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- Wingsuit flying is an extremely dangerous sport, with an estimated 1 in 500 jumps resulting in death.
- The most common risks of wingsuit flying include pilot (human) error, equipment failure, weather conditions, and poor judgment.
- Wingsuit flying is considered many times more dangerous than skydiving, and you should not attempt the sport unless you’re an expert skydiver with 200+ jumps under your belt.
Wingsuit flying is one of the most exciting and exhilarating sports in the world. But is it safe? Learn about the risks of this extreme sport in this guide.
As an extreme air sport that involves flying through the air with nothing but a wingsuit and a parachute, wingsuit flying is dangerous. It is estimated that nearly 1 in 500 wingsuit jumps results in a fatality due to human error, equipment failure, weather conditions, or other potential dangers.
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What is Wingsuit Flying?
First of all, let's define what wingsuit flying is. A wingsuit is a specialized jumpsuit with fabric between the legs and under the arms that allow the wearer to glide through the air like a bird, or perhaps a flying squirrel. When combined with a parachute, wingsuit flyers can soar through the sky before safely landing on the ground.
It's sort of like a bridge sport between skydiving and BASE jumping, and wingsuit divers typically perform their jumps by using these two sports to begin. During a wingsuit flight, divers can jump out of an airplane like a skydiver, or jump from a cliff, building, or platform like a BASE jumper before spreading their metaphorical wings and flying through the air.
As you can imagine, it's a dangerous sport full of inherent risks. Let's take a look at the most common risks involved in wingsuit flying.
What are the Risks of Wingsuit Flying?
The most common risks in wingsuit flying come from human error and lack of experience. As with any sport, jumpers must have the proper training and experience before attempting to fly a wingsuit. Additionally, pilots must always be cautious and aware of their surroundings during a flight, as even small miscalculations can lead to serious injury or death.
Another risk in wingsuit flying is the potential for midair collisions with other jumpers or objects, such as buildings or power lines. This can be avoided by carefully planning jumps and having a clear understanding of the area that will be flown through. This is true of any air sport, as knowing your surroundings is absolutely vital any time that you're flying through the air.
Another major risk of wingsuit diving is poor weather conditions. Jumpers must always check the weather before a jump and be aware of any sudden changes that could affect their flight. While it may seem obvious that you wouldn't go wingsuit flying in a thunderstorm (which you certainly shouldn't!), you also have to be aware of the potential for unexpected winds, thermals that will affect your flight, foggy conditions, and more.
When it comes to wingsuit flying equipment, the parachute is by far the most important piece. Jumpers must always make sure that their parachute and other gear are properly packed and in good working condition before a flight. Some people new to the sport aren't aware from the start that wingsuits require parachutes to land safely. Furthermore, you should always have a reserve parachute any time you're jumping from a high enough platform to pull two chutes.
Lastly, other pieces of equipment (such as the wingsuit itself) can create issues if they're not in proper working condition. Jumpers must always inspect their gear before each flight and replace any worn or damaged equipment. If you're ever wingsuit flying and notice an issue with your suit, such as a rip or tear that prevents it from generating lift, abort the jump and pull the parachute when needed. Always err on the side of caution while wingsuit flying!
Is Wingsuit Diving More Dangerous Than Skydiving?
If you're new to wingsuit flying, you might be surprised to learn that you have to become an expert at skydiving before really even trying this sport. We have a full guide here that explains this entire process, but it basically entails performing 200 skydiving jumps before trying to learn wingsuit flying. This leads many newcomers to think about which sport is safer: skydiving or wingsuit flying?
I won't beat around the bush here, because the answer is clear: wingsuit flying is considered far more dangerous than skydiving, and the statistics really aren't even close. According to the United States Parachute Association (USPA), it is estimated that the fatality rate of skydiving is only about 0.28 - 0.39 deaths per 100,000 jumps; this equates to 1 death every ~250,000 -350,000 skydiving jumps.
The issue with wingsuit flying is that, since it's not nearly as regulated as skydiving, all fatalities are not reported. That said, it's estimated that roughly 1 in 500 wingsuit jumps results in death. Compared to skydiving, you can see the stark difference in fatality rate, insinuating that wingsuit diving is many hundreds of times more dangerous than skydiving.
Pros and Cons of Wingsuit Diving
Now that I've potentially scared you away from wingsuit flying (which I hope I haven't!), let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of this extreme sport.
Pros of Wingsuit Flying
One major pro is that wingsuit flying allows you to fly through the air and experience a sense of true human flight (which many say can be quite addicting!). It also allows for more time in the air than skydiving, as wingsuits generate lift and allow for longer and faster flight.
Another pro is that it is arguably one of the most exciting things you can possibly experience in this life. Don't get me wrong, I love all other air sports, and they're all exciting in their own right, but wingsuit flying is on an entirely different level.
The community that wingsuit flying attracts is also often tight-knit, as jumpers have to trust each other in such a dangerous sport. This leads to long-lasting friendships within the community, and many wingsuit flyers enjoy the camaraderie of the sport as well.
Cons of Wingsuit Flying
As I mentioned before, wingsuit flying is much more dangerous than skydiving. This leads to a higher fatality rate and can also result in serious injuries if safety measures are not followed closely. This is perhaps the single biggest con of the sport to consider. It can be flat-out dangerous.
Wingsuit flying is also a very expensive sport, as it requires specialized equipment, including the same things that you'll need to go skydiving, plus much more. If you're looking for a cheap air sport that's easy to get into, wingsuit flying might not be the best option.
Speaking of getting into it, wingsuit flying is a difficult sport to get into in terms of time, money, and experience. As discussed above, you really need to have at least 200 successful solo skydives before attempting wingsuit diving, which can easily take a few years on its own, not to mention how much more this can add to the cost!