The newest frontier in skydiving right now is human wing flight. This was all made possible only a few years back by a guy named Patrick de Gayardon from France. You may recognize his name from the skysurfing page. Patrick was a true innovator in the sport, always one step ahead of everybody else. The wing suit was his own creation. He put endless hours of wind tunnel time on a prototype suit before he took to the sky with these wings. Patrick brought the wing suit to where it is today - an efficient flying wing with an airfoil that can be customized in flight by the human body.

   For anybody who is not familiar with aerodynamics theory, I will take a moment to simplify what the wing suit is all about. All the suit consists of is a normal jumpsuit with three huge wings sewn to it. Two of these wings stretch from the wrists to the hips to the armpits on each side of the body, while the third wing is stretched between the legs from the knees up. Each of these wings is made of parachute material formed into cells (much like the tubular air cells in the bottom of an inflatable raft). While in freefall, the wind fills these cells to make the wings rigid like in a raft. Now the human body is just a flying wing. That's it.

   The awesome thing about the wing suit that is different from any other flying wing in the world is the ability to change its shape while flying it. A wing gets its aerodynamic performance from its shape (called airfoil design). Different shapes produce different effects, whether its for creating lift, high speed forward flight, or maximum glide distance. A wing on a plane generally has to stay the same all the time, with minor tweaking of control surfaces for takeoff and landing. But with the wing suit, you can change the airfoil shape by moving your body parts in a bunch of different ways. In freefall, you can move your torso, arms, legs, or shoulders to achieve long distance forward flight, super slow freefall speeds, or different banking and carving maneuvers. 

    At this point in time, I would have to say that flying the wing suit is the most fun thing to do in freefall (only my opinion). It is really mellow actually. All you do is hop out of the plane, expand your wings, and then just float across the sky with minor tweaking of the wing shape. It is completely relaxing. Because the wings are so big, you fall at speeds as slow as 50 mph (as opposed to 120 mph without the suit). So your time in freefall doubles. You also "track" across the sky at speeds in excess of 100 mph. What is so cool about it is how quiet it can actually get when you slow way down. You can judge your freefall trajectory by the feel of the wind in your face. 

    The biggest use of the wing suit is to fly long distances across the sky. The first world record has been set at 4.3 miles across the ground from aircraft exit to parachute opening. A GPS computer is taken in freefall to calculate this distance. I'm sure the record will be broken many times as the suit continues to advance. There are a number of us out there that are using the wingsuit as a tool for BASE jumping, allowing long flights away from the cliffs. A cliff jump that would normally be 15 seconds can last as long as a minute as you slow your fall speed way down and out-fly the sloping ridges below. 



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