Letters | Sep 01, 2018

Wingsuit Instruction

We write regarding “Safety Check—Instructing Wingsuit Flyers” by Jim Crouch in the May issue of Parachutist. Mr. Crouch is right that wingsuiting is growing rapidly and that the wingsuit community has work to do. However, he gets one thing wrong when he intimates that nothing has changed since 2012. In fact, much has changed, and the changes are accelerating.

Wingsuit training is multi-faceted and requires both freedom and flexibility to change with the rapid development of suit design, competition formats and flying styles. It also, of course, requires the participation and proactive involvement of coaches, competitors and experienced jumpers.

What Mr. Crouch calls “primary-flight training" is one important part of wingsuit instruction. The proposal on the table in 2012 (a USPA-controlled instructor rating covering only a first-flight course curriculum that the involved parties did not agree upon) would not have prevented most of the incidents that have occurred since. Regulation should be targeted and effective and should support those on the front lines of instruction. Several targeted Basic Safety Requirements and the voluntary adoption at many drop zones of a rule requiring wingsuit coaches to maintain a valid USPA Coach rating have done just this and have proven effective at moving safety norms in the right direction.

Building upon this foundation, many of the best and most dedicated wingsuit pilots in the world have stepped up to the challenges posed by the exciting growth of our discipline and the fact that the USPA is not best positioned, resourced or equipped to keep up with advanced-discipline training. They include people with real knowledge of aviation, which we believe wingsuit flying falls under as a gliding-flight sport. Ex-Navy fighter pilots, jump-plane pilots, body-flight experts, veterans of big-way wingsuit formations, the winners of every major international wingsuit competition, passionate and experienced coaches with hundreds of first-flight courses under their belts and equipment manufacturers have all joined forces to address pain points in the sport of wingsuit flying, including tail strikes, mid-air collisions and cutaways (including landing off).

Next Level Flight was formed two years ago, and our members are committed to training wingsuiters and helping drop zones and jump pilots better understand and coordinate wingsuit flying to avoid incidents in all three of the above categories. Inspired by successful instructional groups in other disciplines, such as the Flight-1 team in canopy piloting, we hope to set an example for as many as possible in our community to join us in training for excellence and stepping up to the task of effective self-regulation.

Carlos Pedro Briceno | D-33140
Next Level Flight

Daniel Darby | D-33942
Arcus Flight, Team Alter Ego

Dan Dupuis | D-33713
Lightning Flight

Chris Geiler | D-32684
Wingsuit Flying World Champion

Matt Gerdes | D-32437
Next Level Flight founding member, Squirrel CEO

Will Kitto | D-33634
Squirrel designer, U.S. Parachute Team member

Robert Scott Morgan | D-32356
Next Level Flight

Chris Mort | D-30992
Next Level Flight

Val Sobol | D-32270
Next Level Flight

Mike Steen | D-30907
Next Level Flight, Squirrel

Andrew Swint | D-35633
Lightning Flight

Taya Weiss | D-27874
Lightning Flight owner

Daniel Wilson | D-35247
D.C. Wingsuit School

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