How Dangerous Is Wingsuit Flying Really? (Surprising Truth)

A wingsuit pilot in mid-flight, soaring away from an aircraft above a breathtaking view of clouds illuminated by the setting or rising sun.
The Truth The Dangers Of Wingsuit Flying

Wingsuit flying has gained popularity in recent years, with breathtaking videos of many thrill-seekers flying through the air at high speeds. However, the sport is also known for its high level of danger, with numerous fatalities reported each year.

On average, the fatality rate of wingsuit skydiving is 0.0015% i.e. one fatality for every ~70,000 jumps while the injury rate is around 0.0027%i.e. one injury for every ~40,000 jumps. The fatality for BASE jumping is significantly higher with 0.04%

The differentiation between wingsuit flying and BASE jumping is especially important because there is a lot of confusion around both disciplines and their fatality rate. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of wrong information about the death rate of wingsuit flyers on the internet.

In this article, I will explore the risks associated with wingsuit flying and examine the surprising truth about how dangerous this activity can be. I will also resolve the wrong information and explain why there is so much confusion around the topic.

The Fatality And Injury Rate Of Different Skydiving Disciplines

The fatality rate in skydiving can vary depending on the discipline being practiced. Factors such as the type of equipment used, the height of the jump, the deployment of the parachute, and the level of experience of the skydiver can all contribute to differences in fatality rates.

I went through different official statistics to give an overview of the fatality and injury rates for various skydiving disciplines.

Skydiving DisciplineFatality Rate
(in % and # of jumps)
Injury Rate
(in % and # of jumps)
Wingsuit Skydiving0.00145%
Solo Skydiving0.00045%
BASE Jumping
(incl. wingsuit BASE jumping)
Tandem Skydive0.00020%
AFF/STL course0.00054%
Overview Of Fatality Rate And Injury Rate Per Skydiving Discipline

You might be surprised to see that the different skydiving disciplines have vastly different fatality and injury rates. Let’s have a quick look at each of the different disciplines and how they differ from each other.

Wingsuit Skydiving is a skydiving discipline where the jumper wears a special suit that adds surface area to their body, creating lift and increasing the duration of the freefall. In the above statistics, wingsuit skydiving is defined as jumping from an aircraft and not from fixed objects such as a mountain. Jumps from mountains that are conducted with a wingsuit are put in the BASE jumping category.

Interestingly, you will see that wingsuit flying is the second most dangerous skydiving discipline in terms of fatality rate, surpassed only by BASE jumping. The injury rate, in contrast, is lowest for wingsuit flying, mainly driven by the fact that wingsuit flyers are often experienced skydivers.

Solo Skydiving is a type of skydiving where the jumper is not connected to anyone else during the jump. The jumper exits the plane alone and is responsible for deploying their parachute and landing safely. This type of skydiving requires a significant amount of training and experience to be done safely.

Solo skydiving is the second safest skydiving discipline in terms of fatalities and injuries. This is driven by strong safety regulations and extensive training for solo skydivers.

BASE Jumping is an extreme sport that involves jumping off a fixed object, such as a bridge, building, or cliff, and using a parachute to land safely. BASE jumping is considered one of the most dangerous sports in the world due to the high risks involved, such as the possibility of equipment failure or misjudging the landing.

Unsurprisingly, BASE jumping is the most dangerous skydiving discipline in terms of injuries and fatalities, leading by a big margin. For example, BASE jumping is 27.5 more dangerous than the second most dangerous discipline wingsuit flying.

Tandem Skydive is a type of skydiving where the jumper is connected to a trained instructor during the jump. The instructor is responsible for deploying the parachute and landing safely. This type of skydiving is often used for first-time jumpers or those who do not have the experience or training to do a solo jump.

Tandem skydiving is the safest skydiving discipline because the tandem instructors, who are extremely trained and experienced, are in charge of the jump. In terms of injuries, tandem skydiving ranks as the third safest discipline, closely behind solo skydiving.

