I have been BASE jumping wingsuits from 1999. I went through the entire Birdman/PF line-up from Classic up to V3, Venom and Prodigy1, including some nice prototypes. In 2011 i tried Apache and flew it happily for the next couple of years until my interests slowly shifted away from jumping. I didn't fly at all between 2013 and 2015, and only occasional borrowed suits from 2015 till 2018.
Coming back to the sport in 2019, i have found the scene and the gear have changed so much that i had to start from the scratch. With this post i would like to share my experience of learning to fly again and looking for a new suit during the last season, and also to invite more flight data (Flysight tracks) to be posted online for the benefit of other jumpers trying to make an objective choice.
I have always enjoyed safe(ish) long flights from new cliffs and never cared about tree-trimming proxy, so my priorities for a new suit lined up as following:
1. Maximum performance, i.e. max L/D (glide ratio) 2. Fast start 3. Easy cruise flying 4. Easy and safe pull
I have found right away (thanks Tolik & Lex!) that you cannot fly to modern standards on feelings alone, and the quickest way to re-learn performance flying is by using live feed from Flysight ("Forward Speed" spoken every 2 seconds seems an industry-standard setting). This got rid of some bad old habits quickly, and evaluating the tracks afterwards proved an invaluable tool. After getting current again and making another 100+ flights around Europe on Rebel2 and Jedi2019, i felt that a higher-performance suit would be nice: for example, there are 3 projects at home that require a mandatory exit-to-opening L/D of 3.0.
Looking around, i noticed a surprising lack of hard data to compare the new suits out there. Quite a bit could be gathered looking at Skyderby tracks, unfortunately it is missing statistical data for many of the new suits. For speed, there's no question: C-Race/CR+ and Jedei Nite rule every BASE challenge & competition. For glide, the picture wasn't as clear.
Generally speaking, you need to know typical conditions at the particular BASE site and look at a number of tracks there to get reasonably accurate comparative L/D numbers for a suit model, removing the wind and pilot variables. A good guess of the jumping conditions can be made looking at a specific track when you have many more tracks online from the same pilot on the same WS. Pretty accurate picture emerges once you have a large number of BASE tracks online. Hence i have asked many pilots and the manufacturers to upload their new WS tracks on Skyderby, with limited success. Brento tracks would be particularly useful, as many jumpers are frequent visitors to Arco and the site allows for accurate comparison in well-known typical wind conditions. Most have refused or ignored such requests, as if embarrassed by the data it shows.
In the end, i had to borrow and try a few suits under the local "laboratory conditions" (Brento left-hand half-circle in light winds) to get a first-hand picture. After a season of demoing wingsuits i have found that i tap into 90+% of my top L/D potential for the suit model on the first couple of Brento flights (i.e. the suits that i have continued to jump beyond that improved in many other aspects but gained very little in terms of max glide).
This is what i got on the Brento benchmark left-hand half-circle flying pattern (Skyderby exit-to-opening Glide Ratio). This pattern typically has negligible wind error and results in about 0.1 (~5%) lower L/D numbers compared to a straight line flight. My regular suit numbers for the reference:
Rebel2: consistent 2.4 (four glide test flights) Jedei2019: consistent 2.4 (two glide test flights)
Also, straight-line flights from Brento past the stadium in Dro, where wind effect comes to play (roughly 10% difference in glide between still air flights and strong North wind):
Jedei3 #1: 3.0 in light to no wind Jedei3 #2: 2.9 in light to no wind; 3.3 in strong North Aura3: 2.8 in light to no wind
Other priorities review:
2. Starts: between Rebel2, Jedei2019, Jedei3 and Aura3 i can see no statistically significant difference (all start in 200/200..200/250m range in no wind conditions). SU Competition starts were poor (200/157 & 200/167m), which wasn't surprising for a faster PPC suit with small inlets. Jedei2 starts were lousy, 200/170..200/190m.
3. Easy flying: no physical effort was required on all TS suits. The same was true for Aura3. SU Comp felt more physical, not as bad as Vampires back in the old days, though. All suits were intuitive to fly from jump one. I expected tricky starts from Aura, this wasn't a case - it felt natural and familiar from the first moment, so much so that i was comfortable flying it to Dro on the second jump (which was also my second jump ever on any Squirrel).
4. Easy and safe pull: all TS and Aura3 were comfortable to pull at any speed and flight configuration. SU Competition was trickier and required a good flare even with open internal zippers, same as SU-T i have tried early in a season (before i could produce any meaningful tracks). I did not give SU-T another chance later on since its glide was only matching my Jedei2019, but without Jedei's easy pulls.
So, which BASE-friendly suit has the best glide? This is what i found out so far:
Surprisingly, an old Jedei 3 came up as a winner for a safe high-performance alpine suit with the best glide, fast starts and easy pulls. It had a reputation for misbehaving in deep dives, which is irrelevant for me personally. I would have chosen Aura3 (or now maybe 4?) if i wanted to dive and proxy in addition to good glide and fast starts. If all i did was sharp diving proxy on less demanding starts i would likely try SU3 and SU'20. Jedei2 was simply an overall failure. SU Competition was a disappointment: PPC suit doesn't really belong in BASE environment. For smaller jumps with demanding starts and lower openings Rebel2 was a very comfortable suit. I haven't tried Corvid as that niche was already taken by my Rebel.
Raw data for this post (and plenty more tracks from public exits) is available here:
I still need to try Aura4 (expecting L/D similar to A3) and C-Race & CR+ with custom BASE inlets (not as BASE-friendly, though). It would also be interesting to see the numbers for Alpine '20 and maybe give it a chance (would need a big step-up in glide over Alpine3 & SU-T to catch the competition). Please feel free to comment, but try to back it up with tracks and Flysight data - they carry a lot more weight than words alone. Especially if you are currently flying Aura 4 or Alpine '20: don't be shy and upload!
Re: [outrager] Choosing a high-performance BASE wingsuit
[In reply to]
Correction: now 2 projects left at home
North-West facing wall and ridge (in a shadow, light downdraft). Light South headwind. Flight pattern is very similar to Brento, exactly the same altitude to use, with similar results. Borrowed Jedei3 #2. Flysight data: