I'm Tony Uragallo, skydiver, BASE jumper, and manufacturer of skydiving gear since 1975. I've dedicated my life to human flight, AMA!
Hi Reddit, I'm Tony Uragallo.
And I'm here with my daughter who's going to type in my answers as I sew. Right now I'm sewing up wingsuits for my athletes that are competing in the wingsuit BASE race in China in a few weeks.
World Championship standings for 2015: http://worldwingsuitleague.com/world-championship-standings-2015).
Some things about me:
In the past I've also built the wingsuit that Gary Connery used to do the first intentional wingsuit landing without a canopy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Connery#World.27s_first_wingsuit_landing_without_a_parachute
I was the first to cut the corners off the square parachute to make it elliptical, even though everyone would ask me 'why, when the square works fine?'
EDIT: Thanks guys, it's been fun! I'll jump online tonight and see if there are any new questions.
I've been in the sport since 1970, and I haven't stopped since. Except for the year off when I broke my leg in 5 places from a canopy collision.
My favorite thing to do is talk about human flight and how to achieve the next best thing. So Reddit, what would you like to ask me?
It is a fabulous product, in two and a half days to turn a small pile of fabric into a wing you can wear to fly your body, or use as a blanket when it's cold, haha. We've had a couple of episodes filmed, how it's made and how do they do it, I'll see if I can get someone to find the links. We could take a video, but there's house secrets that we don't want our competitors to see...
What do you see as the future of the sport? Will there be any foreseeable improvements to the gear that will allow for longer periods of sustained flight?
The sport is changing all the time, and gear will keep improving, always and forever. EDIT: Didn't answer the first question.
Of all the dropzones in the world you've jumped, is there 1 that stands out? Big or small, just 1 place that you think everybody should experience?
Also, can I marry yourr daughter?
Lauterbrunnen. The valley in Switzerland.
You should ask her.
Just to be clear, there are a lot of BASE jumping spots, but there's also a helicopter and tandem school in the middle of the valley.
Hi Tony, 2 questions
Since Jeff left your company (then sadly left us all) who is the main innovator of your wingsuit designs?
What is the status of the fusion project, I heard talk of moving to canopy towards the tail for a cleaner profile which sounds interesting but complicated
Jeff left me five years ago, so I've been on my own for a long time with the designing.
The fusion is available to order, and I believe it to be a superior flying unit. But because you can't skydive with it's limiting as to when you can use it. But I build them upon request.
Thanks, a follow up question
Are you a big star wars fan. Jedei, R2B2... ;)
Most of it happened by accident, and then I kinda got on a roll.
One last question before I go to sleep Tony :)
How welcoming is the professional skydiving/BASE community?
Theoretically, do you think if somebody with say 300+ skydiving jumps, 75+ of those in a wingsuit, and 50 or so BASE jumps, showed up in Switzerland, would "insert experienced base jumper name here" most likely be willing to jump as less complicated exit with them, and teach them the ropes?
Or is there definitely some segregation between pro jumpers and those new to BASE?
Thanks a lot for the AMA! I hope I meet you if I ever start skydiving!
It's absolutely imperative that you have an instructor. There's so many things to learn with BASE, and they'll be welcoming. They love it.
I'm in my AFF course right now in the UK (I'm in the middle of my consolidation jumps for the moment). Best thing I've ever done!!!
I was asking around at my Dz (Netheravon) about jumpsuits and your name popped up repeatedly as one of the best manufacturers there is.
Do you think it's worth investing in a good quality new FS suit as an A-Licence or is it best to wait a little longer? Also, how did you get into the sport and what keeps you going?
Blue skies mate!
Thank you. I recommend to people at your level to get a freefly leg on a flat-fly suit. And then you can do both. And later on if you do 4-way, then you'll get a full-on bootie suit. But it's hard to sitfly in a bootie suit.
Recently, there were lots of wingsuite fatalities. The saddest is many of them were pro flyers. What do you see in this? Is the pace of wingsuiting going too fast?
The pace is going just fine. But yes, the number of experienced pilots dying is horrifying, and something that needs addressing in everyones pre-flight brief. How to have the most fun over a long period of time, not all on that one jump.
With your wingsuits, what does the design process look like? I feel like there's all sorts of fluid dynamic simulation and such that you could make use of. Do you go this route, or do you find a more trial-and-error type process as being more beneficial?
