The Deadly Sport of Wingsuit Flying
Earlier in the year a Californian man was tragically killed when he hit a wall when wingsuit flying in Arizona. It needed the help of professional technical rescuers to recover his body. It did not matter that he was an experienced skydiver and wingsuit flier, a wall is a wall.
Now and then I watch the amazing video’s produced by wingsuiters, I call the others in the Outdoor Revival office over to have a watch, and we’re all impressed, we don’t want to participate, but we acknowledge these people have some serious stones. For me, a nice view from the top of a mountain will do me just fine.
Wingsuit flying is one of the most dangerous extreme sports in the world. In this sport, the participants wear a specially-designed jumpsuit that has two arm wings and one leg wing.
The wings have special pressurized nylon cells that help the flier glide and soar. Wingsuiters carry a parachute for landing as it is extremely hard, nearly impossible for them to land safely and without serious injury to themselves. Altitude is monitored closely by the flier, and they have an audible warning device in their helmet.
Lately, the fatalities from this sport have been on the rise. Many things can go wrong from using a wingsuit in cliff jumping or skydiving. They can develop flat spins, a parachute that won’t deploy properly, tail strikes when they hit a piece of the plane on exit, and being unable to depressurize their wings so they can use a parachute.
Wingsuit flying has been growing in popularity in past years, particularly attracting 18 to 35-year-old single males, who are looking for something exciting and challenging, even though experienced fliers have died when base diving from cliffs. Many reasons have been discovered why these tragedies occur leading to concern from the authorities and the people that live in the locations where the sport is pursued.
It’s a much talked about sport, with fliers wearing cams on their helmets and videos being regularly published online and on social media sites.
Another reason for the deaths is that the fliers are “pushing the envelope” – taking bigger risks, doing more stunts, and reducing the margins of error to nothing, and then when things don’t go exactly to plan they pay the price.
In the Alps, where base wingsuit flying is legal, they had nearly two dozen deaths in only three months. Also, in the towns of Chamonix below Mount Blanc and in the Lauterbrunnen area of Switzerland, flier deaths has been spiraling upwards. The people in the towns are understandably conserned and severely shaken, as are the rescue experts who deal with the aftermath time and time again.
Authorities are starting to take action, and it could be very likely that it will become a heavily-regulated sport or maybe one that is banned completely.
More training and control is needed both with beginners and experienced fliers. The spike in death rates shows that the important area of education and understanding the complexities of the sport are being neglected.
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