Wingsuit History

Wingsuit flying has an amazing history, dating back over a 100 year. Most of the sports tribulations have gone without any official documentation, which led to us trying to capture an overview of all the steps that led to us being where we are now.

Austrian Franz Reichelt leaps from the Eiffel Tower in a winged suit.
The outcome is fatal, but it marks the beginning of many winged experiments in the years that come.

Several brave men such as Clem Sohn, Harry Ward and Leo Valentin put their mark on the discipline.
Experimenting with new wing designs, risking life and limb to pursue their dream of flight.
Most of them end up paying the ultimate price. But inspire many generations that follow.

Frenchman Patrick de Gayardon studies and jumps a revolutionary wingsuit design, marking the beginning of modern skyflying.
The suits are made of fabric only, with wings featuring a bottom and top surface, linked by ribs.
The wings inflate with ram air like modern square parachutes.
The suit features a safety system, allowing the wings to separate via a wire running down the wing and body.
He does some incredible flights at the Mont Blanc, in the Grand Canyon, etc.

Patrick makes the first wingsuit BASE-jumps in Kjerag, Norway and Brento, Italy using a skydiving rig with a Stiletto 135 canopy.
Patrick is the first to fly in close proximity to the ground, passing a few meters from l'Aiguille du Midi terasses, in front of journalists.

Patrick de Gayardon jumps out of a Pilatus Porter airplane and then flies back into the same plane with the aid of his wingsuit.

Frenchman Jean-Noel Iszstein builds a wingsuit based on the same concept as Patrick, and works on improvements together with the paraglider company ITV, and does basejumps with the wingsuit a year later.

Frenchman Loic Jean-Albert designs a wingsuit model.
The suit is a so-called open mono-wing design, with the suit encapsulating the whole body.
A variation on Patrick de Gayardon's '3 wing' design, exhibiting slightly different flight characteristics.

On a sunset jump with friend and wingsuit pilot Adrian Nicholas, Patrick de Gayardon dies due to rig modification.

Chuck Priest of Hawaiian jumpsuit company Da' Kine Rags creates a wingsuit, based on a modified design of Patrick de Gayardon.

Croatian jumpsuit designer Robert Pecnik designs a commercially available wingsuit based on Patrick de Gayardon's wingsuit.
Together with sales and marketing entrepreneur Jari Kuosma from Finland, Robert forms the company Birdman and start commercially selling wingsuits.
The wingsuit features a redesigned safety cutaway for the armwings and is called the Birdman S.U.I.T.

Stephane Zunino and Loic Jean-Albert form the company Fly Your Body and start commercially selling their wingsuit design, named the S-Fly.
The suits have zippers to attach the suit to the rig (instead of rigging cables like other designs), and also feature an emergency cutaway system.

Jari Kuosma travels around the world to sell the suits and get people to try flying them, creating a new discipline that has not stopped growing ever since.
With the advent of new gear for basejumping, it's also the year where wingsuit basejumping goes public and starts to get an ever increasing number of jumpers.

Francis Heilmann builds a wingsuit model, and over the coming years develops several innovative designs with different materials.

Robert Pecnik and a croatian tandemmaster do the first double wingsuit jump.

Englishman Adrian Nicholas sets the first Guinness record using a wingsuit.
Flying for 4:55 minutes crossing a distance of 7.5 kilometers in freefall from an altitude of 35.800 ft.

Loic Jean-Albert flies his wingsuit a few meters over the snow in Verbier, capturing the imagination of people worldwide.
The video is one of the first 'YouTube virals' that got copied, uploaded, and viewed over and over again.

Birdman Inc. starts an instructional program, creating a structured way of teaching wingsuit flying to skydivers.
Coaches are called Birdman Instructors. A limit of 200 skydives in the last 18 months, or total of 500 is set as the manditory experience level.
In the years that follow, other manufacturers also set up instructional programs.

Robert Pecnik designs the B.A.S.E. pouch, a special secondary pilot-chute pocket.
A custom Velcro bridle attachment creates an easier extraction of the pilot-chute, for a quick and clean pull on basejumps with a wingsuit.

Shaun Smith (a famous South African rock-climber) designs a wingsuit called the Sugar Glider to jump from Cape Town's Table Mountain.The suit will serve as the starting point for later 'big wing' designs, and is the first to feature an arm-wing that attaches almost at the base of the ankle.

A group of seven wingsuit flyers fly 2,5 kilometer from the Dutch Island of Texel to mainland Den Helder.

