TRACK SUIT / WINGSUIT COACHING
Wingsuit flying has become the eye candy of skydiving over the past few years. All the footage of amazing flight along the side of a mountain or through a blade slalom course has worked to bring the dynamic power of wingsuit flight to our attention. That said, due to the wingsuit (WS) being an extraordinary piece of equipment, a minimum of 200 jumps must be completed prior to starting training.
Preparation training can begin by learning to track, angle fly and fly a tracking suit. This will teach you all the fundamental skills needed to fly a WS prior to beginning your WS course.
TRACK SUIT FLYING Course
Learning to fly a track suit is a great first step to move towards flying a wingsuit since the skills taught in tracking are essentially the same as flying a wing suit. The information listed below for WS progression is what you can expect in the course; although the distances will vary, track suit coaching will teach you all the safety procedures and logistics involved in WS flying, so you’ll be well on your way to rocking a wingsuit in no time!
WING SUIT FLYING
Skydive University has put together a 12 jump essential skills program for the beginning wing suit flier. The program is to efficiently develop the “right” skills to:
- Fly a wing suit in groups and be able to perform flight maneuvers or games
- Develop skills to be a safe flier, handling various exits, freefall maneuvers and spin control, as well as stability at pull time
- Be able to progress to larger or more aggressive suit’s to push the “performance” factor
The program, which includes the First Flight Course, will develop skills of accelerating forward and slowing or stopping, fall rate control, changing levels, heading control, turns and lateral movements, backflying, aerobatic skills, as well as adjustments to fly tighter to a partner or group or take a grip on another wing suit flier.
Requirements and Training Progression for Wingsuiting:
The USPA BSR states that a minimum of 200 jumps is required before jumping a wingsuit. The USPA recommendation is a minimum, and sometimes even 200 jumps is not enough to prepare someone for wingsuit flight training.
Stability in a wingsuit can be difficult at first, as well as navigation. This is truly the first discipline in skydiving that requires a jumper to navigate their way back to the drop zone from their exit point safely. If a mistake is made in navigation, the jumper may have very few options for a safe landing: this is where more experience (i.e. a minimum of 200 jumps) really comes into play.
This process includes, but is not limited to, RW coaching, Freefly Coaching, Advanced Canopy Coaching, Tracking Coaching, then into Angle Flying Coaching and Tracking Suit Coaching before beginning Wing Suit Training. The student must show a level of skill and ability in all of these disciplines before moving on to the next skill set.
The Prerequisites to Attend the Wingsuit Progression Course:
- USPA C-license or FAI equivalent
- Have completed 200 jumps
- Complete a wing suit First Fly course
- Have attended a canopy control course from an established school ( AlterEgo,Flight 1, Brian Germain, etc., not “B” license card)
- Beginner suit
|Long spot return||Break-off||2
|#3||Suit Aerodynamics||Floater exit||Down
|Alternate LZ plan
Pull altitude adjust
|#4||Intermediate suit||Dive exit||Turns||Traffic awareness||Freefall spins
Different A/C exits
|ADVANCED SKILLS||Advanced suit
What is a Wingsuit?
A wingsuit is a jumpsuit with wings that attach the arms to the body, and the legs together, to provide greater surface area to produce horizontal movement and high lift.
There are many different manufacturers and types of wingsuits, all with different performance characteristics, designed with a specific purpose in mind.
When selecting a suit, your body’s build, weight, and height must be factored in. A comfortable fitting suit is important for good flight control. The type of suit is also very important when first learning (regardless of the number of jumps). It is best to start with more basic suits and progress to higher performance suits as you demonstrate competence with the suit jumped.
The different suit categories are:
Beginner: (TS Intro, PF Prodigy) Arm wings of beginner suits normally are not attached to the body, which helps to increase stability for the new flyer. Some beginner suits are able to have the wings clipped to the body of the suit via different attachment points, to allow the client to fly the same suit while changing it’s performance characteristics as the diver’s experience and skill increases.
Intermediate: (TS T-bird, PF Phantom & Shadow, Squirrel Swift) These suits may also be used for client training; however, it is not advised. These suits are designed to be a stable platform for a new pilot to learn to fly on—offering good performance and the ability to fly aerobatic maneuvers easily while managing the risk of instability.
