Advice for Starting Wingsuit BASE jumping
by James Boole and others
- Section 1: Introduction
- Section 2: Before even considering doing a wingsuit BASE jump
- Section 3: So you still want to wingsuit BASE
- Section 4: You now have some wingsuit BASE experience, what’s next?
- Section 5: Conclusion
- Appendix A: Specific wingsuit drills to practice from the plane
- Appendix B: Relevant entries from “the list”
- Appendix C: Some considerations for wingsuit site selection
We have all seen the amazing videos of people like Robert, Yuri and Loic flying their wingsuits. It is natural to want to follow in their slipstreams but let us make sure we do so safely and with adequate preparation.
This document is intended as an initial information source for BASE jumpers interested in starting wingsuit BASE.
This document is not an instruction manual. It does not contain rules, only advice.
Wingsuit BASE is more dangerous than normal BASE jumping if the jumper does not conduct adequate preparation.
If you choose to pursue wingsuit BASE you are strongly recommended to seek instruction from an experienced wingsuit BASE jumper. There is no substitute for one to one coaching.
A wingsuit allows for incredible freefall delays and horizontal distances to be achieved, almost eliminating the chance of striking the object you jumped off, the number one cause of BASE jumping fatalities.
But jumping a wingsuit also has some serious drawbacks:
- The wingsuit restricts your physical movement making exits harder to perform i.e. difficult to climb down to the exit point, easier to go unstable and then harder to recover.
- The wingsuit complicates deployment and prevents you from controlling your canopy immediately after opening.
- The wingsuit jumper must carefully assess the terrain he intends to fly over as the eventual opening point and landing area will be different than for a normal BASE jump and will also depend on flight performance.
- Experienced BASE jumpers who use ground rush as an altitude indicator must exercise caution during their initial jumps. The low fall rate and high horizontal speeds can fool the jumper that they are higher than they actually are. The wingsuit ground rush for a minimal canopy ride is a lot less intense than for normal freefall.
- The wingsuit jumper must also pay attention to his altitude when flying down a talus or over sloping terrain. The jumper often focuses on the airspace they are flying towards, giving the illusion they have lots of altitude available (e.g. looking at the valley floor in front of them).
In this situation the jumper must remember that the critical altitude is the immediate vertical elevation they have over the talus or slope. The wingsuit jumper must always ensure sufficient altitude for a safe deployment - bear in mind that as soon as the PC is released the wingsuit jumper will stop flying and drop vertically approx. 200’+ as the canopy deploys.
- Experienced wingsuit BASE jumpers may attempt to make jumps that would be otherwise impossible without a wingsuit. The jumper must be absolutely sure of his own capabilities and those of his equipment when undertaking jumps that allow little margin for error.
2. Before even considering doing a wingsuit BASE jump you should be:An intermediate BASE jumper:
- With minimum 50 BASE jumps (but more jumps are strongly recommended!)
- Cool under pressure, very comfortable in the BASE environment
- Always performing solid exits, also when exiting with arms by your side
- Have good sub & terminal tracking skills
- Have excellent canopy flying skills and landing accuracy
- Have consistent record of stable deployments and on-heading openings
- With minimum 50 wingsuit skydives (but more jumps are strongly recommended!)
- Who wears a wingsuit as if it were pyjamas, not feeling physically restricted by the fabric
- Always able to find the PC quickly and cleanly, with good on heading openings
- Well practiced at recovering from instability
- Able to unzip arm wings instantly after deployment - like 2nd nature
- Familiar using arm and leg cutaways in freefall and under canopy immediately after opening
- Able to fly the suit comfortably without “potato chipping” achieving reasonable fall rate and forward speed
- Ideally have performed some wingsuit balloon jumps to simulate the exit & sub terminal flight
- See Appendix B for specific flight drills to practice whilst jumping the wingsuit from the plane.
A person who has read all the incident reports, analysed the contributing factors and accepted that wingsuit / BASE jumping is worth the risk of serious injury & death.
3. So you still want to wingsuit BASE? Let’s talk about specific preparation:
First thing, it is strongly recommended to start wingsuit BASE using a low performance wingsuit i.e. Birdman Classic, GTi or similar. Once you have 10+ good wingsuit BASE jumps you could consider jumping with a higher performance suit.The following items are strongly recommended:
- A 1 or 2 pin BASE container for wingsuit BASE. The high speed airflow over the container and high deployment angle excludes the use of a Velcro rig.
- A normal terminal pack job i.e. symmetrical, mesh slider packed “up” (large or fine mesh depending on personal preference).
