Written by Nina Pantic
You may not see pigs fly anytime soon but look up and you might just see a human soaring between the clouds. These flying humans are not just BASE jumpers or ski divers, but real fliers up in the air without unsightly flying contraptions. The world’s ultimate daredevils have found a new niche action sport, and as it turns out, flying is available to your average Joe. All you need is some training and a wingsuit, a major passion for adrenaline, and really, really big balls! Say hello to the latest form of human flight …wingsuit BASE jumping.
Slip into a specially designed wing suit and jump off a cliff (or any BASE jumping structure), and just like that – human flight is achieved! Some real risk-takers even ski off mountain cliffs, detach their skis mid-air, and then fly alongside mountain walls within inches of impact (a little something called proximity flying). Ted Davenport is a skier, BASE jumper, and two-time WHC Champion, but he also happens to be a baller wingsuit proximity flier. Davenport’s featured in Ski Channel’s upcoming film “Winter” and you can check out his personal proximity flying footage right here:
The wingsuit (also called a birdman suit or squirrel suit) is designed to create an airfoil as it forms around the human body with fabric strategically placed between the legs and under the arms. The only thing between you and falling thousands of feet to certain death is a sleek fabric suit (and a parachute for that pesky detail of landing).
Human desire for flying isn’t new, innovators and daredevils have been testing the limitations of gravity for decades. Wings were first designed in the 1930′s but the materials were not impressive (including things like canvas, wood, silk, steel, and even whale bone). Finally in 1999, Jari Kuosma and Robert Pecnik created a modernized wingsuit and started Bird-Man International Ltd; and the sport’s popularity skyrocketed (literally!).
With the obvious risk that flying through the air entails, wingsuit BASE jumping is a very technical and physical sport that requires the manipulation of body shape mid-flight to steer and fly.
A flier can adjust forward speed and fall rate by changing torso shape, arching at the shoulders, hips, and knees, changing the angle of attack, and adjusting the tension on the fabric wings.
Jebb Corliss (the “Bird Man”) is one of the most notorious wingsuit stuntmen. Just last month he donned a wingsuit, jumped off a helicopter at 6,500 feet and soared for two-thirds of a mile to steer through the 100ft arch of China’s Tianmen Hole at 75 mph. Corliss also infamously got himself banned from the Empire State Building back in 2006 for trying to jump off its observation deck (apparently a huge no-no).
Daredevils like Corliss and Davenport continue to push the limits of wingsuit BASE jumping but anyone can join the flying epidemic. So, how do you get started? The United States Parachute Associate (USPA) requires a minimum of 200 freefall skydives (within an 18 month period) and one-on-one instruction from a wingsuit jumper, or 500 jumps without an instructor. Wingsuits may be steep investment, but the sensation of soaring through the air is a priceless experience that demands guts and die-hard desire. If you are serious about taking flight — money and training will be the last things holding you back.
Watch some insane footage of ballsy humans in flight below:
See the trailer for The Ski Channel’s “Winter” right now: