Flying Up in a Wingsuit

According to STEPH DAVIS, Climber, BASE jumper, and wingsuit flyer, and MARIO RICHARD, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer

Flying over Castle Valley

Flying over Castle Valley     Photo: Evgeniya Moroz Via

Steph Davis: Eiger Birds

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Right now the trend with wingsuit flying is “firstest and mostest”—things like the “longest, farthest, fastest, highest wingsuit flight,” and this is not the essence of flight, in terms of what birds are doing. Essentially we are all flying gliders, because the suits only go down, and I think the thirst for “firstest and mostest” is a diversion down a road to nowhere. I think the real visionary change is going to happen with wingsuit ridge soaring. Birds are able to catch air currents along ridgelines and use those air currents, or thermals, to get lift, which means they maintain and actually gain altitude. That’s the key difference. They can gain altitude, something gliders and wingsuits cannot do, and use it for forward glide.

The wingsuit designs will have to change. With today’s wingsuits, you fall too fast. If the speed you’re falling in the wingsuit could be reduced to less than the speed of the upward blowing wind, then you might actually rise while flying forward. Hang gliders do it all the time, but it has never been applied to wingsuit flight—at least not yet. In the paragliding world, wings are getting smaller and smaller to handle stronger and stronger winds. Wingsuit designs would have to be adapted to this new way of soaring and, possibly, we could just walk up to a crazy windy cliff, put on our suit, and just hop on the wind current, soaring for as long as the wind’s strength doesn't diminish.

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