There are a lot of sports that can give you a taste of adrenaline rush. These extreme sports are definitely made for the brave ones! One of them is the wingsuit flying, or wingsuiting for short. Technically, it is similar to skydiving but with a noticeable difference: you’ll be wearing a webbing-sleeved jumpsuit (a wingsuit) instead of a traditional parachute. It’s so fun and scary to think at the same time, right?
You might see some action movie stars (or rather, the stunt double) perform wingsuit flying stunts in a movie. However, you might not know much about the history behind this simple yet amazing piece of sportswear. Thankfully, we’re here to provide you with some interesting information and facts regarding wingsuit flying. Let’s explore them together, shall we?
1. The First Ever Attempt to Use a Wingsuit Ended Up Horribly
People have been trying to imagine themselves flying with a wingsuit for ages. Franz Reichelt was one of those people. In 1912, he tried to test his invention, a combination of parachute and wing, and jumped from the Eiffel Tower.
At first, authorities banned him from doing the testing. However, he managed to fool them by saying that the wingsuit was going to be tested by using a dummy. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up as expected. Moments after jumping, he died when he hit the ground head first. It even opened up a measurable hole in the frozen ground.
2. Years Later, Rex G Finney Finally Succeeded in Developing a Wingsuit
Reichelt’s failure only fuelled other people’s motivation to be able to fly using a wingsuit. 18 years after the horrible incident, Rex G Finney has succeeded in doing what Franz Reichelt couldn’t do! This early design used a strip of canvas stitched between the legs, as well as other material such as silk, wood, steel, and whalebone. Although not very reliable, it paved the way and inspired the modern design of wingsuits that we see nowadays.
3. Commercially, Wingsuit Flying was not Available Until 1999
Although Rex Finney has done the unthinkable and managed to glide around using a wingsuit, this type of sport is still prohibited, due to the dangers and high risk. However, Jari Kuosma sought to change that and established Birdman International Ltd. which sought to make commercial wingsuits for enthusiasts.
Since its inception in 1999, the Birdman International Ltd. has released a lot of awesome models, starting from the legendary BIRDMAN s.u.i.t. in 1999 to the latest BIRDMAN UKKO that was released in 2018. If you’re interested in buying one of their models, head over to their online shop immediately!
4. What are Wingsuits Made of?
You must be thinking: how can something so simple be able to create something magical and wonderful? If you know the material and design of a wingsuit, you probably won’t consider it as something “simple”. Since Finney’s early model, there have been some modifications and upgrades to ensure safety and effectiveness.
Modern wingsuits are made of soft and stretchy nylon. It uses air inlets to inflate them in flight. Various materials are also used to reinforce the leading edge and reduce drag in the process. These materials are deemed enough to keep you safe while gliding in the air.
5. How Fast Will You Go When You’re Wingsuit Flying?
To those of you who are thinking of trying this extreme sport, this particular fact might be the one that you really need to pay attention to! After all, you don’t want to get scared and bail out, right? If you’re freefalling without opening a parachute or using a wingsuit, then you can reach a speed of 200 kilometers per hour. However, wearing this awesome item can help slow you down to about 60 kilometers per hour. How about that? This way, you can make sure to land safely, provided that you have received proper training and have extensive knowledge about the sport.
6. So, what are the Requirements Needed for Wingsuiting?
Wingsuit flying is not a simple sport that can be taught for a very short time like cycling. In fact, there are some licenses and requirements that you need to have before earning the permission for wingsuiting. Normally, you are required to learn the basics first, which is skydiving. Then, you must complete a total of 200 skydives in the span of 18 months, thus obtaining a B-license shortly after. Accomplishing those feats means that you can now hire a wingsuit flying coach to tutor you in the arts of wingsuiting. Getting excited already? Sign up for a skydiving lesson and see you on top (literally!) in the coming months!
7. Wingsuiting Cost You a Huge Ton of Money, so Beware!
Wingsuit flying is certainly a thrill and exciting sport for you to enjoy. However, you need to make sure that you are ready physically, mentally, and financially. After all, this sport can cost you a lot of money. Obtaining a skydiving license can cost you from around $1500 to $9000. Then, you’re going to buy a wingsuit, which is expensive on its own! A beginner wingsuit might cost you around $1200. Don’t forget about other expenses that you also need to pay, such as courses, additional equipment, and maintenance. All in all, you’ll be looking at at least $17.300 to $30.500!
8. You Also Need to Pay Attention of the Risks: It Consumed a Lot of Victims
Extreme sports are always risky. However, BASE jumping and wingsuit flying can be categorized at a whole new level on their own. In fact, they’ve got the highest fatality rate for any extreme sports. BLiNC Magazine has found interesting data between 1981-2011. In that 20-year span, there were 180 BASE jumping fatalities. Out of all the accidents, 39 involved wingsuits.
Other data also suggests that BASE jumping and wingsuit flying is really dangerous. The fatality rate proved to be really high, as it is approximately 1 death per 500 jumps for wingsuit flying. Therefore, you need to be extremely careful. Make sure to take notes when you are learning with a wingsuit tutor!
9. Dwain Weston, Dubbed the Greatest Wingsuiter, Even Falls Victim to the Sport
We cannot stress enough about the importance of being safe while wingsuiting. Even the best of the best can fall victim on their off-day. Dwain Weston from Australia is the most popular example of that. In 2003, he attempted to jump from an airplane and descended to either side of the 316-meter high Royal Gorge Bridge.
However, he miscalculated the distance and wind condition, therefore falling onto a rock face. He wore a wingsuit and died shortly after the accident. He was considered a legend. Some might even say that he is the best wingsuiter ever, and therefore his death really shook the world.
10. James Petrolia is the Real Deal!
James Petrolia is the man! He managed to set a world record for the highest altitude wingsuit jump ever. It was done on the 11th of November 2015. The altitude set by him is 11,407.44 meter. It is a really amazing feat, especially considering that he did this to raise funds and support the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF). It is an organization that supports the children of Special Operations Forces that have deceased and fallen in the line of duty. What a noble thing to do, eh?
11. Wingsuit Flying is a Popular Stunt in Action Movies
By now, you should have already guessed that this stunt will look so darn cool in any action movie. In fact, there are a lot of blockbuster hits that successfully used this stunt to attract certain types of audiences.
One movie in particular: Point Break (the reboot version and not the original one, unfortunately). Although this movie isn’t anywhere near the audience’s expectation, we can’t deny that the stunts filmed for this movie are very amazing.
You can also name a huge number of movies that used wingsuit flying at some point in the story. The Batman (starring Robert Pattinson) also comes to mind. Heck, even Spider-Man also used a specially-designed wingsuit for his costume in the movie Spider-Man: Homecoming.
12. Meet Fraser Corsan: the World’s Fastest Man
People said that wingsuit flying is the fastest non-motorised sport in the world. Thanks to Fraser Corsan, this fact is entirely true. He holds the world record for flying at the fastest speed without any engines to assist, clocking at an incredible speed of 400 kph or 249 mph. It is an amazing feat for this awesome veteran.
Originally, the speed record was just one out of four world records that Fraser Corsan looked to break. Unfortunately, he only managed to break this one record, and that is still awesome as well. Previously, he was supposed to be jumping from a plane at 11,500m, which would be a world record in itself. If he was to leap from that altitude, he would also break another world record of a possible 10-minute freefall time. What could have been, right?