Catching up with... Matt Lajeunesse
Matt Lajeunesse has over 1200 BASE jumps and works tirelessly to help the BASE community in many ways...
By Chris Geiler and Matt Gerdes… and Richard Webb and Will Kitto
Wingsuit deployments are perhaps one of the most complicated tasks in skydiving. The transition from wingsuit flight to parachute flight is complex and fraught with hazard, and it is worth studying.
The current trend in wingsuit design is toward more efficient and powerful designs that are capable of higher forward speeds than we have seen before. This translates to higher risk for pilots who are not training to proper technique.
One of the most prevalent issues currently, is deploying at too high an airspeed, which can cause damage to equipment, damage to the pilot himself, and encourage violent off-heading openings which can lead to severe line / body twists.We would like to offer some examples of deployment procedures that have proven to be successful and discuss other factors which you can control to increase your chances of having safe, on heading openings, without line twists.
Wingsuit flare has been a topic of much conversation, but there seem to be some misunderstanding about how it can be used to improve wingsuit openings.
First, we must understand that forward speed increases when we initiate a flare in a high-performance wingsuit. This is a technique commonly used in Performance Competitions to get a final slingshot of speed at the end of the competition window. The expectation that flaring from high speed flight will quickly slow you down is akin to thinking that a high-performance canopy pilot should touch feet to the ground and start trying to run out their landing as soon as they stop their turn, instead of waiting for the end of their swoop.
A high performance wingsuit wants to convert this retained energy, and we need to “bleed it off” before initiating deployment. Fortunately, particularly in the BASE environment, the process of reducing our speed also involves an increase in glide, or even an altitude gain. This is a benefit in almost every realistic scenario – it gives us separation from terrain, more time to deploy, and increases our options for deployment location and altitude. In the BASE environment, when flying at high speed, an “emergency pull” no longer occurs at a mandatory low-altitude. Converting our speed allows us to separate from the terrain and pull at a safer altitude. In skydiving, converting our speed allows us more options at break-off, and allows us to choose the location and altitude of our deployment with more freedom.
Converting our speed allows us to separate from the terrain and pull at a safer altitude.
There are two common techniques to transition to a deployment-ready flight configuration:
We dive, we level out, and only then do we kick it upward and go head-high
For an Intentional Flare, keep these points in mind:
slow your forward speed and adjust your angle and the airflow over your suit to encourage clean extraction of your parachute
For the Relax/Reduce technique, keep these points in mind:
Deploying your pilot chute too early in a flare means that you risk deploying at too high an airspeed, and too low an AoA. Ideally, you should be aiming to throw your PC either:
Reducing airspeed reduces the internal pressure in your wingsuit, making the BOC reach easier, which also helps us to have a cleaner and more symmetric deployment.
Symmetry in aerodynamics is paramount. Without symmetrical lift, weight, and drag, your wing will rotate on its longitudinal axis (roll axis). This means you should make the same movement with your left and right limbs. Remember that one leg extended more than the other will cause an asymmetrical driving force. If you extend the left and bend the right leg, you will turn slightly. Even a slight turn will make line twists more likely.
Finally, canopy choice is an important consideration. Old parachutes may still be reasonable for use with smaller wingsuits, but the peace of mind that results from more consistent openings makes a wingsuit specific canopy well worth the investment before you begin flying a high performance suit. There is a very good reason why several companies have spent time and money producing canopies specifically for wingsuiting, and why some of those products have become so popular amongst leading pilots. The money you save on reserve repacks may offset the cost of a more reliable wingsuit canopy. When you are packing your wingsuit canopy, consider following the advice described in this article. We have found that it works well for us and we recommend that all wingsuit pilots consider the method.
Thanks for reading, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or comments. Our Next Level team instructors are available for coaching at a 1:1 ratio, at camps, or even at a DZ seminar level. Get in touch!
Article by Chris Geiler and Matt Gerdes… and Richard Webb and Will Kitto