Vladimir Pesa flies a highly loaded elliptical parachute with retracted front risers together in freefall with Jari Kuosma in a wingsuit, and they briefly make contact. This is the first in a long line of wingsuit vs canopy experiments.

The Hercules Boogie in Sweden hosts the first international wingsuit formation flying event.

A Swedish 3 way wingsuit team led by Miachael Nordquis starts experimenting with slotted, sequential flying of points in wingsuit formations.

Felix Baumgarter and Max Dereta cross the 6,5 km Messina Strait from Italy to Sicili in freefall.

Robert Pecnik leaves Birdman Inc. and starts the company Phoenix-Fly.
Robert Pecnik creates a brand of wingsuits that focus on flight performance for the BASE environment.
Over the years the company also starts catering to the skydiving market, with a strong focus on acrobatic flight.
Jean-Noel Iszstein, James Boole, Mirko Schmidt and Robert himself are test pilots for the brand.

The first completed (as considered by the community) big-way formations are flown at the Hercules Boogie.
They are organized by Englishmen Andy Ford and Andrew Scott. All jumps made at the event are slot specific.
A tightly spaced 11 way 'V' formation is regarded as the best formation flown and one of the first wingsuit bigways.

German Skydiver and 'Paralog' creator Klaus Rheinwald adapts the software to be used in the worlds first performance wingsuit event 'Wings Over Marl' organised by Christian Stadtler.
The event had only time as a performance task.

A group of Norwegian BASE jumpers releases a DVD called Super Terminal.
The DVD showcases wingsuits flying in close proximity to cliff rock faces for the duration of the jump, and coins the name 'proximity flying'.
This new sub discipline quickly grows in popularity, and becomes one of the more popular activities within B.A.S.E. jumping.

Three Spanish skydivers from Projecto Alas cross the Straight of Gibraltar in wingsuits.
They set a record of 6:05 minutes freefall time, and cover 20.4 km distance from an altitude of 35.000 ft.

Chris Martin succesfully docks on a Xaos 21 canopy flown by Jeffro.
He is accompanied by Perry Throwbridge and Scott Camposs.
On a later jump, Chris Martin sadly dies, as the tiny canopy he jumps malfunctions on exit.

UK based Andy Ford and Fraser Corsan set a record 5:05 minute freefall from an altitude of 30.000 ft.

Finish wingsuit flyer Visa Parviainen starts experimenting with leg mounted Jet Engines on his wingsuit.

At a bigway boogie in Cochstedt, Germany, a Guinness 'mass exit' record is attempted. The jumpers exit a Antonov-72 cargoplane. Due to an unfortunate counting error, the 70 way exit is only a 69 way, and does not achieve record status.

The 9 person Birdman factory team Top Gun flies a series of tight formations with multiple points. They experiment with horizontal and vertical dive designs that deviate from the classic wedge shapes that have been flown up to this point.

Phoenix-Fly designer Robert Pecnik improves on the mesh inlets currently on all wingsuit models, modifying it into a scoop system on top of the shoulder. The system also allows for inflation when the suit is in reversed orientation, while backflying. This inflation system and several modified variations is now the standard on wingsuit models for most manufacturers.

South African Maria von Egidy and starts the company Jii-Wings together with Julian Boule, and creates a new wingsuit model featuring interchangeable wings.

The Hungarian jumpsuit company IntrudAir starts making its own wingsuit model for testing, and goes to commercially available designs in 2010.

Edgardo Guerrero of EG Suits and Nick Rugai of Nitro Rigging start designing and selling wingsuits.

Americans Jeff Nebelkopf and Tony Uragallo start designing and selling wingsuits through Tony Suits, a USA based jumpsuit manufacturer.

A performance competition is organised in Stupino, Russia. The competition featured a time task, as well as a freestyle round.
This is the first time freestyle is added to a competition format, and it features one performer showing a series of creative moves to a cameraman.

Loic Jean Albert becomes the first human being in a wingsuit to manage a controlled dock with Luigi Cani who flies a 39 sq/ft parachute. The canopy is flown in landable configuration (no use of retracted front risers) for a stunt planned and orchestrated by Jeb Corliss

German Christian Stadler builds a rocket powered system, flying a wingsuit using hydrogen peroxide with a silver catalyst. The system works well, but control is difficult due to the immense thrust generated by the system.

In Gransee, Germany Mirko Schmidt organises a performance based wingsuit competition. Measuring performance by GPS, and allowing competitors to race against each other in the first event featuring 3 seperate time, distance and speed tasks. Judging is done using the 'Paralog' software as developed by Klaus Rheinwald and uses consumer GPS (Wintec) to record the flights.

