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What does it take to fly in a wingsuit?

  • Jul 7, 2015

There's a special place wingsuit fliers occupy between the heart racing plunge of terminal velocity and the majesty of flight. Balancing between the razor's edge of the wild blue yonder and the ground below, they expand the rush of an ordinary skydive into a long series of pulse-pounding seconds. To some, it's the the ultimate outdoor thrill. To other's it's the next best thing to actually taking flight.

Flying in a wingsuit is no small task. It requires tremendous skydiving experience, and even more expertise if you intend to BASE jump, but plenty of daredevils will tell you it's well worth the preparation.

If you've ever thought about wingsuit flying, here's how to start your journey.

The race to 200 jumps
You need to be an accomplished skydiver before you even put on a wingsuit. What are the criteria for being an "accomplished" skydiver? Exactly 200 jumps out of an airplane, according to National Geographic. You need to be absolutely comfortable launching out of an airplane with a parachute before you can take flight, but on jump 201, you're free to suit up and soar.

If you're serious about wingsuit flying, there are a few skydiving organizations across the country that teach lessons and provide the appropriate accommodations. The road to that first flight isn't cheap, but the time and money is worth the experience for multiple reasons.

"It's a way to work through anxiety on a weekly basis - way more fun than therapy," wingsuit flier Brook Shinsky told National Geographic. "I learn how to trust myself, my equipment, other people, and let go of the things that I cannot control."

It's like rolling all the therapeutic effects of a long hike into one short period of free fall.

Wingsuit BASE jumping requires much greater experience
Still, some aren't satisfied soaring from a plane. For an even smaller group of high octane daredevils, the real thrill is in climbing to the top of a structure yourself and launching off the summit with a wingsuit. It's a whole different game compared to ordinary BASE jumping. BASE is an acronym that stands for the structures jumpers launch from - buildings, antennae, spans and Earth masses.

For the inexperienced, wingsuit BASE jumping can be much more dangerous because the suit restricts movements and makes deploying the parachute much different. However, some consider it a little safer because it provides more distance between the jumper and the object he or she jumps off. Striking that object during the descent is considered the no. 1 cause of BASE jumping fatalities, according to dropzone.com. 

Much like wingsuit skydiving, wingsuit BASE jumping requires a minimum amount of experience - 50 BASE jumps at the bare minimum - along with personal one-on-one lessons. The natural progression to wingsuit BASE jumping would ultimately require skydiving training for safety's sake.

Still considering the challenge?
If you have your heart set on wingsuit BASE jumping, consider hiking one of the beginner locations. Wear a watch altimeter to get an idea of the height and a feel for the surrounding area. Here are some of the most popular locations, according to dropzone.com:

  • Carl's Huge wall in Northern Norway
  • Norwegian Fjord in Southern Norway
  • Italian Terminal wall
  • Swiss Fungus.

You'll notice that none of these locations are in the U.S. The reason for that is some of the most suitable locations for BASE jumping and wingsuit BASE jumping are in national parks with large cliffs and peaks. Unfortunately, it is often illegal to BASE jump in these locations. Think carefully about your wingsuit aspirations before you start taking lessons. Accomplishing everything you hope for could mean traveling across the world. But what's so bad about that?

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