IT'S THE closest humans have come to unassisted flight and it's the hottest craze in skydiving today.
Resembling lycra-clad superheros rocketing through the stratosphere, more and more of these daredevils can be spotted in our skies as wingsuit skydiving explodes in popularity worldwide.
Based on the techniques and attributes of the native sugar glider, on a good day wingsuit skydivers can jump from above Byron Bay lighthouse and literally fly the seven kilometres back to Tyagarah airfield.
Byron Bay's most experienced “flyer”, Col Sanders, says it is the closest thing to flying he has experienced and the speciality suit can make the jump last three times longer.
“For me that's what it's all about, the amazing feeling of flying like a bird rather than falling straight down as fast as you can – it's all about flying – flying through the clouds,” he said.
Mr Sanders has just returned from an invitation-only intensive five-day training camp at Toogoolawah in Queensland with 31 of Australia's best wingsuit skydivers.
“It was amazing. Australia's best wingsuiters went to Toogoolawah and in my opinion it has lifted the Australian skill-set to world level,” he said.
“Wingsuiting is still in its early stages, but is definitely the most popular skydiving discipline in terms of growth,” he said
“A normal skydive starts at 14,000 feet and it takes 60 seconds before you open your chute at 5000 feet, but with a wingsuit you can get a three-minute freefall and if you're really working hard you can get a glide ratio of almost three-to-one – so every foot you fall you can go three foot forward.”
Due to the skill level required, skydivers need to have completed 200 jumps before they're allowed to don the suit.
“It's totally addictive, but it is so precise it takes a long time to get good at it – I've done 700 jumps in total and 400 of those have been wingsuiting jumps,” he said.
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