How Difficult Is Wingsuit Flying Really?

A wingsuit pilot glides in the air against a sunset sky and a vast landscape below.
Wingsuit Flying Gives the Ultimate Feeling of Freedom

The breathtaking footage of wingsuit flyers soaring through the air can invoke longings and desire for adventure in us. While the wingsuit pros make flying look easy, many people ask themselves: How hard is wingsuit flying?

As a general rule, wingsuit flying is a challenging and physically demanding sport that requires a high level of body control, focus, and reaction time. Experienced skydivers are reported to learn wingsuit flying quickly because they already have a strong foundation of the required skills.

In this blog post, I’ll explore the surprising factors that contribute to the difficulty of wingsuit flying, including the steep learning curve and the risks and dangers involved.

Five Surprising Reasons Why Wingsuit Flying Is Difficult

Wingsuits Are Unforgiving in the Air

Wingsuits are challenging to fly as their large surface area reacts quickly to even the slightest body movements, making them less forgiving in the air compared to traditional skydiving suits.

This increased sensitivity to body position and movement means that wingsuit flyers must have an excellent technique to navigate through the challenges presented by strong wind and air holes that can suddenly impact their flight trajectory.

Once a wingsuit flyer loses control, it can be difficult to regain it. If they begin to spin, they will need to exert more force to stabilize themselves again, and without careful control, they could start spinning in the other direction.

Learning to fly a wingsuit often comes with a steep learning curve, and even experienced skydivers will often need to significantly improve their flying technique. Many skydivers report feeling similar to their initial skydiving experiences, where even a small mistake could cause them to fly uncontrollably in the air. Others report that they could just put the suit on and fly.

Mental Challenge of Mastering Wingsuit Flying

In order to execute wingsuit maneuvers safely, athletes must be incredibly focused and present in the moment. Distractions or lack of focus can lead to mistakes that can result in serious injuries or even death.

In addition, wingsuit flyers need to handle mental fatigue. Wingsuit jumps are often longer than traditional skydives and greater distances are covered. As a result, flyers need to keep their focus up for a longer period of time than in traditional skydiving. This is not easy, considering that a mistake could be deadly or result in injuries.

If a wingsuit flyer is distracted, he or she could be drifting away from the destined dropzone. Then the flyer would need to land in unknown territory posing the risk of hitting any obstacles on the ground.

Last but not least, wingsuit flyers need to constantly take decisions and oftentimes they need to do so in high-pressure situations.

Specifically, in wingsuit-powered base-jumping, in which flyers fly through mountain canyons or perform other dangerous stunts, they need to constantly assess risks, plan their next moves and make split-second decisions.

Wingsuit Flying Requires Handling a Lot of Equipment

Skydiving is already an equipment-heavy sport. One needs to handle the harness, the jumpsuit, the parachute, and the altimeter. Now, put the wingsuit and the wingsuit rigging gear, which are both quite bulky, on top of it. Knowing how to handle this equipment is not easy!

It requires a high degree of coordination and knowledge, particularly when performing maneuvers or when deploying the parachute. It can be even more challenging in situations where there are time constraints, high-pressure environments, or adverse weather or terrain conditions.

This is also one of the reasons why the USPA requires at least 200 jumps before allowing one to jump with a wingsuit. It ensures that the skydiving equipment is mastered and skydivers have established a routine before learning to handle even more equipment.

That being said, with proper training, preparation, and practice, wingsuit flyers develop the skills needed to manage and maneuver their equipment effectively, efficiently, and safely.

Physical Component of Wingsuit Flying

Wingsuit flying is less about strength than it is about endurance, body awareness, and cardiovascular fitness. Even though it looks like wingsuit flyers have to have a lot of strength to move their wings, it is not true. Because the wingsuit itself inflates, they do not need high strength to move it.

Wingsuit flying can be a long and physically demanding activity not only because of the jump but also because you need to carry the equipment around before. This requires a high level of endurance to maintain peak performance throughout the flight.

Wingsuit flying is an aerobic activity that requires a strong cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body’s muscles during flight. Regular cardiovascular and endurance exercise, such as running, cycling, or swimming, can help prepare wingsuit flyers for the demands of the sport.

You will also need good body awareness and control to maintain stability and control during flight. The wingsuit relies on the flyer’s body position and movements to generate lift and control the direction of flight. Adjusting this to the right extent is often not easy.

Emergency Procedures Are Difficult to Initiate In Wingsuit Flying

One of the most difficult aspects of wingsuit flying is landing and initiating emergency procedures. Landing is tricky because, unlike in other forms of skydiving, you cannot land a wingsuit directly. To land safely, wingsuit flyers first must transition from the wingsuit flight to parachute descent.

This can be challenging considering the high speed and the horizontal glide of the wingsuit flyer.

In addition, emergency procedures are more difficult to carry out. Part of the reason is that wingsuits are bulkier than traditional skydiving suits, thereby limiting the movement space of flyers.

Are looking to learn more about the adrenaline-fueled world of wingsuit flying? My latest post covers the exciting topic of landing procedures, debunking common myths and misconceptions.

The other reason for this is that in the event that a person loses control of their flight, the extent and impact of this control loss is higher with wingsuits than with traditional jumpsuits. For example, spinning around with a wingsuit will be faster than with a normal skydiving suit due to the increased surface.

Lastly, if emergency procedures are carried out, it might be very well the case that the wingsuit flyer has not yet stopped the horizontal glide, making the parachute deployment more dangerous.

Can Anyone Fly Wingsuits?

It is not possible to use a wingsuit without having a skydiving license and jump experience. As a general rule, novice wingsuit flyers are required to have the USPA B license and completed 200 skydives.

How Do I Legally Wingsuit Fly Without 200 Skydives?

As a general rule, it is not possible to legally fly a wingsuit without 200 skydives. To fly a wingsuit without 200 jumps, aspirants would either need to fake their logbook or find an instructor who is willing to teach them without the required number of jumps.

The latter will be difficult because instructors would risk losing their hard-earned instructor license. In addition, they would risk legal action in case the novice wingsuit flyer is injured. Both aspects are not worth the extra money that an instructor earns from teaching a wingsuit aspirant.

Is It Easy to Lean Wingsuit Flying?

As a whole, it is not easy to learn wingsuit flying. Without skydiving experience, candidates first need to learn skydiving before learning wingsuit flying, usually requiring over 18 months of practice. For people, who are already expert skydivers, it might or might not come easy, depending on their skill level.

Enjoy your free fall!

Photo Credits

Richard Schneider from Los Angeles, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons, cropped, the size changed

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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