Advanced: (TS R, S, & Xbird, PF Ghost, Havok) Advanced suits have a much larger wing area than the intermediate and beginner suits. Control with these suits is more difficult and the pilot must be experienced in wing suit flight characteristics to fly with total control.
Expert: (TS X2, Apache, Rebel, Jedi; PF Viper, Vampire, Squirrel Aura & Colugo) Expert suits are mainly designed for BASE applications. These suits have the maximum wing surface area available, offering greatest performance and the greatest amount of skill to fly with stability.
Similar to canopy progression, a wing suit pilot should be comfortable in all realms of flight in their current suit before upsizing to a more dynamic model. The larger the suit, the more it could spin in unstable situations. Talk to your coach about what suit will be right for you. The pilot should complete a set of control and flight skills comfortably prior to moving on to a larger or more high performance suit.
These skills should be proven prior to moving on to any suit advancements:
- Clean control on heading exits
- Ability to adjust forward speeds and apply SCS (start-coast-stop), ability to navigate a flight plan
- Ability to turn with precision, ability to adjust fall rates, ability to adjust laterally and stop, ability to perform consistent clean pulls, and demonstrate good canopy control skills to show ability to perform safe off-drop zone landings.
It is important to use the appropriate skydiving equipment when flying wing suits: Due to range of movement being restricted by the suit it is wise to jump a larger more stable type of parachute. A 7 cell moderately loaded main canopy with good opening characteristics is a usual choice. Canopies like the Storm, Spectre, Triathalon, etc. are popular choices. Avoid elliptical canopies that open with a higher probability of line twists or the potential to turn and dive if line twists are encountered.
Packing Differences: Pack with grommet on d-bag pointing downward, with lines towards reserve tray. This allows the canopy to come out of the container without any added rotation allowing for cleaner deployment. Stow the bridle in the bottom of the container and place the pin pointing upwards to the reserve tray.
The container choice and components are also important. Due to the angle of flight and increased burble during deployment, it’ll require certain modifications. A container that has:
- Dynamic corners on the bottom of the main
- Extended bridle (9-12 feet long)
- A throw-out pilot chute
- The container should have freefly leg strap bungees removed
Wearing more than one instrument is a wise idea. The altered time sense of jumping a wing suit (in comparison to regular freefall) will distort your natural altitude awareness senses. Use an audible altimeter as well as a chest mounted visual altimeter. The use of an AAD is highly recommended.
A GPS video can be helpful to review your pre-jump flight plan with the actual flight data.
Clients are NOT ALLOWED to wear cameras until they can deploy with stability on at least 3 consecutive jumps.
Other WING SUIT COACHING Tips…
Review all safety routines consistently and frequently when jumping with extraordinary equipment like a wing suit, even if you become an experienced wingsuiter. The more we complicate our normal skydiving routines, the higher the stress level will be when we experience a problem; therefore, constant review and planning on how to handle “unusual situations” will enable you to deal with them correctly and efficiently.
Considering weather conditions while flying a wing suit is far more crucial than when you’re preparing for other forms of skydiving. Check to ensure winds and visibility are acceptable for jumping. If winds aloft exceed 40 mph, training flights are unadvisable. If client's wing loading is below 1.3, ground winds should not exceed 20 mph. The client should be comfortable and have experience jumping in weather conditions similar to the day of the course.
Exiting: Exit the plane with clear vision of the intended flight plan. Ensure client can see the drop zone from the door of the aircraft prior to exit.
Tail Avoidance: The tail is much closer than it appears. There are many factors that can affect your exit in a wing suit. Aircraft jump run speed is a large factor. Our body position on exit is critical. We must exit controlling the wing until we have fallen below the tail. The wing must be held collapsed for several seconds to guarantee clearance of the aircraft.
*NEVER exit an A/C in a wing suit with an upward step in your exit launch.
Flying a wing suit up or down the jump run flight line must be avoided. Either offset the jump run prior to exit or fly 90° away form the line of flight and turn to fly a parallel flight line to the actual jump run flight line. Some different flight plan options are: L shaped jump run, teardrops, or 90 degree turns to move away from jump run.