We've talked about fluid dynamics for a long time. And windtunnel testing. But for now, I jump the suit and know immediately if it needs changing, and I'm good at figuring out what the changes need to be. EDIT: spelling
What do you think of the swiss jet man?
Yves Rossy! He's a fabulous bloke and years ahead of his time!
Does your the size of your nose help or hurt your flying?
LizandTheo! Great to hear from you. The size of my nose is a massive help and I attribute it to my successes in wingsuit competition.
Hello Tony and Flora! I appreciate your taking the time to answer our questions - reading over the thread, it seems you've covered lots of good ground.
My question is specifically about tracking suits (skydiving application) and wanted to ask if that's something you've thought about getting into? I am asking because I fly Phoenix-fly tracking suit now - but I really like what the SS guys have done with theirs. However, If you have something in the wings, so to say - I'd love to see it, perhaps test it and look at what your innovations would be for my currently favorite kind of flying suit (no wingsuits at my local DZ so it's as close as I can get)
I've enjoyed seeing the new brands that are being born out of our sport and have been watching the Squirrel Suits company with great interest. They've crafted up some nice tech and suits, as such, here is a second question - How are the relationships between companies in the industry? I mean, I know that there is natural competition because you are a business, but are there opportunities to get together and discuss safety and design solutions that can become "Standard" in order to help the sport continue to evolve safety standards?
Thanks again for taking the time today and best of luck in China!
We have a tracking suit! It's called the Masai and it has inflated tubes down the sides of the body, and the entire inseam, to give you extra surface area with a flatter profile.
Manufacturers don't really 'get together' but when a company comes up with something really innovative, most everyone does a variation of the same thing. So you could say we're all developing the standard as we go along.
Tony Suits do make a tracking suit, the masai. http://www.tonywingsuits.com/masai.html
It is not a beginner tracking suit though and being one piece it is more complex to gear up than the 2 piece suits made by PhoenixFly, Squirrel, Raven Etc. but will have the edge in performance
The twin zips make it just as easy as a wingsuit to put your rig on like normal, and then hook your feet into the booties afterwards.
Do you still get the same level rush of adrenaline when sky-diving or BASE jumping as you did when your first time?
No, but, that's the beauty of skydiving, you always find something new to try in the air. The rush of skydiving isn't so much the fact that you're jumping out of an airplane, its the flying skills you're trying to learn on this jump. You're always finding new tasks to learn. After 44 years in the sport I'm still finding new stuff to try...it's the best sport in the world for that.
Hi Tony! Love your suits.
As you've been in the headlights of the sport for some years now, how do you think social media/small format cameras have influenced the sport of skydiving/BASE? Have they influenced you personally?
Besides that, how do you believe us skydivers/BASE jumpers should deal with newbies with proximity fever? Do we laugh it off as usual, and see a minority try it anyway and get hurt? Or do we take the risk of teaching with a possible same outcome?
Thanks! Hope to have the pleasure of meeting you one day.
Massive! Cameras have changed the sport, and made it so accessible for the public to view something that's been unviewable. Small camera's with high definition are brilliant. Even TV stations can use our footage to take it out to the public. For me personally they help me design the suit. Being able to see the suit flying is really helpful. Inflating the suit in my shop is different to seeing it inflated in the air.
Oh, no you have to teach. Teach, teach, teach. Teach to fly out and away, and land safely. And just get a tiny bit closer with every jump. Just attempting to fly proximity with a mountain without experience is incredibly dangerous. If pro's are not surviving it, how are you going to with your limited experience?
I hope to meet you too!
Hi Tony, I was extremely impressed by you when I attended a lecture you gave at WFFC 1997 in Quincey and love how you have advanced the sport since then. Do you think we will be able to safely land wingsuites without the need to deploy parachutes? (Mainstream, not stunts on cardboard boxes)
No. No we hurt ourselves landing parachutes, it will never be normal to land a wing half that size. IMO. Until wingsuits have the area or efficiency of a hang-glider, that is.
What has been the most spectacular, memorable view you have experienced while skydiving or BASE jumping?
The views in BASE are the best, the mountains are spectacular. Just stopping and taking a break on the climb to look at the views. The Eiger with Dean Potter was probably the best climb, though being that exposed made me nauseous.