AFF/STL Course is a training course for people who want to learn how to skydive solo. AFF (Accelerated Freefall) is a method of training where the student jumps from the plane with two instructors who help them to stabilize their body and control their parachute. STL (Static Line) is a method where the student jumps with a static line attached to the plane, which automatically deploys the parachute.

Student skydiving is the third safest “discipline” in terms of fatalities. However, in terms of injuries student skydiving is only surpassed by BASE jumping. Injuries during student skydiving often happen during human errors in the landing process.

The Separation Problem Of Wingsuit Skydiving And BASE Jumping

One of the major challenges in gathering statistics about wingsuit flying is the difficulty in distinguishing it from BASE jumping. Wingsuits are specialized suits designed to increase surface area and provide more lift during jumps. They can be used during traditional skydives from heights of 10,000 – 15,000 ft (3,000 – 4,500 m) or during BASE jumps from smaller objects ranging between 1,000 – 3,000 ft (300 – 900 m).

Unfortunately, because wingsuits are increasing in popularity and are more and more used during BASE jumping, the impression may arise that wingsuit flying is inherently dangerous. However, this is a misconception.

In reality, it is the BASE jumping discipline itself that is dangerous, regardless of whether a wingsuit is worn or not. It also makes sense because if you jump from a lower height, you will have much less time to react to any problems during the jump.

Since the popularity of wingsuit flying among BASE jumpers has increased significantly in recent years, the number of fatalities associated with the activity has also increased. According to a scientific paper, between 2002 and 2007, there were a total of 61 BASE jumping fatalities, with 10 (16%) of those attributed to the use of wingsuits.

However, from 2008 to 2011, out of a total of 59 fatal events, 29 (49%) were related to the use of wingsuits. In 2016, 65% of BASE jumping fatalities (20 out of 31) were linked to wingsuits.

The Truth About the Dangers of Wingsuit Flying

This increase in wingsuit-related fatalities can be partly attributed to the growing popularity of using wingsuits during BASE jumps.

Analogously, imagine a hypothetical scenario where red helmets become extremely popular. In this case, statistical analysis may show that 50% of all fatalities occurred while wearing a red helmet.

However, this does not mean that red helmets are inherently more dangerous than black helmets. The higher number of fatalities associated with red helmets is likely due to more people using them. Thus, it is essential to consider the larger context and not simply rely on statistics without analyzing the underlying factors.

That being said, part of the reason why we see more wingsuit BASE jumping deaths is also because of the incredible video footage they can generate. This, in fact, leads to increased risk-taking and more deaths – but I will cover this later.

BASE Jumping Has No Regulatory Body That Governs Statistics

The lack of a regulated body for BASE jumping is a major issue when it comes to statistics. Unlike skydiving, there is no central authority like the USPA to provide reliable data. As a result, community-driven statistics may contain errors, particularly when it comes to the number of jumps performed.

While the total number of BASE jumping deaths may be more accurate, the number of jumps is a broad estimate due to the lack of regulated statistics. This is highlighted when looking at the common statement that the likelihood of death is one in every 500 wingsuit jumps.

This statement fails to account for the distinction between wingsuit skydiving and wingsuit BASE jumping. Additionally, due to the lack of accurate data, the total number of BASE jumps cannot be determined with certainty. To investigate further, I analyzed the data on the average number of BASE jumps per person who died from BASE jumping.

In theory, this number would need to be below 500 such that the fatality rate of 1 in 500 jumps can be correct since the data excludes individuals who performed BASE jumps and did not die. Surprisingly, the number was above 500, which means that the fatality rate of 1 in 500 jumps is incorrect.

The Life Expectancy of Wingsuit Skydivers and BASE Jumpers

Due to the lack of official statistics, it is impossible to say what the average life expectancy for wingsuit skydivers and BASE jumpers is. In order to determine that, one would need to look at the underlying demographics of wingsuit flyers and BASE jumpers such as age and the average number of jumps. However, we can determine the average age of people that died.