Navigation should begin on the ground looking at an aerial map and plotting both a freefall and canopy “flight plan.” The plan should start with the intended landing direction into the wind and be drawn out backwards from there.
Set targeted landmarks and altitudes along the flight plan path. A good plan will include: jump run, upper and lower wind direction, anticipated obstacles along flight path, and alternate landing areas identified.
Due to the much slower descent rates with a wingsuit, your freefall “time sense” will be inaccurate. Even first jumps in client suits can be longer than 60-70 seconds. It is highly recommended to use as many altitude indicators as possible. Use both a visual as well as audible altimeter and always note the altitudes of both the cloud tops and cloud base.
Altitude awareness and deployment at the proper altitude is even more important when wearing a wingsuit (especially combined with extra accessories, like cameras).
Spin / Instability Recovery
As you grow to more advanced wingsuit designs, a higher level of skill and control is necessary. Following a proper wingsuit progression and upsizing patiently is the first step in minimizing any stability problems.
Instability in a wing suit may be due to poor body position or following a poor exit. Stability problems such as a severe rocking, a spin–or instability at pull time–are all possible. The more advanced the suit, the more precise and subtle the reactions of the flier must be. Over compensation can be a big factor leading towards more dramatic stability problems. Learning to use the elbows and knees fluently helps control a wing suit.
If instability occurs, ARCH and RELAX!Major Instability is normally caused by either a poor exit, contact with the aircraft on exit, contact with another wingsuit flier in flight, or asymmetrical wing position.
If major instability is encountered follow the ABC's:
- Bend your Knees
- Collapse your wings
- Arms back like a practice pull, while collapsing tail wing and bending knees to a 45°- 60° angle, or neutral flight. A pilot should be proficient in spin recovery before upsizing suits.
The break-off signal used in wingsuit flocking is the base clicking their heels together, which in turn is mirrored by all other fliers in the formation.
Wingsuit break-off is different compared to other disciplines. Due to consistent forward speed, turning 180° from center (as in other disciplines) is not required. Turning off the line of flight at break-off time and spreading out 20°- 30°, separating for 810 seconds, will provide a large amount of distance between you and other fliers.
Once adequate separation has been achieved all fliers should click their heels again to signal their intent to deploy.
Canopy control is an important issue in any discipline, concerning any size jump. Once a canopy is fully open, flight procedures to landing are the same as any other jump. The key difference when flying a wingsuit is the higher probability of off field landings: This magnifies the importance of learning how to perform landing approaches in both slow and fast flight.
The canopy pilots ability to set up or transfer a pattern to an alternate landing area and approach in braked or full flight is mandatory. This may also include the ability to perform cross wind and down wind landings. The increased potential of off field landings is another main reason to jump a suitably sized (wing loading) canopy when flying a wing suit.
Awareness and general canopy flight discipline is very important when wearing a wingsuit. A canopy collision with normal equipment is challenging enough. A canopy collision with the additional restrictions and snag surfaces of a wingsuit, further compounded by wearing cameras, complicates this emergency situation quite a bit. Avoidance through a solid understanding of canopy traffic flow, vertical separation and constant awareness of other jumpers is a must. Prior to beginning wingsuit flying, attend both basic and advanced canopy courses and work proper traffic rules on every jump.
Long Spot Return
Adjusting for “off” spots or “opening points” requires us to be “connected to the environment.” Our ability to quickly judge “ground track” and “stationary point” helps us to sense changing conditions and alter our plan to accommodate for those changes.
In addition to being very aware and capable of sensing even the slightest change, wingsuit fliers must understand the features and capabilities of the particular suit they are flying:
- What control method creates “best glide,” rear risers or toggles?
- How much brake can you apply with a tailwind and get a positive effect?
- When is it wise to use front rises?
- What control method will best crab you into a safe area?
These are all canopy flight modes you should know. And not just for wing suit flying but for all canopy flight. We once again urge attendance at basic and advanced wing suit courses.
