Nylon wings stretched stiff, carving swiftly between cavernous clouds—this is the dream of flight. Wingsuit flying has become one of the most recognizable skydiving disciplines of the modern era. Making appearances in television and film, wingsuit flying has really taken off—pun intended! So, what’s the deal with this fantastic type of body flight?
Wingsuit flying uses a suit with fabric wings that stretch from wrist to hip and a wing that stretches between the legs. The wingsuit has booties that cover the feet and zips closed for a secure fit. Given the look of wingsuit skydiving, it’s not surprising that the requisite jumpsuit is sometimes referred to as a squirrel suit or bat suit, or a birdman suit (after the creators of the first commercial wingsuit).
Except in the case of BASE jumping (Building Antenna Static Earth) – where an individual jumps from a stationary object rather than from an airplane – those who wingsuit make their exit from full altitude and fly their bodies through the sky until it’s time to deploy the parachute. Much like the commanders of other flying machines, the individuals who skydive with a wingsuit are known as pilots; in this case, wingsuit pilots.
Wingsuits increase the surface area of a jumper which, in turn, increases the wind resistance or drag the skydiver experiences in freefall. Furthermore, many wingsuits are also designed with vents cut into the fabric. Similar to a RAM Air parachute, as the wingsuit pilot flies, the vents in the wingsuit allow air to enter, inflating the wingsuit and creating a semi-rigid wing that generates even greater lift. This is what allows the wingsuit to cover significant horizontal distance.
While wingsuits may all look very similar, wingsuits come in a variety of shapes and styles based on the type of flying to be done and the skill level of the wingsuit pilot. Typically, smaller wingsuits are ideal for beginner flyers while wingsuits with more extensive wingspans are suited to intermediate flyers. Likewise, some wingsuits are specifically designed for distance and others which are made with acrobatic flight in mind.
Generally, the glide ratio of a wingsuit will be around 2.5:1 to 3:1, meaning for every foot the wingsuit jumper descends, they travel 2.5 to 3 feet horizontally. More specifically, the glide ratio of a wingsuit will depend on a variety of factors: the size of the wingsuit, whether or not there is a headwind, and the body position of the wingsuit pilot.
Before you get carried away with dreams of donning a wingsuit and soaring through the sky, you’ve got to understand the basic requirements. In order to wingsuit, a jumper needs to be a fairly experienced, licensed skydiver and to have made a minimum of 200 jumps. Before trying wingsuiting, you must also attend a wingsuit training course to learn flight techniques, proper body position, and to become familiar with wingsuit-specific emergency procedures.
As luck would have it, Skydive Orange is home to many talented wingsuiters, and we offer wingsuit training to help baby birds (by that we mean skydivers) take flight. For those who are already competent wingsuiters, we also offer advanced wingsuit training.
Even the best wingsuiter had to start somewhere! Schedule your first jump with Skydive Orange today
The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.