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Wingsuit jumping is an extreme air sport that lets you fly through the air like a bird at high speeds. But how fast do wingsuits really go?
Whether you’re thinking about getting into wingsuit jumping yourself or you’ve just seen it on TV and you’re curious about it, the main thing people seem to wonder about is how fast you really go while doing it. After all, it’s entirely different from skydiving where you’re just in freefall. But it’s hard to actually gauge how fast wingsuit jumpers are really going.
Standard wingsuits typically fly around 100 mph with a glide ratio of 3:1. This means they descend at about 31.6 mph toward the ground and fly forward at about 94.6 mph. The most efficient wingsuits can fly over 200 mph horizontally while descending as slowly as 25 mph.
In this article, we'll be talking all about wingsuit flying and how fast you can move while wearing one of those suits. We'll start by talking about the three different types of speeds that are important when flying: vertical speed, horizontal speed, and total speed. After that, we'll get into the specifics about how fast you can go while in a wingsuit. Next, we'll discuss the glide ratio, what that means, and even the fastest-ever wingsuit flight.
At FlightNotch, we strive to only publish the best articles that we can, ones that truly answer the questions you’re asking and will help you learn as much about air sports as possible. The only way to truly do this is to be enthusiasts ourselves and be willing to put in the work to research every topic and talk to other experts about it. This way, you’ll know exactly how fast wingsuits fly when you’re done reading this!
Vertical Speed vs Horizontal Speed vs Total Speed
While I would love to just jump straight into how fast you fly while wingsuit jumping, it's important to talk about the different types of speed that wingsuit jumpers experience. When you're skydiving, for example, almost all of your speed comes from the freefall straight down to the Earth. So it's basically all vertical speed, which is usually around 120 mph to 180 mph depending on if you're belly-to-earth or diving headfirst towards the ground.
But when you're wingsuit flying, you're not just freefalling straight to the earth. If you are, then there's a huge problem with your wingsuit and you're just skydiving at that point! Wingsuits are designed to increase the surface area of your body and reduce your vertical speed. At the same time, you're able to fly forward (horizontally) with a wingsuit like you would never really be able to during a normal skydiving jump.
So wingsuit jumpers have both vertical speed (towards the ground) and horizontal speed (usually flying forward). These speeds actually combine together as the last type of speed we're going to talk about here: total speed. This total speed is basically the hypotenuse of the right triangle created by the other two speed components (vertical and horizontal) since you're flying faster than either one of those two speeds on their own.
I don't want to get too far into mathematics here, but your total speed is the square root of your vertical speed squared plus your horizontal speed squared). Formulaically speaking:
I know that you didn't come here for a refresher of middle school math class, so let's get out of the details and back to the good stuff and talk some actual speeds!
How Fast Can You Go While Wingsuit Flying?
Since the point of wingsuit diving is to reduce your vertical speed and soar through the air like a bird, your horizontal speed will almost always be higher than your vertical speed. For the best, most efficient wingsuits, jumpers can descend as slowly as 25 mph and fly with horizontal speeds over 200 mph. You read that right, over 200 mph. That said, most wingsuit jumpers typically fly at around 100 mph or so, which is, again, the total speed.
Let's play around with these numbers a bit and plug them into our formula above to give you an idea of how it all works. Let's start with the extremes, where the vertical speed is 25 mph and the horizontal speed is 200 mph. Using our formula, the total speed would be:
Since we're dealing with squares and square roots, the total speed will always be much closer to the horizontal speed, as long as it's higher than the vertical speed. Now let's look at the typical total speed of about 100 mph and get an idea of how fast you'd be flying vertically and horizontally.
As we'll talk about shortly, most wingsuits fly horizontally about three times faster than they descend. Again, I won't run through all the actual math here and bore you with the details, but this can be figured out by using our same formula form above and making a quick substitution since we know that horizontal speed = 3*vertical speed:
Then just multiply that by 3 and we get:
So for most normal wingsuits, if you're flying at about 100 mph, that means you're descending at about 31.6 mph and moving forward at about 94.6mph. Hopefully, all the math didn't bore you too much, but I thought it worth it to break it down here to at least give you an idea about how the numbers work so you can really get an idea about how fast wingsuits go!
Do You Fly Forward Faster Than You Descend While Wingsuit Flying?
As you just read about, wingsuits typically fly forward about three times faster than you descend. But why is this and what causes it? This all comes down to what's known as the glide ratio. A glide ratio is simply the ratio of horizontal distance traveled to vertical distance dropped.
For example, if you were to toss a paper airplane off a cliff and it traveled 10 feet horizontally for every 2 feet it dropped, then that rock would have a glide ratio of 10:2, which would then be reduced to 5:1. In the end, you would say the paper airplane has a glide ratio of 5:1 and travels 5 feet forward for every 1 foot it descends.
What is the Glide Ratio of a Wingsuit?
With that in mind and everything we talked about above, you probably already have a great idea of what the glide ratio of a wingsuit is. While it can vary from suit to suit and manufacturer to manufacturer, wingsuits usually have a glide ratio of 3:1. This is why we can use the assumption above that the horizontal speed is roughly three times that of the vertical descent rate.
What’s the Top Speed of a Wingsuit?
Lastly, let's finish this article off by talking about something exciting: the fastest wingsuit ever. Back in 2017, British wingsuit jumper Fraser Corson reached an astounding speed of 246.6 mph. The jump began at an altitude of over 35,500 feet and it was recorded by the Guinness Book of Records.
This is one of those records that likely will be broken at some point because adrenaline junkies love to try to top things like this, but it's crazy to think about flying nearly 250 mph with a wingsuit!