What is Wingsuit Flying?
Based on skydiving, wingsuit flying is an extreme sport requiring skill as well as bravery. If you have ever seen skydivers who look like flying bats you may already have seen wingsuit flying. It involves the use of a special outfit called a wingsuit. This allows the wingsuiter to control their forward speed, lift and direction of flight by using their body, although, of course, this can take years to perfect.
How Does the Wingsuit Work?
The wingsuit, which is also known as a squirrel suit or birdman suit, features two arm wings and a leg wing. These are supported by inflatable pressurised cells made of nylon. The overall surface area of the skydivers is increased when they are wearing the suit which gives them greater lift and allows them to fly for longer. They can cover vast horizontal distances at decreased descent speeds in comparison with traditional skydivers and consequently are able to stay in freefall for longer.
Many of the latest wingsuit designs include Glide Skin™. GlideSkin™ is a highly flexible, wrinkle-free and durable material which is ideal for this application, especially when using a static (non-flexible) internal construction to prevent deformation. The latest, cutting edge designs, usually feature a layer of AirMesh™ sandwiched in between. This is non-flexible and prevents stretching or deformation in the leading edge. The resulting material allows flexibility in the wrist area whilst maintaining a stable profile.
The Joy of Wingsuiting
Proficient wingsuiters can achieve horizontal speeds of up to 220 mph whilst maintaining descent speeds of 25 mph. This is 80% lower than that of regular skydivers.
Regardless of whether they are jumping from a plane or from a mountain, wingsuiters use parachutes to control their descent in the same way that skydivers do. This is necessary because the wingsuit alone doesn’t provide sufficient lift for landing.
Although the wingsuiter has a hand mounted altimeter to measure the altitude an audible warning device is also fitted to the helmet. On descent the hands need to be free to control the parachute lines which act as brakes. The leg wing also needs ot be unzipped prior to landing to enable the wingsuiter to run during landing.
Windsuiting is an exciting sport which has become increasingly popular in recent years. It has lead to many new disciplines in skydiving including artistic (acrobatic), proximity flying and flocking (group flying), performance (parachute/wing formations) as well as base wingsuiting.