- ZP pilot chutes, the size depends on your canopy, between 34” – 38”. The PC should NOT have a hackey handle (or heavy handle). With a hackey PC handle there is the possibility of the bridle wrapping around the base of the handle. A heavy PC handle could contribute to PC hesitation.
- A container with “dynamic corners” or open corners.
- A suitable helmet, goggles and low profile protective pads.
Back to the dropzone:
- Perform 20 hop-n-pops using your low performance wingsuit and a sensibly sized 7 cell main, or even better your BASE canopy in a skydiving rig. (The 20 jumps can count towards the 50)
- Work your deployment altitude gradually down to USPA minimum of 2200’, open by 2000’ (Discuss this with your CCI / DZO first, some dropzones may enforce a higher pull altitude)
- If you have any instability, deployment or opening problems go back to full altitude jumps until they are rectified, use a BMI if necessary.
- Unstable exit
- Handle inside of pouch /BOC
- Hard pull
- Floating handle
- PC in tow
- Premature deployment
- Horseshoe malfunction
- Line twists
- Line over
- Water landing
- Jammed zip
Now to a far away land:
It is strongly recommended to go to one of the following well known “high” locations for your first wingsuit BASE jumps. Become familiar with the object performing normal BASE jumps, getting to know landing areas and outs, obstacles, rock drop, winds, talus / ledges etc.
|Carl’s Huge wall in Northern Norway:||Good vertical rock drop
|Not many sheep and it rains a lot|
|Norwegian Fjord in Southern Norway:||Good vertical rock drop
Medium sized LZ
|Very expensive beer|
|Italian Terminal wall:||OK vertical rock drop
Small LZ (assume Heli LZ)
|Wind / turbulence can be a problem|
|Swiss Fungus:||Good vertical rock drop
Large landing area
|Access is difficult, requiring high fitness level and basic climbing skills|
Once you are comfortable with the site, pick a day when you are feeling 100% and the weather conditions are perfect to make your first wingsuit BASE jump.
Advice for your first wingsuit BASE jump. What to focus on?
- Being current! Make sure you get current at wingsuit skydiving and BASE jumping in the weeks running up to your first jump.
- Pack yourself a nice terminal opening, attach the wingsuit correctly with the PC packed in the BOC with the correct tension (not too loose or too tight). Perform a full gear check before the hike, avoid “exit gear fear” syndrome, as you will already be under pressure.
- Exit in a nice head high position, student style, with you arm wings open and your leg wing closed, your arm wings will help you balance and remain head high. 1-2 sec after exit slowly extend your leg wing and start to trim the suit as you feel the air speed picking up. Premature exposure of the leg wing can cause you to go head low – be warned! Better to be head high.
- If you should go head low, stay calm! Bring your head up and if the object allows it, try to stay parallel with the surface and build up some speed to allow you to pull up out of the dive more easily. You may wish to consider this possibility when selecting the site of your first few wingsuit jumps.
- After you have extended the leg wing focus on flying the suit efficiently away from the object pulling nice and high – don’t rush, take time to reach, grip and throw the PC. The PC throw should be vigorous to clear the burble the suit makes behind you. Remember to keep your body symmetrical at all times during deployment to help maintain on heading performance.
- It is recommended to learn to deploy from full flight as the BASE environment rarely allows enough altitude to collapse your wings and fall vertically prior to deploying. This also has the advantage of keeping the airflow over your body fast & clean reducing the chance of pilot chute hesitation. Deploying from full flight implies keeping your leg wing inflated and only collapsing your arm wings for the moment required to locate the PC. As your canopy reaches line stretch it is better to close your leg wing as it can catch air causing your body to twist.
Your first 5 - 10 jumps should focus on a stable exit, flight and deployment, once you have these survival skills you can start to think about flight time and distance.
4. You now have some wingsuit BASE experience, what’s next?Once you have become a competent wingsuit BASE jumper you could consider:
- Jumping a higher performance suit
- Jumping from lower objects, for example the higher exit points in the legal Swiss valley.
- Jumping camera
- Performing 2 ways +
- Opening up new objects
- Your imagination is the limit! Make sure there is video!
You want to jump a higher performance wingsuit:
So you have done approx. 10+ good wingsuit BASE jumps with a low performance suit and you now intend to jump a higher performance suit.
Assuming you have trouble free experience flying the higher performance suit from the plane you can go ahead and use it for BASE.
Treat your first wingsuit BASE jump using the higher performance wingsuit the same as your first wingsuit BASE jump.
