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Wingsuit flying is a skydiving discipline and extreme sport which relies on the use of a specialised jumpsuit often referred to as a wingsuit, squirrel suit or birdman suit. This jumpsuit is comprised of two arm wings and a leg wing which, supported by the use of inflatable pressurised fabric cells, increase the skydiver's surface area to increase lift and allow him/her to fly impressive horizontal distances at a slower descent rate, thus increasing their time in freefall. The wingsuiter uses his/her body to control forward speed, direction and lift; it can take years of practice to be able to achieve efficient flight and to successfully manage the suit's "angle of attack" to maximise performance. An efficient wingsuiter can achieve descent rates as low as 25mph (80% lower than a regular skydiver's) and horizontal speeds of up to 220mph. Wingsuiters can measure their performance by using GPS computers and by flying relative to others (flocking). MORE: LEARN TO WINGSUIT
A wingsuiter, whether jumping from a plane or a mountain, will deploy a parachute towards the end of their descent as a wingsuit alone cannot provide enough lift to land without causing serious injury or death (with the exception of Gary Connery's landing into a cardboard box-rig). Altitude is monitored using a hand-mounted altimeter and an audible warning device kept in the helmet. Controlling a parachute requires freeing the arms in order to reach the brakes (control lines) and the leg wing also needs to be unzipped to be able to run during landing.
It is generally accepted that wingsuiting adds a degree of complexity to skydiving, with risks such as flat-spins (uncontrollable spinning), burble (a vortex in the parachute deployment area), tail-strikes (hitting an aircraft's tail on exit), extra material to manage during a malfunction, and difficulty in depressurising wings prior to parachute deployment. Failure to handle these issues has been known to cause fatal injury.
A growing interest in wingsuiting in recent years has led to a number of disciplines being adopted by skydivers. These include artistics (acrobatic), performance flying, XRW (parachute/wingsuit formations), flocking (group flying), BASE wingsuiting and proximity flying. Different suit designs/sizes are used based on the discipline being practised and experience of the wingsuiter. READ MORE...
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