Formation Flying – Approach

Time for another few nuggets on how to cruise through the sky in a safer and more optimal way.
When you’re in the sky, regardless if it’s flying with a friend, or heading to your slot on a 20 way formation, it is important to stay aware of the word ‘Flying’
For a lot of people, losing altitude on a group that’s lower means collapsing and folding arm wings, and dropping knees to ‘slow down’. This by itself is very bad practice, as it basically means you stop flying, and are essentially freefalling. Differing in speed with the formation at almost every angle. The main problem here is that trying to start flying again, it will almost be like a basejumping exit. You’ll loose a lot of altitude before the suit starts to fly and build up forward speed again. For quite a long time, its hard the judge relative distances and speeds, and any correction will take several seconds to have an actual effect.

Accidents and severe high speed collisions have happened due to this bad, bad habit!

The ideal way to get down is the same way you would do it if you were an airplane: you fly!
First off, aim slightly away from the group, as you never make aggressive moves towards people as a safety precaution.

Aiming about 10 to max 15 degrees away from the group, you take a slight dive. This dive should be made ‘flying’. only using your head and shoulders to put the suit in a steeper angle, or (if you have to) a clean swoop with the arms back (straight arms! never bent!) and a nice open legwing.

This steeper angle will get you down to where you need to be. Much faster, and with more control than dropping knees or arching hard. Then (as you were flying away from the group) you can increase or decrease the angle away to let the group overtake you (forward). Similar to merging onto a parking spot on the highway, letting a friend pass, and then merging back on, to catch up with him or her from behind.

Using this zig zag move, flying slightly away from the group, and then moving back in, you can keep flying your wingsuit. And you use sideways distance to make up for the difference in forward speed. You never stop flying, and let yourself drop out of the sky like a rock.

The advantage with this technique, is that due to you still flying, the wings always catch clean air, with decent forward speed. So you always have full control.

If you are arched or balled up, and dropping down to a group with collapsed wings, all you have working for you is momentum. And any change you want to make first involves opening wings and trying to stop that motion. And that will take more than a few seconds. No immediate control. Much like an exit on a basejump, the wingsuit will take a few seconds to get up to speed and start flying again. So make sure you never stop flying it to begin with.

This subject has a lot more subtle ins and outs, but the main key is, keep flying! Never shut down your suit. And airplane that wants to come down doesn’t fold its wings up. It just makes subtle changes to its angle of attack and direction, and flies where it wants to go.

Always fly your body!*

Text: Jarno Cordia –
*French accent may apply