You want to jump a wingsuit that has a leg pouch PC:
If you intend to use the leg pouch PC (e.g. S3 or Phoenix Fly wingsuit) - it is strongly recommended to perform the following ground and skydiving preparation.
Prior to jumping the leg pouch PC perform a couple of thousand practice pulls on the ground. Be able to find the handle, regardless of body position with your eyes closed. Do 300 practice pulls a night for a week or so, simulating full flight then deployment.
When packing the PC into the leg pouch assure that the Birdman or Phoenix Fly guide lines are followed. The PC should not be too loose or too tight. It is strongly recommended to bar tack the Velcro sleeve to the bridle - check that you leave enough free bridle between the bar tack and pin to ensure the Velcro is completely peeled before any tension is applied to the pin. Failure to do so can cause PC hesitation.
Don’t mate the male-female Velcro over each other 100% when the suit is brand new, let the them overlap 50% to the side for the first few dozen jumps until the Velcro is slightly worn. For more details on assembling and packing the leg pouch PC system please refer to http://www.interone.net/learn/basepc.html.
Perform at least 10 skydives with the system, using a wingsuit or BASE bridle, start with normal altitude jumps, performing dummy pulls in flight and then pulling high to give yourself extra time. Assuming you have no opening problems or issues finding the PC handle quickly & easily you can work down to lower altitude deployments.
Treat your first wingsuit BASE jump using the leg pouch the same as your first wingsuit BASE jump.
Following these guidelines does not make wingsuit BASE jumping a safe activity.
Wingsuit BASE is still a relatively new discipline. It requires jumpers to develop new skills, new muscle memory, new judgement and new understanding. Respect it.
This document is by no means the final word on wingsuit BASE jumping, always seek advice and guidance from other experienced wingsuit jumpers and share what you discover.
By taking part in this activity you are in effect a “test jumper”, we all still have a lot to learn...
Let’s be careful out there.
The authors of this document accept no responsibility, financially or otherwise for any loss, serious injury or death that occurs as a result of any persons following the advice contained within this document.
BASE jumping and wingsuit BASE jumping are extremely dangerous activities carrying risk of serious injury or death. Performing the activities described in this document with out becoming an expert skydiver and completing dedicated BASE / wingsuit training will likely result in a demonstration of natural selection.
Appendix ASpecific wingsuit drills to perform whilst jumping from the plane:
- Barrel rolls
- Front flips
- Back flying
- Flying and pulling with left arm wing closed (i.e. to simulate blown wing)
- Pulling out of steep dives quickly (i.e. bad exit)
- Dropping knees
- Turning with minimal altitude loss
- Carving turns
- Arching, de-arching
- Deploying from full flight
- Flying with one bootie off
- Turning only with legs
- Turning only with arms
Appendix B – Wingsuit fatalities
#67 Kirill Kiselev, September, 2002Age: 27, from Ekaterininburg, Russia.
Cliff Jump (Wing Suit)
Vikesaxa (Eiksdalen Valley) Norway
I received this report from a close friend of Kirill who witnessed or heard most of the jump. Kirill has 500 skydives with 20 being with a wing suit, and 30 BASE jumps, with 2 being with a wing suit. This fatality began with an inadvertent low pull from a man who didn't do low pulls. His friend believes Kirill encountered a stability problem late in the flight. The friend, along with authorities, inspected Kirill's body and gear at the hospital. Kirill had opened his canopy, the slider is at the links. Both toggles are still stowed. The wing zippers are closed and the swoop cords are still over his fingers. The wing fabric between his legs is torn. His broken neck and one broken leg suggest opening and impact occurred at about the same time. The report intimates failure of the wingsuit material between Kirill's legs caused a stability problem at pull time. By the time Kirill stopped trying to overcome the situation and deploy, it is too late. Kirill is the first BASE jumper to die flying a wingsuit on a BASE jump.
#68 Rob Tompkins, September 12, 2002Lysbotn, Norway
Cliff Jump (Wing Suit)
This is the second wing suit BASE fatality. Rob has 247 BASE jumps with 92 being with a wing suit on the day he died. A report states: "For the last month, Rob had his eye on a particular jump between launch points 4 and 5. We looked at it, doing rock jumps and basically studying the jump. There are two launch points next to this particular jump, one with a 7-second drop and the other with an 8-second drop. Rob jumped the 7-second launch point 10 times always doing a reverse gainer. The place he's looking at now, he dubbed the, "RT Hjørner," and has a rock drop time of 5-seconds. We analyzed this site on video and with other wing suit pilots. In my opinion, the jump is not achievable - and I repeated this to Rob. Other wing suit pilots said the same thing. Rob is convinced he can do it including a reverse gainer. After 7 seconds of freefall Rob impacted the talus ledge. He never tried to deploy his pilot chute, knowing that this would not save him. Rob believed he could out fly the ledge right up until he died. Rob is remembered as a good man, full of respect, and kind to everyone."