You, Robert Pecnik and Matt Gerdes all jump out of a plane in your biggest suits, who stays in the air the longest assuming you all pull above 2k?
What is your personal best average glide ratio over the duration of a skydive?
What flight time do you think is possible on a basejump in current day suits? What about in 5 years time? Will people ever be able to ride thermals?
The lightest person in the best suit.
Personal best glide ratio was during a competition, with a dive preceding the run: 4.26 glide ratio is my best, for 1,000 meter heigh working window.
The flight time on a BASE jump depends on how high it is. Best I've seen is 2 minutes from 6,000 feet. It'll keep improving each year. If I knew what it was in 5 years time, I'd build it now. We've getting lift from thermals now, and from ridge-lift when BASE jumping.
hi, tony! thanks for this ama!
i'm living in a third world country and i've been amazed by wingsuit basejumping since first time i've seen it on the internet. since here we don't have that how would it be possible for me to learn it and, who knows, maybe one day go professional? having a lot of money is not an option. any advice?
Learning to wingsuit BASE is a big undertaking. First, you need 200 skydives. Then you need to get good at wingsuiting, then get good at BASE, and then put the two together. It's a long process, but a fun ride in many exotic places. But BASE jumping is nothing like skydiving. Skydiving is incredibly simple in comparison.
What's the story behind the Jonathan canopy?
P.S. I'm already missing your daughter dearly over here on the west coast!
Back in the day, when everyone was jumping rectangles, I saw a ridge-surfing parachute with the rear corners cut off. And I wondered how that would be for skydiving. So I started making kites, testing different shapes, and while I was flying them, people asked, why the different shapes? and what's wrong with the rectangle? to which I usually replied, I don't know. And they'd ask, how will you steer it if you cut the corners off? to which I replied I don't know. And all of that reminded me of the book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach (who skydived at the time). In the book all the seagulls are asking Jonathan, why do you want to fly higher and faster, what's wrong with hunting food all day like the rest of us? So I called the parachute Jonathan, after the seagull, and then later, we put airlocks in it and it became the Jedei. P.S. My daughter said you should visit her.
EDIT: It's spelled Jedei, not Jedi.
I recently lost a lot of weight and one of the things that I've wanted to do since I got down to around 250 lbs is go skydiving. I set myself a goal to get to 220 lbs before I would go out of fear of being turned down because of the strict weight limits.
I've hit my goal and I really want to go, but I'm afraid that it's too cold to go skydiving now (i'm located in northern Ohio). Is temperature an actual problem when skydiving? If so, what is the general accepted minimum temperature to make a jump?
Or do your skydiving suits keep you pretty well insulated?
It's a cold sport, you're going very fast through cold air. Unlike skiing, you're not jumping around, so it's better in the warmer climate. Phone your local dropzone and ask them if they're still jumping. But it's more enjoyable when it's warm of course.
Over the years, I'm sure you have been faced with adversity and hardships, not to mention resistance to new ideas. How have you dealt with these situations to become the amazing person and pioneer you are today?
I survive the ups and downs of life. It's never all plain-sailing. Just struggle through the downs and enjoy the ups.
As a non-skydiver, this is a question which really makes me reconsider whether or not to approach skydiving in the next few years, once I finish up school:
Nowadays, with all the exposure skydiving, and more specifically wingsuit BASE is getting on social media, do you think this will create problems with future skydiving/BASE generations?
Is it possible that the influx in the presence of the sport on social media will attract the attention of perhaps those who are not as cautious or "pure adrenaline seekers", and possibly increase fatality rates in the future?
EDIT: Up at 2 am Australian time to ask a few questions. Thank god it's holidays!
Yep, darwinian rules, definitely. And there's no control right now. We're talking about getting more control in BASE. But anyone can buy a base rig, walk up a mountain and jump off of it. And that's very sad. Wuffo's will call up wingsuit schools and try to rent wingsuits, when they've never done a jump, ever. Isn't that weird? Iv'e even heard of guys doing their first BASE jump with a wingsuit.
EDIT: G'day and thanks!
hopefully large ones!
What's an Apache? ;)
Design of the suit. Just like with Parachutes, you may hear someone say they have a Pilot 165. In this case they're referring to a square design, Aerodyne Pilot canopy, 165 square foot in size. (the size of the canopy varies on skill and weight, if you weigh more you're going to need a bigger canopy to slow you down. While if you want a faster speed then you can downsize).
