Humankind certainly loves pushing the boundaries of what we can accomplish, even though it may mean in order to reach new heights a few of us have to meet an unfortunate demise along the way. Wingsuits, in some shape or another, have been around for over a century now. Wingsuits that actually work? For starters, define ‘work’… It’s amazing what happens when the perfect blend of science and fashion combine, and as the history of the wingsuit proves the high risk involved in finding out the answer is all part of the fun.
Did You Know?
- Modern day wingsuits are sometimes referred to as flying squirrel suits, bat suits, or birdman suits.
- In most countries wingsuit jumpers must first complete 200 freefall skydives, and most wingsuit manufacturers require proof of this before a suit can be purchased.
- The first known suited flight was in 852 when Armen Firman went for the literal birdman look and strapped vulture feathers on. He survived a jump from a tower in Cordoba, Spain.
- In 1912 inventor and tailor Franz Reichelt gained access to the Eiffel Tower by telling guards he wanted to test his new flying suit on a mannequin. He was lying. Reichelt died on impact.
- By the 1930s people were experimenting with wings being made from wood, canvas, steel and even whale bone. 70% of jumpers perish during their attempts.
- Daredevil Clem Sohn, aka the Michigan Icarus, dies at a 1937 French airshow in front of 100,000 spectators when both his main and emergency parachutes fail after leaping from a plane.
- In 1978, B.A.S.E. jumping (Buildings, Antennas, Span, Earth) enters the wingsuit lexicon, thanks to freefall cinematographer Carl Boenish.
- Patrick de Gayardon makes revolutionary changes to modern wingsuit design in 1994, allowing for commercial production.
- Over the next several years de Gayardon performs a series of amazing jumps in locations like the Grand Canyon, before dying in 1998 due to a technical malfunction with his suit.
- In May 2017 Fraser Corsan sets a new wingsuit speed record of 249 miles an hour (400 kilometers an hour) after jumping from a plane at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters).
- Humans Have Been Hacking Their Bodies for Thousands of Years
- Wingsuit History
- A Brief History of Wingsuiting
- A history of wingsuit flight
- A new documentary chronicles the inventor of BASE jumping
- British daredevil ‘breaks world speed record’ with 249mph wingsuit dive over California
- Cover Image: Base Book