The first 2 way acrobatic world championships are organized at Skydive Spa, in Belgium. The format is designed by Costyn van Dongen & Jarno Cordia. Factory teams from Tony Suits, Phoenix-Fly and a range of other teams compete, flying a series of compulsory figures in teams with 2 performers and a cameraman. The competition has successfully been repeated in 2009, 2010 and has also sprung several national editions in Australia, Germany, Switzerland, and Argentina that use the same format.

At Skydive Spa, Belgium the first 5 way docked line of wingsuits is flown by Patrick de Guilebon, Tristan Whitmarsh, Jeff Nebelkopf, Jarno Cordia and Kristina Boole.

At Lake Elsinore, California a slot specific 71-way wingsuit formation is flown organised by Justin Shorb, Jeff Nebelkopf, Ed Pawlowski, Mark Harris, Taya Weis and Phil Peggs. Due to their being no official standards at the time, the jump is an unofficial world record.

Klaus Rheinwald transforms the PPC format from an onsite competition to an online scoring upload, with input from Costyn van Dongen and Jarno Cordia, creating a database of scores that to this day stands as the standard in judging.
The website also forms the backbone for all performance competitions organized, and allows comparing of scores set worldwide, together with a database of official nationals and world records. 

Paul Fortun organizes the World Base Race for the first time in Norway. A B.A.S.E. competition, flying a head to head race. The race is similar to drag racing, with a set start and finish-line.

Australian couple Heather Swan and Glenn Singleman jump from 37,000 ft (11.27 km) over central Australia setting a world record for highest wingsuit exit.

Finish wingsuit flyer Visa Parviainen achieves level flight in a wingsuit, by attaching a set of model airplane jet engines to ski-boots. This stunt is repeated and the setup upgraded several times during the following years.

At Lake Elsinore, California a slot specific 68-way formation is flown. The event is organized by Justin Shorb, Jeff Nebelkopf, Taya Weiss, Duncan Wright, Scott Callantine, Ed Pawlowski, Phil Peggs, Mark Harris, and Eli Botin. The jump is an unofficial USA record.

A wingsuit BASE jumper unintentionally impacts a mountain in Russia, due to pulling too late. The canopy doesn't fully deploy, but the angle of the hill and thick layer of snow combined enable the jumper to survive this landing (but with many broken bones) at almost terminal speed. It's the closest to landing a wingsuit yet.

Three skydivers from Projecto Alas set a record of 6:47 minutes freefall time from an altitude of 30.000 ft.

The ProBASE Wingsuit Race is organized for the first time by Mirko Schmidt and Hubert Schober.

The International Acrobatic Wingsuit Competition is organised for the 2nd time. This time in Terni, Italy. The competition has an expanded set of rules, this time awarding flying style and camerawork higher. The addition of 'style' points make for a significant improvement, and forces people to really fly their suits to score.

In Puerto Rico a group of US wingsuit flyers becomes the first to fly a 3-way formation with docks made on the feet of the base flyer.
The flyers are Mike Swearingen, Andreea Olea and Justin Shorb.

US Skydivers fly a 16-way vertical diamond at an invitational wingsuit event, organized by Justin Shorb.
The formation follows the layout of a normal diamond formation, only stacks the flyers in the vertical plane.

Fly Your Body and Tony Suits show prototypes for a commercially available integrated wingsuit and rig hybrid. The Norwegian group of basejumpers 'VKB' pioneered similar hybrid rig and tracking suit combination back in 2008, with a the suit called G3. Some other not very well documented experiments where also done before that time.

In a project they call 'Project XRW', Jeff Nebelkopf, Phill Peggs, Taya Weiss, and Will Kitto fly a series of challenging wingsuit vs canopy relative flights together with Jonathan tagle, Jessica Edgeington and Ian Bobo of the PD factory team. They fly several new style docks, among which a configuration that has the canopy rider surfing the wingsuit flyer's back. They also fly the first succesfull 2 way wingsuit dock on both left and righ hands of a canopy flyer.

Birdman Inc stops manufacturing wingsuits, and CEO Jari Kuosma steps down to pursue other ventures.

The International Acrobatic Wingsuit Competition is organized for the 3rd time, again in Terni, Italy. Some small refinements are made to the rules, and the competition format seems to come close to a fully functional set of rules. The competition format with a smaller divepool is also used for organization of national editions in Australia and Argentina.

The performance competition Wings over Gransee is organized for the 3rd time, and is this time also included officially as German DFV-cup (Deutscher Fallschirmsport Verband) German skydiving association.

The FlySight GPS is developed by Bionics Aviation / Michael Cooper. The unit gives realtime audio feedback based on GPS data, allowing jumpers to both log and improve their flight performance.

