In skydiving, you'll notice that we talk about "human flight" a lot. "Human flight" means lots of things, but there's no argument that wingsuiting is the closest skydiving discipline out there to actual human flight.
These days, in fact, an efficient wingsuiter can achieve descent rates as low as 25 miles per hour (80% lower than a regular skydiver's) and horizontal speeds of up to 220 mph. Compare that to the normal speed of tandem skydiving--120 miles per hour--and you'll see what we mean. Compared to regular freefall, that adds up to some real travel!
You're probably itching to get in on that, no? We don't blame you. It's a big sky up there, and flying a wingsuit sets you free to explore it. To help guide your journey, we set about addressing the most common questions that come to us about learning to fly a wingsuit, in the hopes that all the potential baby birds out there might have a one-stop informational clearinghouse with which to begin the journey. Let's get right into it, shall we?
Per the United States Parachute Association (USPA) regulations, you'll need to rack up quite a few skydives before you can fly in a wingsuit. When you arrive for a wingsuit first flight course, you'll need to prove with a signed logbook that you've completed a minimum of 200 skydives, preferably in the last 18 months, and have earned your USPA B-license (or foreign equivalent).
That might sound a little over-the-top, but listen up: These regulations exist because wingsuiting adds a lot of extra complications to a "normal" skydive. Lots more can potentially go wrong. For example: If you're not experienced enough to be able to exit the plane in exactly the right position, you risk hitting the aircraft tail. (!!) Enforcing the experience requirements minimizes skydiving wingsuit fatalities, an effort we can all get behind.
Great question! You might think that we wingsuiters don't need a parachute to land, but you know what? We do. There have been a couple of stunts performed which seem to prove the contrary--in the most famous, the wingsuiter landed on a pile of cardboard boxes like an old-school stuntman--but 99.999% of wingsuiters on the planet definitely do need some kind of parachute to land safely after flight. (That means, of course, that you'll need to learn to fly a parachute skillfully too, young padawan.)
Your shopping list for your wingsuit world takeover is going to be more than one item long. Before you step up for that wingsuit first flight course, you'll first need to acquire a list of key items to support your efforts. Here it is:
A docile main canopy loaded no higher than 1.3:1. Wingsuits love to throw their pilots into epic line twists upon deployment, so smart wingsuiters use parachutes that stack the odds in their favor.
You'll probably be doing so already, but you need to be using a BOC (bottom-of-container) deployment system to jump a wingsuit, in a container equipped with an automatic activation device.
Your pilot chute should be at least 28 inches in diameter, with a bridle no less than seven feet long as measured from pin to pilot chute.
You'll need to know your altitude because the proportionally crazy amount of time you spend up there is going to throw you off for a while. You should have a visual hand-or chest-mount altimeter and an audible altimeter.
A helmet, quite obviously.
Master skydiving! Get enrolled in our learn to skydive program and earn your A License at Jumptown. We'd love to see you at Flocktoberfest, our annual wingsuiting event (which takes place from Oct 13-15 of this year, 2017), if you want to hang out and get inspired. If you're looking to get your first taste of human flight, there's no better place to do it than Jumptown--and we're excited to support you on your journey to human-flying-squirrelhood!