Tip Tuesday: Landing Patterns
Heading to a new DZ? Here are a few tools from Flight-1's Justin Price to help you scope it out before you even get there...
A rodeo is big fun. But it is already a kind of stunt. Be aware of that. Nobody is doing anything unsafe on purpose, but a lot of bloody stuff can happen. I’m logging 2,100+ wingsuit flights now, and it took me quite a while before I considered to take somebody on the top of me. Only go for it if you feel confident. You should have a solid background in FS (RW).
Ask your wingsuit instructors from your DZ (or neighbouring DZ) for valid information. Do not rely on YouTube. Make sure the drop zone knows your plan. Pick a load with no tandems and no AFF. Tell your fellow jumpers on board what you are up to. Go last. Pull high – both of you. Take a cell phone with you, make sure that you have the DZ number :) Use an intermediate or even smaller wingsuit; they give more room for the rider’s legs and it is easier to fly. The glide ratio won't be very good anyway, with all this weight on the wingsuiter, the fall rate will be as an average tracking dive in most cases. This information is also valid for people who want to come with you, filming. Freefly suits are fine.
Try your rodeo on a bright and sunny day, not in poor weather conditions. All lights should be on 'green' before you go, get me? Use a plane which provides you with enough space in the door. Go to the mock-up (or the plane), fully dressed, and talk about every step and every move briefly but precisely. The wingsuiter (horse) climbs out first, facing the wind; the jockey out second, grabbing the horse's harness (shoulder high) with one hand. Both have their remaining hand on the railing.
I always give a count with my head like 'out – in – go'. Then I open my arm wings about three quarters of the way, and leave my leg wing closed, for a second, otherwise the entire thing goes head-down. Keeping your head up helps, too. At this time, the jockey needs to get as small and tight on the back as possible, no long arms, no upright sitting, etc. Like a jockey in the race!
The piece is flying, the jockey may sit upright and even release harness grips. ENJOY!
But very often the exit funnels, due to lack of experience and/or poor briefing. There is a way to try – only once! – to fix it. If the exit front-loops – you, wingsuiter, go with the flow, keep front-looping the entire piece, use the energy and its direction. When it is belly to earth – go immediately as big as you can, 100% wings and arch, while the jockey remains 'invisible', ie, very small on the back. I'll say again: one try only!
Enjoy flying! Watch heading and altitude! Break off early! I always like to 'buckle off' my passenger: at approximately 6,000 feet (around 1,800m), I simply front loop. Believe me: no jockey can hold this, they all went into orbit, so far :) Don’t worry, you’re not kicking feet in faces. It is simply the best dismount (I think), no handles get touched or activated. But still, having a quick look to the emergency handles afterwards is a good idea anyway.
If the exit funneled, and no recovery worked, we find a wingsuiter flying, and a jockey, falling (and a cameraflyer?). Before the jump, talk about flight paths and pull altitudes in this situation, friends.
Clear Skies Always!
Turn your AADs on!
Watch Todd Love's wingsuit rodeo here