There are varying models like say a Sabre2 which is a semi eliptical (cliped corners of the parachute) or a PD stiletto Which is a elliptical. Generally the more elliptical the more aggressive, they turn sharper and fall faster. Where as a square you can pull the toggle (the cord you use to steer and brake) down to your ribs and you'll go in a 45 degree turn, with an elliptical if you make the same pull down to your ribs you'll likely end up in a 90 or a 100 degree turn, above the parachute as you fall. Some are so sensitive you can even turn just by leaning in the harness...
As you would expect, these aren't recommenced for beginners, who normally start on a 200-230 sqft, square design.
Anyway, the apache is one of Tony's suits.
Compared to something a little more minimalist like an I-bird you've got less surface area and so more inputs are needed to see changes.
Well, thank you for responding. I wouldn't have compared it with an I-bird, they're on opposite ends of the spectrum. An Apache was the start of a revolution of wingsiting, for the structure that provided weightlessness on the arms. Fiercely criticized at first, it has now become the norm for state of the art wingsuits, as you can see its been adopted by other manufacturers.
how do you go about picking the airfoil for your designs?
Trial and error. I just keep making prototypes and you feel for the difference.
do you go for high camber for high speed and high lift? What about the suits that backfky? more semetrical?
Good question! It's a constant toss up about the height of the rib and improving lift, against the thinner wing that could go faster, but you lose glide ratio. It's hard to try every shape with every different rib.
Yes, on the new backfly suits I'm going for a symmetrical airfoil.
So do you use set templates for certain sizes ranges? or just scale everything in the computer from the prototype? There are some really neat things you guys are doing, can't wait to try one of the new back fly suits
Also, it's hard to keep laminar flow on a wingsuit. It can only be done when you're flying fast, as the air breaks away right past the leading edge when you're flying slow. My favourite airfoil changes from year to year depending on the suit.
so, are the base race suits different then your normal big wing skydiving suits. could the base race suits be used for xrw with the new parachutes out? Also, thank you for taking the time to reply
I don't know yet. It's too soon to say. I'm not impressed with the glide ratio of them. All my life I've built suits for glide ratio, now speed is the first criteria. I don't see glide ratio improving, which saddens me. So perhaps the more Rebel-style is the better all-around suit design for XRW, designed to fly slow. It's the holder of the distance and time record right now in PPC. The other style, the Jedei 2 (the racing suit), is a suit for distance and speed. And you get the distance from the speed, but you don't get the time.
What's always asked of a wing is to fly fast, and slow. And a wing usually does one or the other. To get fast AND slow is a lot to ask. A slow wing can get turbulent at high speeds, we sometimes reach 200 mph total speed. I think it's a fairly serious speed in the airplane world, and here's your body, inside this wing, that can create the biggest percentage of aileron to wing area. Comparing itself with an eagle, more than an airplane.
EDIT: Clarified answer, and it's spelled Jedei, not Jedi.
Yes, everything is scaled in the computer from the master pattern.
Tony! You are truly my hero when it comes to living life with passion and never giving up on the things that matter. Where do you think your drive and zest for life comes from? How do you keep believing in love and adventure year after year?
I enjoy my job, I enjoy not having an alarm clock, and only working when I want, even though right now I'm working 7 days a week. And enjoying the successes I have, it keeps me going.
Hello there Tony, I am still plugging away on my I-Bird have about 20 jumps. I think I am ready for the next step up now and I'm wondering if you have a basic check list of maneuvers or skills one should have before upsizing? Ps. Hi Flora!
No, you just do as you feel best. Go for it. Just don't go too fast, too big. And remember small people don't need big suits. Small suits are actually more efficient for their size. You add a foot an area to gain an inch of performance it seems. EDIT: Flora says hi!
Tony - It seems as though wingsuit shape/cut design hasn't changed in the last two or three years.
New models from numerous manufacturers have focused mainly on different features (escape arms, variable pressurization, cleaner pull contraptions, etc) rather than changing the actual cut or shape of the wing. Do you see this trend continuing in the future? Are you planning any new suits that are significant departures from the current style of wingsuits?
There are lots of different shapes! We've done a lot with creating different shaped wings, some would say we were the first...