Deployment Altitude Adjustments
The fight plan and “ball park” altitudes you set will help you to decide if you need to alter your freefall flight plan or realize you have moved beyond your ideal position and may need to break and pull higher. The extra altitude and your ability to use the flight range of your canopy (see Long spot return above) to make a safe landing area are positive solutions when required.
Alternate LZ Plan
Locating and landing in a suitable alternate area starts by knowing the drop zone you're flying in and getting information on your options. Get a good drop zone briefing when arriving at a new location. Ask questions as to where you would find power wires. If you suspect that landing at the primary landing zone may not be possible, choose to fly to an alternate by no later than 1,500 -2,000 feet. Give yourself time to transfer your pattern at a reasonable height. Consider the wind direction and best length to land. Your best landing direction may not be into the wind.
As you assess where to turn for your final approach, consider the presence of either “wind shadow” and/or turbulence, and plan to fly a smooth, controlled approach into the open area.
Always keep these landing priorities in mind:
- Land with your wing level above you
- Land in the center of an open area
- Flare to at least 50% brakes
Be mindful of other traffic and fly straight on final, respecting traffic that may be to your right or left. Realize an alternate is someone else’s property, be courteous to our neighbors and never damage their property. Landing in their property is not our right, but a privilege.
Wingsuit Specific Emergency Procedures
This is a common problem for wingsuit fliers. Due to the size of the burble created by the wingsuit, any lack of symmetry in your body position during pull and deployment could cause line twists.
There are various methods to get out of line twists, one being the use of the wings of the suit to induce a spin in the opposite direction of the line twists once the canopy is open. The most effective methods are to use your leg wing, sticking one foot out and the other back, will either spin you further into, or out of the line twists.
Another method is to use the drag of one arm wing to induce a turn under the line twists. Using one wing to rotate, then the other to keep the rotation going in the desired direction.
Your emergency procedures DO NOT CHANGE with the addition of a wing suit!! However, the additional restriction and fabric is something to be aware of. Being current on ALL emergency or unusual situations is the best thing anyone can do.
Thinking that you will never encounter an emergency situation is the start of a possible problem. It is our ATTITUDE that makes the difference. Always anticipate you may have a malfunction, a potential traffic or collision problem or an equipment problem and you will be ahead in assessment and reaction time.
It may be a wise idea to practice the emergency drills with your suit on. Furthermore, as much as the procedures do not change––can you foresee any extra difficulties in performing the safety procedures while wearing you wingsuit? For example, if you're landing in a tree, is it more difficult to get yourself “perched” and comfortable while you wait for help?
When doing your first few wingsuit jumps, it is wise to use a Decision Altitude of 3500'. If you cannot gain control of your canopy by this point, initiate emergency procedures.
The procedure for aircraft emergencies is no different than previously taught. However, do consider how you move to the door and perform an exit and pull at possible lower altitudes. Think the different altitude situations through, deciding where YOU are comfortable using the main versus the reserve.
Today we have excellent equipment choices with very secure flaps, riser covers, main handle locks, etc. Be extra aware of movement in the aircraft when the suit is on. And Remember you may not be as agile with a wingsuit on.
Practice your exits and be aware of how you rotate through the door, minimizing flap and pin exposure. During freefall, do your best to apply freefall traffic rules to avoid collisions. Remember if you suspect any “out of sequence” deployment, always follow NORMAL deployment procedure (MAIN-CUTAWAY-RESERVE).
Collision Avoidance on Deployment
Avoidance begins with good break off and tracking/separation skills. Be aware of the radial you are to fly upon, recognizing the break off “heel click.” Fly straight with peripheral awareness of jumpers to the right and left. Break high enough to track out far enough to attain good right and left separation from other jumpers. Always anticipate a collision and be ready to take evasive action immediately upon deployment. Apply the “Right of Way” rule.
Follow all general obstacle avoidance and protection advice gained through initial training. The following two obstacle landings, trees and water, may be a bit more awkward when wearing a wingsuit. Think your procedures through and recognize any extra difficulty that you may have completing protective actions. If you jump by open water it is recommended to retrain water-landing procedures with the suit on. This will help you perform a water-landing calmly with confidence in your ability.