Wingsuit flying is the sport of flying the human body through the air using a special jumpsuit, called a wingsuit, which adds surface area to the human body to create lift. The wingsuit creates the surface area with fabric between the legs and under the arms. A wingsuit may be referred to as a birdman suit or squirrel suit. A wingsuit flight ends with a parachute opening, so a wingsuit can be flown from any point that provides sufficient altitude to glide through the air, such as skydiving aircraft or BASE jumping exit points, and to allow a parachute to deploy. In the mid-1990s, French skydiver Patrick de Gayardon developed a wingsuit that had unparalleled safety and performance. Unfortunately, de Gayardon died on April 13, 1998 while testing a new modification to his parachute container in Hawaii; his death is attributed to a rigging error which was part of the new modification rather than a flaw in the suit’s design.

In early 1998, Tom Begic, a BASE jumper from Australia, built and flew his own wingsuit based on a photograph of Patrick de Gayardon and his ideas. The suit was developed to assist Begic in capturing freefall footage of BASE jumpers while jumping the high cliffs of Europe. The benefits of the suit included: reduced freefall descent rates, increased freefall times, greater maneuverability around other jumpers and objects whilst in freefall, the potential to jump off sites around the world that were not possible without wingsuits, and the ability to accelerate away from underhung walls much more quickly.


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