Will Kitto | D-33634
By Brian Giboney
Thursday, October 1, 2020
Will Kitto, D-33634, is a highly accomplished skydiver in two diverse disciplines: canopy formation (aka canopy relative work or CRW) and wingsuit flying. In CF, he is a USPA National Champion in 4-way rotations and a national and state record holder. As a wingsuit jumper, he took second at the 2016 Red Bull Aces event and was on the team that built a 100-way formation in 2012. He is also a designer and test pilot at wingsuit manufacturer Squirrel. Like the character Will Hunting in the movie “Good Will Hunting,” this Will also has serious brain power and has put that to good use in advancing the sport.
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California
Occupation: Designer and test jumper for Squirrel
Education: B.S. in Information and Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine
Pre-Jump Superstitions: Thorough gear check/plan evaluation/what-ifs. It’s not superstition. Look for a reason something might go wrong so you can fix it and have the best chance of everything going right.
Team Name: Skydive Elsinore Too Wrapped Up! (4-way canopy formation rotations team with Eric Gallan, Sean Jones, Taylor Cole, Glen Fafard and several other semi-permanent awesome people)
Sponsor: Skydive Elsinore
Containers: Velocity Sports Equipment Infinity and Rigging Innovations Talon FX and Voodoo
Main Canopies: Squirrel Epicene Pro 130 for wingsuiting, NZ Aerosports Petra 66 for high-performance canopy piloting and Performance Designs Storm 97 for CF rotations.
Reserve Canopies: Performance Designs PDR 143 and Optimum 143, PISA Tempo 120 (I probably have the most rides on the Tempo)
AAD: Airtec Changeable Mode CYPRES 2
Disciplines: Any and all. You probably know me from wingsuiting and CRW, but I enjoy “normal” skydiving too.
Home Drop Zone: Skydive Elsinore and Skydive Perris in California
First Jump: AFF at Perris Valley in 2007.
USPA Licenses and Ratings: A-52429, B-30656, C-36652, D-33634 and PRO Rating
Championships, Medals and Records: Several USPA Nationals gold medals for CF 4-way rotations, bronze at the 2018 world meet in Australia and a handful of other medals for other CF events here and there. U.S. and California State Record for Most 4-Way Rotations (22). Most recently, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Record for Largest Four-Point Canopy Formation (43-way).
Total Number of Jumps: 6,000 CF: 2,000 Wingsuit: 2,000 Freefly: 150 FS: 150 Demos: 30 Balloon: Six BASE: 1,500w
Largest Completed Formation: 100-way wingsuit
Total Number of Cutaways: Fewer than 10. All CRW related. All were fun.
Does one jump stand out?
Whittling it down to two, both are wingsuit jumps: 1) The entirety of Red Bull Aces. This event was just the best. I can’t imagine a more engaging or fun competition format. If only it were financially viable. If you are unfamiliar with it, look it up. 2) Chasing Vincent Descols down the Jungfrau in Switzerland. We exited a helicopter somewhere over Silberhorn and flew down and around Jungfrau for what seemed like two full minutes, passing through four different climate zones and types of terrain along the way. The scale and variety of that flight left a lasting impression.
Who have been your skydiving mentors?
I have had—and continue to have—a lot of mentors: Barry Holubeck for basic skydiving, rigging, wingsuiting and BASE; Kenneth Gajda for body flight and canopy flight; Eric Gallan for CRW and rigging; Travis Fienhage for advanced body flight; and Martin Tilley for rigging and testing.
What safety item do you think is most often neglected?
I actually think most people are doing a pretty good job with their gear these days. So, I am going to randomly grasp at something else and say wind indicators. I don’t know if they are often neglected, but it is not uncommon to see people relying on others to set the pattern and just accepting whatever wind direction they are given. Most drop zones have an alternate landing area where you can set your own landing direction if you don’t like the direction set in the main. Being able to discern the wind direction while still high enough to make a decision and alter your landing pattern is a skill that takes time and conscious effort to develop.
Do you have any suggestions for students?
It may feel like everyone around you knows more than you and that they are somehow watching out for you. Know that that feeling will not keep you safe. You are responsible for saving your own life on each and every jump.
What drives your competitive spirit?
I am hugely inspired by my teammates. Achieving something as part of a team is immensely satisfying for me. Having teammates to share in the process makes the work and the success much more rewarding.
What is your greatest competition moment?
Probably breaking the barrier, getting 22 points on a rotations jump. Years of practice, trying new things that nobody else was trying … it all finally paid off, and for a brief moment we tied the world record at the world championships.
What’s the best thing about wingsuiting?
Wingsuiting is the closest thing you can get to human flight, as far as I know. Take any flying dream you have had or flight in your imagination: Wingsuiting feels exactly like that. Now, if we could just get easily attainable and reliable thrust, we’d really have something.
Do you have any stories from designing and test jumping at Squirrel?
I think a lot of people envision that test jumping is non-stop excitement. Jumping or flying things with over-the-top performance that needs to be tamed or amazing flight characteristics that the general jumping public isn’t ready for yet. The reality is much more boring. A test jump is just a normal jump with more data collection. Being a test jumper means you record as much useful information as you can while trying to be as objective as you can. Prototypes are almost always based on something that is known to work fairly well, with small changes to try to isolate improvements. You start with a foundation that works and try to improve little by little, so you aren’t chasing hundreds of variables.
Explain Will Kitto in five words or fewer:
Calm, friendly, robot, overachiever (Booya! I did it in four words, hence the addition of “overachiever.”)