Luigi Cani jumps a wingsuit into grand canyon (USA) from the back of a motorcycle for the Discovery Channel TV show 'Stunt Junkies'.

The ProBASE Wingsuit Race is organized for the second time, and credited as the world cup of basejumping in newspapers worldwide.

UK entrepreneur Simon Repton starts a nationwide wingsuit renting business in the USA called 'Wicked Wingsuits'.

Phoenix Fly forms the 'Need4Speed' factory team. The videos released by the team get views passing several millions, and get picked up by several major news outlets and websites.

The International Acrobatic wingsuit competition is organized for the 4th time, with a grand total of 10 competiting teams from all over the world. The top teams show a new level of flying not seen before.

Wingsuit pilot Shin from Japan Ito makes it into the Guiness Book of Records with 2 high altitude records for distance and speed in a wingsuit.

Jeb Corliss flies his wingsuit through tianmen hole, China. A stunt broadcast all over the world live via satelite.

Wingsuits are featured in the big budget blockbuster 'Transformers 3', as well as in adverts for Mountain Dew and Sparkly water

A first invitational wingsuit event at Schaffen, Belgium showcases exciting new multi-point flat and vertical formations.

First National Performance Competitions organized in Italy, Benelux (Netherlands/Belgium), Ireland and USA

The performance competitions in Germany and Hungary are organized for the 4th and 6th time. The competition in Hungary shows a new high in attendance with 50+ contestants, making it one of the biggest in the world.

Wingsuit BASE jumping shows a lot closer proximity terrain flying, with lower and sharper flying. But also a dark year, with a sad total of 10 fatal wingsuit related accidents.

Jeb Corliss is severely injured when he accidentally hits a ledge with his legs on Table Mountain (SA) for a TV show.

Mini Cooper advertises their latest model with a (CGI) wingsuit stunt.

Skydive Elsinore hosts the first USA Acrobatic Wingsuit Competition, following the same format and rules as the International Acrobatic Wingsuit Competition.

Netheravon (UK) hosts the first Performance & Acrobatic Wingsuit Competitions. Both follow the known Acrobatic and Performance based competition formats.

Colombian Wingsuit Pilot Jhonathan Florez successfully sets/improves current Guiness Wingsuit Distance and Time records.

UK Wingsuit Pilot Gary Connery successful lands a wingsuit without injury into a boxrig (stacked cardboard boxes) without deploying a parachute.

The first ever docked 4-way Diamond is flown in a wingsuit by russian wingsuit pilots Pavel Demenchuk, Alex Drozdov, Dmitry Fisanov and Evgenia Boyko

Norwegian Wingsuit pilots Terje Halvorsen and Jan Petter Larsen dock on a small acrobatics airplane flown by Reidar Berntsen, and with aid of the plane achieve level flight for sustained periods.

100 wingsuit flyers attempt a bigway formation at Skydivee Perris (USA).
The result does not meet the qualifications for USPA or Guiness Records, but is unofficially the biggest, non slot specific, wingsuit formation ever flown.

Reiner Ebert survives an accidental wingsuit landing in the woods without deploying a canopy, during a wingsuit basejump. This makes Reiner the first and so far only person to ever successfully land a wingsuit without use a canopy or any other means (boxes, net etc) to slow down his fall.

WWL organizes a big televised wingsuit race in China. Similar in format to the World Base Race but timed individually with an added turn in the track

Austrian based Red Bull Skydive Team flies in close formation with 2 glider planes, which are stacked on top of each other in inverted formation.

A new wingsuit brand 'Squirrel' is launched by Matt Gerdes

Alexander Polli does a series of flybys at the famous 'Crack' location in Switzerland, with various intentional touches and even passes/breaks through solid (foam) objects placed on the edge of the cliff.

Jumping from a helicopter, Alexander Polli flies through a small hole, in a mountain in Spain.

Russian Vallery Rosov becomes first to jump a wingsuit of Mt. Everest (nearby peak 'Mt Changtse'), setting the new record for highest wingsuit basejump at 7,220 meters (23,688 feet) above sea level.

Belgian Cedric Dumont & Colombian Jhonathan Florez make a wingsuit jump over the Nezca Lines in Peru.

Zach Schroedel organizes the first wingsuit 4 way competition in USA

Birdman Inc. starts up business again, with a small line a wingsuits.