On average, the typical wingsuit flyer who dies is 35 years old. The median age of wingsuit flyers is 34 which means that half of the people who die using a wingsuit are under 34 years old.

What Are the Causes of Risk in Wingsuit Flying?

In general, there is little margin for error in wingsuit flying – especially when comparing it to traditional skydiving. Most fatalities happen due to human errors for example when deploying a parachute. 

The first aspect of this is that wingsuit pilots have less reaction time than regular skydivers. During wingsuit flights, pilots achieve forward speeds of around 125 mph which is higher than the average of 100 mph for regular solo skydivers. As a result of this, it is much more difficult to react to any issues during the flight. 

Interested in learning more about the speed capabilities of wingsuits? Check out my previous post on “How fast can you go in a wingsuit?” where I explore the various factors that influence the speed and the greatest speeds ever attained during wingsuit jumps!

This holds true, especially for BASE jumpers flying with a wingsuit. They do not only have less reaction time because of their increased speed but also because they are jumping from lower heights. It makes a huge difference jumping from 10,000 ft or 2,000 ft.

As a result, BASE jumpers do not even wear a reserve parachute. If the first parachute fails, they would not have enough time to cut it loose and deploy the reserve one. Therefore, they rather save the additional weight of a reserve parachute.

The margin for error in wingsuit flying is further reduced by the bulkiness of the wingsuit. With arms and legs strapped in, the range of motion is limited, making even simple tasks like untangling parachute lines much more challenging.

The lack of mobility can create serious problems for wingsuit flyers, especially in emergency situations where quick, precise movements are crucial. The bulkiness of the suit can also increase the risk of collisions with other objects in flight, as it can be difficult to change direction or avoid obstacles in the air.

Furthermore, any arm movement while in a wingsuit can drastically alter the airflow over the suit, leading to sudden changes in the direction and trajectory of the flight. This heightened sensitivity to movement and changes in wind conditions can lead to additional problems such as overshooting or spinning out of control.

These risks are amplified during proximity flying, a common practice among wingsuit flyers in which they aim to fly as close and accurately as possible past certain objects, such as mountains or buildings. Any slight miscalculations or changes in wind conditions during proximity flying can result in catastrophic collisions with these objects, leading to serious injury or death.

Another challenge in wingsuit flying is the parachute deployment process. Unlike in traditional skydiving, the wingsuit pilot cannot just open the parachute as they need to slow down their forward speed for the parachute to inflate properly. This requires a maneuver that is similar to going up in a wingsuit, which adds another layer of difficulty to an already challenging activity.

In case you wondered if wingsuit pilots can go up in a wingsuit, I have written a complete guide about the maneuver of going up in a wingsuit. In that blog post, I cover the different aspects and resolve some misconceptions about the topic.

Finally, wingsuit pilots, especially those involved in BASE jumping, often perform incredibly dangerous stunts. The trend of wingsuit pilots trying to gain fame and popularity by performing such stunts incentivizes intense risk-taking, which increases the likelihood of accidents and deaths.

Fatality and Injury Statistics Across Various Skydiving Disciplines and Ways to Increase Safety in Wingsuit Flying and BASE Jumping
Injury and Fatality Data Across Different Skydiving Disciplines and Strategies to Enhance Safety in Wingsuit Flying and BASE Jumping

Why Is the Injury Rate for Wingsuit Flying Lower Than for Regular Skydiving?

Despite the increased risk of fatality associated with wingsuit flying, the number of reported injuries is lower compared to regular skydiving. This is attributed to the fact that wingsuit pilots are typically experienced skydivers, having completed at least 200 regular jumps before attempting wingsuit flying.

As a result, there are no novices in wingsuit flying. In both regular and wingsuit skydiving, the landing process is the most hazardous, resulting in most injuries. However, novices often find it challenging to land safely and are more prone to making mistakes.

Conversely, wingsuit pilots are experienced skydivers who are familiar with the landing process, including the techniques required to execute a safe landing, reducing the likelihood of errors and subsequent injuries.