To your second question, we're testing all the time, you have to do baby-steps. If you do too much on one jump, it's really hard to figure out what it was that changed. Like the question earlier, I do think it would be helpful to use a computer aided design. With trial and error you can't deviate too far from the norm.
So I'm 19(m) in college and I have always wanted to skydive/wingsuit for the longest time. My question is about how much does starting this super cool hobby cost? Lessons so I can jump single, a suit, and how much dies the average trip in a plane cost? I really want to start this summer on break.
Contact your local skydiving center and ask them how much their freefall courses are. The plane ticket will be included in the course package costs. Good luck!
Is 60 years old too late to begin skydiving/wingsuiting?
Skydiving or wingsuiting? Wingsuiting is the easiest event to learn out of all of them. And I'd recommend it for that age.
Really? I'm only just chipping away at ending my A cert, Wingsuits seem far beyond for me (not to mention the cost :/)
The regulatory here in Australia, the APF seems to disagree with you, here you need 200 jumps, freefall time and a couple of accuracy landings to get a D cert required for a wingsuit. where as say freeflying is a B cert and a course you do with a coach that you can start pretty much straight after AFF.
I wasn't talking about for a beginner, I was talking about an older bodied person, once they have the experience to learn wingsuiting and can overcome the initial fear of it, they'll find it easier to learn than flying head down for example.
As our sport has progressed and gained attention and especially wingsuiting, do you see a need to have structured official first flight courses for wingsuits, like AFF?
Yes. It's possible but illegal on most dropzones to learn without taking a course. It's not advisable.
Good morning Tony,
What would you suggest for someone that wants to start BASE jumping with a wing suit, or even new wingsuiters in general? Steps and milestones that should be met for safety reasons?
Personally I prefer BASE with a wingsuit. I love being able to fly to the desired opening point. But most instructors want to see you do a lot of BASE jumps before you get to wingsuiting.
Thank you for your reply!
I've heard from a lot of sources that a safe number to start BASE jumping/Wingsuiting is 200 skydives, it sounds logical since it helps to get the skills that you need to be safe and have the muscle memory to control what we do. Would about the same thing be a good idea for launching off a cliff with a wingsuit? I.E. 200 BASE jumps?
It depends on your wingsuit experience. I think a lot of wingsuit jumps under your belt makes wingsuit BASE easier. Start with a small wingsuit, it's the way to go. Do not try a big wingsuit until you're ready. If you're shaking in your boots (really nervous) on the exit, then you have a higher chance of creating a situation and not handling it correctly. Start small and progress slowly.
Mr. Uragallo. Big fan of your work and as a proud owner of one of the most flamboyant sit suits (of your's may i add ;-) ) I have to ask. When did you first decide that Jump-suits was a thing you'd get into.
And was it a trial and error "lets see if this works out for me" kind of thing, or did you immediately know that this was the thing you were going to get into.
Also when did you transition into manufacturing of wingsuits, and what made you branch off into that category? or have you always been a wingsuit manufacturer?
Thanks for the inspiration sir, I truly hope I have the opportunity to meet you some day. And thanks for making the wonderful sit suit (even though others seem to not like it, lol)
When I discovered that I wouldn't have to get on the London bus to go to work in the rain as a bricklayer.
I didn't know. I made two jumpsuits and said never again, both times. But when the third person asked me to make them a suit, I went out and bought a commercial machine and I loved it after that. I enjoyed tremendously listening to music and the traffic jam reports as I made suits in my bedroom.
I used to do it for Patrick deGayardon back in the 90's. But I only made the suit and he added the wings. I seriously got into developing it 10 years ago when I saw how popular it was, and it was something I loved immediately. Experimenting with the different suits and results I get by making small changes. When I made parachutes, I'd spend a week making a prototype and couldn't tell the difference between it and the production line parachute. I didn't like that very much.
So when kids/grand kids need something sewed, I assume they come to grandpa, instead of grandma ;-)
correct. But Grandma is a good sewer too
Hey Tony and Flora, great to see you on here! As a newbie, i've never felt the unique and special kind of terror/joy that comes from your first BASE jump. Even just running through the memories of your internal monologue during that time is exciting. What goes through your head prior to particularly dangerous jumps? Do you ever second guess yourself and get scared anymore?