Vince Reffet and Fred Fugen jump their wingsuits from the highest building in the wold, the burj khalifa in Dubai, filmed by Julian Boole

Luke Aikins, backed by Red Bull organizes the first ever 4 way Slalom race, around banners suspended by helicopters in an event dubbed Red Bull 'Aces



Belgian Cedric Dumont & American Noah Bahnson fly their wingsuits over, and land next to the great Pyramids in Giza for the first time ever

FAI/IPC Recognises Acrobatic Wingsuit Flying (a format by Dutch Costyn van Dongen and Jarno Cordia) and Performance Flying (a format by German Klaus Reinwald) as official worldwide competition diciplines.

First ever 9 way Backflying Diamond, Paracentrum texel, Netherlands.

Australian Jumpers Glenn Singleman, Heather Swan, Roger Hugelshofer, Vicente Cajiga and camerman Paul Tozer fly a wingsuit formation over the length of the grand canyon.

Yvess Rossy and Vince Refet Fly Motorized Jetwings in 2 way dynamic formation flight over Dubai, creating amazing visuals and a form of free human flying not yet seen at this level of precission and beauty. Vince also backflies the wing for the first time ever

Brazillian Thiago Peretti flies a wingsuit back into a Pilatus Porter, as a repeat/homage to the great stunt by Patrick Degayardon back in 1997.

33 Wingsuit Pilots set the first ever world record wingsuit bigway formation, validated by FAI judges, in Moorsele, Belgium. Organized by Willy Boeykens, Jarno Cordia, Stephane Zunino and Roger Hughes

42 Wingsuit Pilots break the world record for biggest wingsuit formation, validated by FAI judges, in Moorsele, Belgium. Organized by Willy Boeykens, Jarno Cordia, Stephane Zunino and Roger Hughes

Yvess Rossy and Vince Refet fly their jet powered wings together with an A380 Jumbo Jet over Dubai

61 Wingsuit Pilots break the world record for biggest wingsuit formation, validated by FAI judges, in Perris Valley, USA. Organized by Taya Weis and Michael Swearingen


Wings4Love, a big international wingsuit basejumping gathering, is organized in China as a charity event. 

The 1st official FAI Championships of Wingsuit Performance Flying is held in Zephyrhills, USA. 2 Way Acrobatic and Wingsuit Performance are the disciplines.
Though the event organisation is troubled and critiqued by most participants, it marks the first event with recognition by the IPC / FAI

A group of Swedish Pioneers working closely with Phoenix-Fly, build and succesfully fly wingsuits in the worlds first Inclined WindTunnel in Stockhom, Sweden


Following in the footsteps of Visa Parvianen, Jarno Cordia successfully flies a Jet Powered wingsuit, achieving level flight and climb.

The worlds first Inclined Wingsuit Tunnel in Stockholm, Sweden officially opens its doors to customers.

French Manufacturer FlyYourBody closes its doors. 

Vince Reffet and Fred Fugen fly an impressive series of wingsuit formation flights with a Pilatus Porter in Empuria Brava, Spain. Docking with the plane in various configurations, as well as doing an airplane re-entry and an impressive head on pass.

The 1st ever Indoor Acrobatic Wingsuit Competition is organized at the Indoor Wingsuit Tunnel in Stockholm, Sweden.
Wingsuit Team FlyLikeBrick claims the first ever win as Acrobatic Indoor Wingsuit Champions.

Over Florida, Phoenix-Fly Team 'Need 4 Speed' flies a succesful 19 way XRW (Mixed Canopy / Wingsuit) formation.


Jarno Cordia sets the first ever Guinness record for longest Indoor Wingsuit Flight. Flying in the special wingsuit windtunnel in Stockholm, Sweden, he flies for a record time of 6 hours, 30 minutes, and 18 seconds without touching down.

The 2nd Indoor Acrobatic Wingsuit Competition is organized at the Indoor Wingsuit Tunnel in Stockholm, Sweden. This time also featuring more advanced acrobatic figures in the divepool.
Wingsuit Team FlyLikeBrick takes 1st place, and prolongs their title as Acrobatic Indoor Wingsuit World Champions. At the USPA Nationals, the same team also showcased the translation of the indoor training to the skies, taking 1st place as a guest team with a big margin.

XDubai / Jetman release a new showing Yvess Rossy, Vince Reffet and Fred Fugen flying their custom Jetpowered wings in the Norwegian mountains, including an impressive unassisted exit/take off from the cliff.

Source and Credits
This document was written by Costyn van Dongen and Jarno Cordia with information acquired from the following people and sources:
Patrick de Guillebon, Douglas Spotted Eagle, Justin Shorb, Simon Brentford, Robert Pecnik, Henny Wiggers, Mirko Schmidt, Andreea Olea