Ready to take your love of flying to the next level? Find out how long it takes to learn wingsuit flying and what you need to do to get started in our comprehensive guide! From gear to jump requirements and everything in between, this guide got you covered. Get ready to soar to new heights!

What Can Be Done to Increase Safety in Wingsuit Skydiving and BASE Jumping?

Regulations Will Boost Safety in Wingsuit Flying and BASE Jumping

Regulation helps to increase the safety of wingsuit flying and BASE jumping by setting standards and guidelines for participants to follow. These regulations are typically developed by experts in the field who have a deep understanding of BASE jumping and its inherent risks.

By implementing these regulations, organizers can ensure that all participants have the necessary skills and knowledge to engage in BASE jumping and wingsuit flying safely.

Additionally, regulations can mandate the use of appropriate safety equipment and techniques, such as the use of protective gear or the correct methods for deploying parachutes. This can significantly reduce the risk of injury or death during the sport.

Advancements in Equipment Can Counteract Human Errors

Better equipment can help ensure safety in wingsuit flying and BASE jumping by giving more flexibility to the pilot and counteracting human errors. Equipment improvements can range from better materials to more advanced technology and design, to improved safety features.

For example, in skydiving, the introduction of automatic parachute deployment at a certain altitude improved safety drastically. It eliminated the human error of pulling the parachute too late. It also saved people that were hit unconscious during their jump or could not deploy the parachute for other reasons.

Better equipment can also help athletes perform better and push the boundaries of wingsuit flying, while still maintaining a high level of safety. For example, lighter materials can increase the flying range of wingsuits while reducing the bulkiness of wingsuits.

Have you ever wondered who was brave enough to create the first wingsuit? From Leonardo da Vinci to modern-day daredevils, the history of wingsuits is full of fascinating tales. Learn about the innovator of wingsuits and his incredible journey.

Banning Dangerous Terrains Will Disincentivise Dangerous Stunts

Banning BASE jumping in certain places can help increase safety by reducing the number of people who attempt wingsuit flying and BASE jumping in dangerous or unsuitable locations. By establishing specific areas where BASE jumping is permitted and regulating access to those areas, authorities can better control and manage the risks associated with the activity.

This can include setting rules and guidelines for equipment and safety protocols, as well as providing resources and support for emergency responders in case of accidents or injuries. Additionally, by limiting access to certain areas, officials can prevent untrained or inexperienced individuals from attempting BASE jumping in high-risk locations, reducing the overall number of accidents and fatalities.

Ultimately, the goal of banning BASE jumping in certain places is to promote responsible and safe participation in the activity, while minimizing the potential risks and dangers to both participants and the general public.

Wind Tunnels Improve Technique And Skills of Wingsuit Flyers

Wind tunnel flying can help increase safety in wingsuit flying in several ways. Firstly, wind tunnel flying provides an opportunity for wingsuit flyers to practice and perfect their skills in a safe and controlled environment. This allows them to gain experience and confidence before attempting flights in a more dangerous setting.

Additionally, wind tunnel flying can help wingsuit flyers to better understand the aerodynamics of their suits and how to control their movements. This can help them to avoid situations where sudden movements could lead to accidents or injury.

Wind tunnel flying can also help wingsuit flyers to improve their body position and stability, which is crucial for safe and controlled flights. This can reduce the risk of accidents caused by unstable movements or loss of control during flight.

Furthermore, wind tunnel flying can be used to test and develop new equipment and technologies for wingsuit flying. This can help to ensure that wingsuits and other equipment are safe and effective, reducing the risk of accidents caused by faulty or inadequate equipment.

If you want to learn more about this topic, I have written a complete guide that covers everything you want to know about indoor wingsuit flying.

That being said, enjoy your free fall!

Photo Credits

Richard Schneider from Los Angeles, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Kai Schmidt

Hi, I'm Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

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The image illustrates the fatality and injury rates across skydiving disciplines along with ways to enhance safety particularly in BASE jumping and wingsuit flying.