arm and leg wings. Wingsuit pilots use a suit in conjunction with a skydiving or basejumping parachute system.

In a wingsuit a skilled pilot can fly further and longer, potentially covering great horizontal distances and experiencing true flight. For example a regular skydive from an altitude of 14,000ft is about 60 seconds, a wingsuit skydive from around the same altitude can be as long as 3 minutes.

Leonarda da Vinci drew something that looked like a wingsuit, and probably many people before and since Leonardo have looked at birds, bats and sugar gliders and dreamt of emulating them so they too could fly.

Early birdmen did not fare well when they tried to fly with suits made of everything from canvas and whale bone to silk. Wingsuit legend says that from around 1930 – 1960 72 men died trying to fly these suits.

The modern wingsuit is attributed to French skydiving legend Patrick de Gayardon who invented and flew a suit that worked. Patrick died in a tragic skydiving accident in 1998.

His suit inspired skydiving friends Robert Pecnik and Jari Kuosma to create a suit that would be safe and reliable for experienced skydivers. Together they established Birdman Inc and Robert, who had been designing flying craft (often tested by pet guinnea pigs) since childhood, designed the first commerical suit.

Robert and Jari parted commercial company with Jari continuing at Birdman and Robert estblishing his own company Phoenix-Fly Human Flight Innovations in 2004.

Wingsuiting adds a layer of complexity to a skydive or basejump so it is recommended jumpers are experienced before they start. Skydivers should have a minimum of 200 skydives before their first wingsuit flight. Today there are a wide range of suits available. There are designs for different levels of experience and the goals of the pilot.

Glenn and Heather are passionate wingsuit flyers. They are both accredited APF Wingsuit Tutors¬† and have made over 500 wingsuit skydives each. For their World Record breaking basejump from Mt Meru in India they used Phoenix-Fly’s V1 high performance suit which performed well in the high altitude environment.

For Furthest Flight 2011 they will use ‘Apache’ wingsuits which were handmade for them by Tony Uragello of US Wingsuit Manufacturer, Tony Suits.¬† The design is so innovative the oxygen bottles needed for the high altitude flight sit streamline against the body inside the wings of the suit.

More information

Recommended Reading

  • Birdmen, Batmen, and Skyflyers: Wingsuits and the Pioneers Who Flew in Them, Fell in Them, and Perfected Them by Michael Abrams (2006).
  • Skyflying Wingsuits in Motion by Scott Campos
  • Articles: Live and Let Die on Everest
  • A study by Forensic Psychiatrist Dr Erik Monasterio that includes basejumping.
  • The physchology of Risk
  • Risk Taking – http://www.risktaking.co.uk