Editor’s Note: information shared is not designed to replace wingsuit coaching but to help with preparing for your first flight and coaching classes. Be sure to train with a wingsuit coach on all techniques.
Wingsuit exits involve both knowledge to set up correctly, and the actual physical act of exiting. Understanding what to consider prior to even exiting is critical, this includes but is not limited to exit order, spotting, airspeed and power/prop blast which varies depending on the airplane. This article is going to focus on the physical part of the exit. There are a few schools of thought out there, but the trend has been to shift away from the old style of exiting chin high, chest high, wings in, to a more aerodynamic exit. Learning the aerodynamic way from the beginning simplifies the learning process by not having to relearn a new exit, as well as keeps you from getting pushed up towards the tail if you prematurely open your wings. The goal is to have a safe exit, meaning not coming close to hitting the tail, with stability and control that allows the jumper to start flying quickly.
A stable exit starts with a stable push. In a left door aircraft such as a Caravan or Otter, plant your right foot along the edge of the door, this is the foot that you push off. DO NOT JUMP UP, but place your body out into the wind with a low angle of attack. The relative wind is a giant wall of air that is going to hit you as soon as you leave the door. Think of making your body as streamlined as possible, with wings closed, parallel to the fuselage like you are trying to continue traveling in the same direction as you were when you were in the airplane. If it helps, you can put your right hand on the edge of the door as well and pivot out of the plane. Putting your right hand down at the edge of the door can help keep your chest low. Make sure that your shoulders and hips are leaving the door at the same time. Look for the tail, when it passes by, it is safe to smoothly open your wings.
Exiting aerodynamically instead of chest high is safer because the relative wind is not pushing you up towards the tail, especially if you exit with higher airspeed or prematurely open your wings. In terms of performance, exiting aerodynamically presents less drag to the relative wind. With a chest-high presentation, as soon as the jumper exits and presents the increased drag wall, the jumper slows way down and takes longer to get flying, which puts the head-high jumper behind and below everyone that exits aerodynamically.
There is a great video on TopGunBase.com from Richard Webb, former Navy fighter pilot, about aerodynamics and how they specifically relate to wingsuiting that every would-be wingsuit pilot should watch. Learn about angle of attack, pitch, drag and why they are important to understand.
Another related article published in Parachutist by Taya Weiss and Matt Gerdes also focuses on wingsuit exits as well as spotting, exit order, and airspeed.