#69 Lukas Knutsson, October 11, 2002Cliff Jump (Wing Suit)
Engelberg, Switzerland (Cold Steel)
Lukas has a good launch and good flight with his wingsuit and pulled high over the landing area. This is the third BASE wing suit fatality. Despite a powerful pull the pilot chute ended up in the turbulence behind him. In the burble the pilot chute spun around very fast. Lukas notices the deployment is hesitating and collapsed his wings and rolled to one side to clear the pilot chute. At this point the pilot chute achieved bridle stretch but the bridle had entangled with the pilot chute so badly the pilot chute is almost totally collapsed. Lukas did rollover to the other side and struggled hard to get the canopy out of the container. However, the container remained closed to impact. Lukas is a very experienced long time BASE jumper (this site is now called "Cold Steel" in his honour) and he will be missed by the entire BASE community.
#75 Gabi Dematte, August 13, 2003Cliff Jump (Wing Suit)
Cliff Strike & Impact
The following report is from one of Gabi's many friends. "Gabi went to jump alone, like she did very often. Getting away from the crowds in Lauterbrunnen she went to another valley known by only a very few jumpers. She couldn't out fly a ledge with her wings. Which is awkward, because she kicked ass with those wings. She did not attempt to pull. Gabi was a very good jumper, and a super nice person. I was lucky to get to know her and I will treasure her contribution to my existence. For me, it was nice to jump with another woman. It was special and it did not last long enough. Lauterbrunnen valley is empty and quiet now." Gabi is the fourth BASE wing suit fatality."
#80 Jeff Barker, July 5, 2004Age: 32
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Jeff is jumping with a wingsuit and he failed to clear a outcropping in freefall.
#81 Duane Thomas, August 21, 2004Age: 35
Duane, a Kiwi with a quick smile, is a well known and experienced BASE jumper. The following is from an eye witness. "The jump is witnessed by two British jumpers and two Swiss jumpers. One Brit watching, and videoing, from the exit point, the other three watching from the LZ. This is Duane's first wingsuit BASE jump, and his first jump ever with a leg mounted pilot chute pouch. Prior to this jump Duane prepared by making 50 aircraft and 2 hot air balloon wingsuit skydives. Duane had a good exit and a good flight. Everybody saw him reach for and locate the pilot chute at what the witnesses said is a reasonable altitude. He then kept his hand there and continued in freefall. The speculation is the lack of normal ground rush (like the type he is used to when not wearing a wingsuit) might have fooled him. The Swiss are yelling at him to pull and he finally did so, at what they said is about 30-feet above the ground. The canopy lifted out of the pack tray but is no where near line stretch when he impacted in a full flight position. According to the Swiss there is no fumbling around, or looking for the pilot chute handle - all the witnesses agree on this. He reached and located the pilot chute, but just took to long to deploy it. A hard pull cannot be fully discounted at this time, but all the witnesses believe he just waited too long." This is the sixth BASE wingsuit fatality since the first one occurred in September of 2002.
Reproduced with the kind permission of Nick Di Giovanni #194. The complete list can be viewed at:
http://www.basefatalities.info or http://hometown.aol.com/base194/myhomepage/base_fatality_list
Other wingsuit incidents:Patrick de Gayardon
Geoff Peggs or
Appendix C – Wingsuit site selectionYou want to open up a new object jumping a wingsuit:
So you have become a very competent wingsuit BASE jumper and you intend to open up an object that has never been jumped with wingsuit. Here are some factors to bear in mind.
- Make sure the vertical rock drop gives you enough altitude to launch the suit and get flying with a little extra in case you have a poor exit.
- The altitude profile of the object will also affect your decision. Use tools like rock drop, laser range finder and GPS to accurately measure the object.
- When estimating the horizontal distance that can be achieved from an object remember to factor in the altitude loss from exit and deployment.
- You may also wish to consider the conditions at the exit point and whether it is practical to put on the wingsuit there.
- Booties offer little traction when wet or muddy, be careful that you have good ground to stand on for your exit
- A wingsuit takes several seconds to start generating significant lift and forward speed. Therefore jumping a wingsuit from below 1500’ offers very little benefit in terms of freefall time and object separation (but it adds some colour to the jump).