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Wingsuit flying might be one of the most exhilarating things you can possibly do, but how do wingsuit jumpers manage to land without killing themselves?
If you’re considering getting into wingsuit diving yourself or you’ve just seen it on TV or on YouTube and have gotten curious, there’s one major question many beginners wonder about. And that’s how wingsuit jumpers land without killing themselves. After all, wingsuit flying is done at high speeds and jumpers cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. So how do they land?
Wingsuit jumpers land without killing themselves by deploying a parachute just like skydivers would. When jumping out of an airplane or other aircraft, a wingsuit jumper must also have a reserve parachute just in case. But if they jump like a BASE jumper, then a reserve parachute is not required.
When people think of wingsuit jumpers, they often think about the insane stunts that these athletes pull off. What many people don't know is how these athletes manage to land without injuring or killing themselves in the process. In this article, we will discuss how wingsuit jumpers land by using a parachute, and when they deploy the parachute for the best flying experience. We will also discuss whether or not it hurts to land when you're wingsuit diving, and if anyone's ever landed without a parachute.
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How do Wingsuit Jumpers Land?
Anyone that's thinking about getting into wingsuit jumping and wingsuit flying has likely wondered how they can actually land without killing themselves. After all, when you're wingsuit flying, you're plummeting toward the ground at high speeds, both vertically and horizontally. Without anything to break your fall and help you land, you would almost certainly crash land and not survive, so how is it done?
Truthfully, it's not really any different than how skydivers and other air sports enthusiasts manage to land without killing themselves. Wingsuit jumpers do so by using a parachute, which is deployed at a specific time during the flight (which we'll talk about next). On the outside of their wingsuit, these enthusiasts will have a parachute rig attached to their bodies that they can deploy and safely land with.
Once the parachute is deployed, assuming there are no issues with it and everything goes as planned, the wingsuit jumper will be able to steer it and land just like any other type of diver. This makes wingsuit diving relatively safe, as long as all regulations are followed and you don't try to bypass any of these safety precautions, although unfortunately, some enthusiasts do exactly that.
When do Wingsuit Jumpers Deploy Their Parachute?
The biggest difference between typical skydivers and wingsuit jumpers is the height a wingsuit jumper will deploy their parachute. A typical skydiver will usually deploy their parachute around 3,000 feet above the ground (solo) or 5,000 to 5,500 feet (tandem), depending on a variety of factors. This gives skydivers plenty of time to correct any mistakes and potentially even cut away a failed main parachute and pull the reserve chute if required.
On the other hand, wingsuit jumpers often don't have that kind of altitude depending on where or what they're jumping from in the first place. For this reason, many wingsuit jumpers will deploy the parachute somewhere around 1,000 - 2,000 feet above ground level. The lower end of this range is really cutting it close since most parachutes require about 800ft to fully open, which is one of the main reasons that wingsuit flying is an extreme sport.
As you can probably guess, if a wingsuit jumper deploys their parachute too low to the ground, they likely won't have enough time or altitude for it to fully open, which would obviously be a disaster. This is why most wingsuit flying locations will have what's called an "altitude minimum", which is the lowest altitude that you're allowed to deploy your parachute. As with any other extreme sport like this, you should always err on the side of caution and pull your chute earlier rather than waiting too long!
Does it Hurt to Land While Wingsuit Flying?
So now that you know that wingsuit jumpers land using a parachute just like normal skydivers, you might be wondering if it hurts when you land. After all, you're still hitting the ground at a pretty high speed, even with a parachute, as most parachutes have a descent rate of about 15 - 20 feet per second. This means you'll have a vertical speed towards the ground of roughly 10 - 13 mph.
Generally speaking, no, it doesn't hurt to land while wingsuit flying. You're not going to break any bones or anything like that (unless you hit something on the way down, of course). However, it's not going to be the most comfortable landing you've ever had, especially if you're not used to it. It can be a bit jarring and you might end up with some bruises or scrapes, but nothing serious.
Most of the time when coming in for a landing, wingsuit jumpers (or skydivers) will be able to land on their feet or, more likely, their bottoms. By landing properly and allowing your body to absorb the impact in the proper way, you're much less likely to sustain any sort of injury or feel any real pain while landing.
Of course, as with anything else, there is always the potential for something to go wrong. If you were to land improperly or hit something on the way down, it's possible to break bones or even sustain more serious injuries. This is why it's always important to follow all safety regulations and procedures when wingsuit flying, and to never take any unnecessary risks. One such risk would be flying without a backup parachute.
Do Wingsuit Jumpers Have a Reserve Parachute?
Any time that a skydiver jumps out of an airplane, they are required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to have a reserve parachute. This is in case the main parachute fails to deploy correctly or becomes tangled and unusable. The reserve chute is there as a last-ditch effort to save the skydiver's life in the event that something goes wrong.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have BASE jumpers and BASE jumping, which is not regulated or governed in the same way. Therefore many BASE jumpers do not wear a reserve parachute when they jump. This obviously increases the risk involved in BASE jumping, but many BASE jumpers are willing to take that risk, especially since the height of a BASE jump typically wouldn't provide enough time to deploy a second parachute if needed anyway.
Interestingly, wingsuit jumping as a whole is also not regulated, so technically a reserve parachute is not required. That said, if a wingsuit diver is starting their flight by jumping out of an airplane or other type of aircraft like a skydiver, then they are required to have a reserve parachute just like anyone else. If not, the pilot of the aircraft can face issues and the jumpers themselves could be grounded and banned from jumping out of aircraft moving forward.
If a wingsuit jumper is taking off from a similar location as a BASE jumper, then they often choose not to carry a reserve parachute since it's not required. Just like with BASE jumpers, from these altitudes, the wingsuit diver might not have enough time to pull a reserve chute if it's needed. This is why it's so important for wingsuit jumpers to be experienced and thoroughly inspect their chute and how it's packed before every single jump.
Can You Land in a Wingsuit Without a Parachute?
So, we've established that wingsuit jumpers use parachutes to land safely, but there has always been a long-standing question in the wingsuit diving community if it's possible to land without one. Before we go any further, let me say that you should NEVER go wingsuit flying without a parachute, and I'm a big believer in always having a reserve chute just in case something goes wrong.
That said, there has been a single successful wingsuit flying landing that did not use a parachute. This was performed by Gary Connery back in 2012 after jumping from a helicopter at a height of 2,400 feet. Connery soared towards the ground and landed in a "landing strip" made up of cardboard boxes to break his fall.
You can watch a video of the stunt on YouTube here, and I think it's one of the craziest things I've ever seen. Look how small that landing strip is! Outside of this successful stunt (which had boxes to absorb the impact), you cannot land a wingsuit jump without a parachute. You're traveling at speeds far too fast to survive the impact.
Long story short, always make sure you have a parachute before going wingsuit diving, and always follow all safety precautions!