Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Flying Squirrel Man

This blog covers things that go whoosh, boom, or splat. I fervently hope this post falls under the category of "whoosh" and not "splat."

I found this picture online today, and went to the website of a Finnish/Estonian company manufacturers suits for sky divers that allow them to fly through the air during free-fall, more or less like a bird. It's a really interesting photo.

The name of the company is Bird-Man. Here is a clip from
their website:

Jari Kuosma is president and owner of BirdMan Inc., the world's first and largest purveyor of "wingsuits." Anyone who's logged 200 jumps can buy one of these getups for $618 and experience an entirely new kind of skydiving. According to Kuosma, wingsuiters can slow the downward speed of a free fall from 120 mph to 37 mph and fly horizontally through the clouds. This nearly triples their time in the air before pulling the rip cord. About 2,000 people have experienced the wingsuit since the company was founded in 1999. Only four have died*.

Skydivers wearing the bird suit can't gain or keep their altitude, so the experts say these guys aren't really flying but engaging in controlled falling. But they are able to slow the rate of descent dramatically. I remember from grade school that flying squirrels do not fly -- they glide and soar from branch to branch. So, to be technically accurate, maybe it should be called a flying-squirrel-man-suit.

Anyway, bird suited flyers fall much more slowly than than normally clothed parachutists. A regular jumper falls from a typical jump altitude of 4,100 meters to a parachute opening level of 900 meters in one minute. A bird suited faller extends that to three minutes.

*Kudos to the company for honesty in advertising, but can you really use the word "only" here?


Brian said...

With the addition of some special hardware, they can actually maintain altitude, albeit only for a minute. Be sure to check out the video at that link.

I have to add, compared to normal skydiving, wingsuiting really does feel like flying.

Brian (500 skydives, 25 with a wingsuit)

cenoxo said...

More wingsuit flying articles and images at Skydive World. This reminds me of Yves Rossy's man-sized, twin-jet flying wing.

Unfortunately, an early flying suit didn't help Franz Reichelt very much in a BASE jump off the Eiffel Tower (1.5mb WMV video).