How to Prepare For Your First Flight Course

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

How to Prepare for Your First Flight Course

by Katie Kansen

You want to fly wingsuits? Sweet.

Here are a few things you can do to help yourself succeed when it’s finally time for that first flight course (FFC). Whether you come from a solid foundation with thousands of competition belly jumps, or are just trying to get your jump numbers up to meet the 200 jump prerequisite, keep in mind that not all jumps are created equal, and there are a few things you can do to help yourself along the way. Jump with people, and emphasize learning tracking and beginner angle flying with an appropriate coach. Fly low speed dynamic in the tunnel. Educate yourself and make sure you show up with proper equipment that is safe to fly with wingsuits.

Jump with people!

No more solo track jumps. The fastest way to progress and to ensure learning proper technique is to jump with people who are better than you and can give you feedback on what you are doing well and what you can improve on. Another important aspect of jumping with other people is to learn awareness of other people in the sky, which is extremely important when flying wingsuits because our closing speeds can be so fast. Practice tracking in small groups. Small groups allow the leader to help or accommodate you a little if you need it. Practice following the leader through different angles of attack. At a certain point, it will be considered “angle flying.” Consider that if you are flying a lower angle of attack and flying faster than you are used to, the extra speed can initially be harder to control, so keep the group 1:1 with a qualified coach. Learning how to control the surfaces of your body to create these angle changes, and flying them without the extra fabric first, will make it easier when you put on a wingsuit. The type of exits you use for angle flying are the same as for wingsuiting.

Photo courtesy of Dan Dupuis

Tunnel Time

Another skill that translates to wingsuit flying isn’t skydiving, it’s tunnel flying. A low-speed dynamic progression teaches you to fly all the surfaces of your body. It is about belly and back carving, and transitions from belly to back. It’s about flying all the angles between horizontal (flat on your belly) and vertical (sit-flying/head down). Unlike a high-speed progression, you can’t use wind speed as a crutch for getting lift with poor body position. Flying low-speed forces you to fly your body correctly to generate the lift necessary to create the intended movement.

Have the Right Canopy

With the most rock-star perfect body position and body awareness in the world, you still need proper equipment to fly with a wingsuit. Required is a 7-cell, docile parachute with predictable opening characteristics, heading performance, and stable flight even when in line twists. Also necessary is at least an 8’ bridle, which is longer than a standard bridle to help your pilot chute clear the larger burble created by the wingsuit. An appropriate pilot chute should also be used, 28” diameter with a lightweight PVC or carbon-fiber handle tacked down on two sides. You should also have an AAD, RSL, and visual altimeter. There is a lot of educational material on appropriate gear that includes options like dynamic corners and semi-stowless deployment bags, please do your research, this just touches on it but is not comprehensive.

Make your jumps count when getting ready for your FFC. Flying wingsuits is extremely fun, but so is learning and jumping with coaches tracking, angle flying, and low-speed dynamic flying in the tunnel. Don’t forget to enjoy the progression!

Good Resource

Article in Parachutist that includes a section on gear requirements for FFC:

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