Safety Check | Sep 01, 2010
Safety Check | Wings in Water

Douglas Spotted Eagle

Everyone who holds a USPA B or higher license is required to have undergone live water training and should have an under­standing of how to survive an unintentional water landing. However, wingsuits add another dimension to water landings and can complicate an already difficult situation. Recently, a group of jumpers set out to dis­cover how a wingsuit water landing might differ from one in a traditional suit. They per­formed a total of 46 water entries into swim­ming pools, including some into a pool that had a moving current. They entered from diving boards and platforms, with and with­out attached main canopies, wearing fully zipped and partially zipped suits, and were sometimes fully clothed beneath those suits, including wearing heavy boots.

The experiments led to the following conclusions:

  • Just as for a standard water entry, the wingsuit jumper should disconnect his chest strap, if possible, prior to touchdown. After undoing the chest strap, he should also unzip as many of the arm and body zippers as possible prior to entry.
  • The tail wing of the suit may fill with water after entry (the cells that hold air also hold water). This can make it difficult for the jumper to keep his head above water when on his stomach, so he should roll over onto his back. If there is a reserve in the reserve container, it will support the jumper's body quite well. The jumper should not attempt to tread water, as the water-filled tail-wing cells can pull him under.
  • After entry, the jumper should then release or loosen his leg straps and unzip the leg wing.
  • If the jumper is in moving water, it is usually best for him to cut away an attached can­opy, since it may drag a jumper through the current. A hook knife will be necessary if the jumper lands under a reserve.
  • Cutting away the arm wings may be detri­mental to the escape process since, when unhooked, the waterlogged wings may drag the jumper's arms straight down.
  • While staying on his back, the jumper can peel his rig's shoulder straps and the wing- suit's arms off of his upper body, which will cause his legs to slide more deeply into the loosened leg straps. Once his upper body is free, he can pitch forward and dive away from the rig while pulling the legs free of the leg straps and the wingsuit's legs.

The experimenters also found that:

  • With a cutaway main and a packed reserve, a rig in fresh water will float for approxi­mately 30 minutes (it will float a few minutes longer in salt water).
  • In a high current with light wind, the wingsuit itself will push a jumper along surprisingly quickly. In fact, a wingsuit on a jumper can puli him along more quickly than an attached canopy can.
  • If you are planning a wingsuit flight over water, it's a great idea to review these find­ings and to review the water-landing proce­dures in Section 5-1 of the USPA Skydiver's Information Manual. Of course, avoiding landing in water is the best option. But if you do find yourself in an ocean, river or lake, be prepared, work quickly and efficiently, and stay calm to survive.

Douglas Spotted Eagle | D-29060
AFF Instructor, Coach Examiner, PRO Rating Phoenix-Fly Wingsuit Examiner

Rate this article:
No rating
Print

Number of views (1693)/Comments (0)

Please login or register to post comments.