You have to attain a calm-ness, and remember the basics. If you're looking down at a short rock drop, you're probably going to hit it. Remember to look out and keep your chin up, and you need a relaxed state to be able to do it properly. That's why not biting off too much as a newbie is important.
When and where can I jump with you?
Come to Skydive City at Zephyrhills, Florida! Though during the summers I go on tour around the states and in Europe, but I might stay closer to home this year.
You got yourself a deal.
Come to Flock n Dock! It starts Thursday, April 30 and goes through Sunday, May 3, 2015.
How would you recommend someone gets into doing this regularly? I've always wanted to get into skydiving/base jumping but wasn't sure what my options were in my area.
Find a dropzone and get your skydiving rating. You can do that by finding the closest dropzone, or finding a popular dropzone and spending a week to get your skydiving rating. Then you'll want a min of 200 (current) skydives before learning to wingsuit. And then advance your wingsuit skills as much as possible, before finding an instructor to start BASE jumping. Good luck!
Someone (from another post) jokingly asked why my company is called Tony Suits, and actually, it was originally called something else, but people kept saying Tony's suits, so we just went with it.
Hi Tony, what is the next Awesome wingsuit after your famous Jedi....?Will we see something that can Start faster and maybe go Up alot and go really fast?
Right now I'm working on race suits. The big deal right now is to be the first across the finish line, like in the China race and RedBull Aces. So right now the newest suits are being designed for more speed rather than glide ratio. But, I have the Rebel 2 off to the side, and I'm working on the Rebel 3 that is more about glide ratio...
What is Tony Suits looking at as the next big step in wingsuit design?
More glide ratio.
What is the lowest rock drop that has ever been jumped with a tonysuit?
Don't know, but I'd guess 3 seconds?
How do your gigantic testicles not interfere with your flight balance? srs
Haha, there's no answer to that. Though, I do think they're needed.
How many skydives did you have before your first BASE? What do you think would be an appropriate amount for most people?
Where would you recommend someone start if they want to get into BASE jumping and skydiving?
Find a good BASE jumping instructor. There's many places to learn BASE, and a lot of great instructors.
How much do you miss the Richmond boogie?
Mary (my lovely wife) was just telling us Richmond was the first to do the "open manifest" that became so popular at the World Freefall Convention. Which is where jumpers go directly to the loading area to manifest. When you walk up they're yelling out to you to manifest with their plane, hawking slots.
What is the quality control process like in building wingsuits?
First, the sizes are checked against their height and weight, to make sure the measurements are correct. Then, the cut pieces are checked for size adjustments and correct colors. Then each piece and options are checked before they're sewn together. Often the suit is then inflated with a final options check, before shipping.
Ever since I did my first bungee, I want to make jumping off of very high places a passion.. I live in Sri Lanka and there are no trainings or anything over here.. Still, it's craving inside.. What would you advice for us new comers and who want to pursue skydiving and going forward?
Find a safe dropzone and just start skydiving.
Tony couple of questions on how to go fast round clouds. On your suits you have some sort of jazzy leading edge material... over the arm. looks like dacron to me, almost fibre glass with a clear layer. What is it?! Cant see on your site. Also, the scorpion seems like it's broken some ground showing smaller suits = less drag. Do you think it's like sailplanes, where we're moving to more slick designs and maybe less big and fat?
I've tried lots of different leading edges, and my fav is the carbon-laminate (we call it) both on the leading edge and below the arm zipper.
The Scorpion does great for a smaller suit. I have the Scorpion 2 now, with the bigger leg, and it's doing great.
I'm always trying to improve on my designs. Always.
If I don't want to choose between RW and freeflying, but I only want to buy one jumpsuit then what should I do?
Freefly leg on an RW suit.
Where do you think the future of this sport is? do you think Proxy flying really is the end of the line?
Of BASE jumping? Who knows. What else is there other than proxy? Flying around pylons is the new thing. Who knows. Flying around clouds or peaks is such a fabulous thrill, but who knows where that can go? Pylons? Pylons on the slopes perhaps...
Hey Tony. I've been jumping for a couple of years now and just started competing in canopy piloting. I've yet to try a wingsuit, but see it happening in the next year or two. Couple of questions:
- What was your thought process behind turning a square into an elliptical?
- I currently fly a Velo 90 and love it. With the introduction of the Petra, Peregrine, Leia, and yet-to-be-released PD terminal Peregrine, it feels like we're reaching the outer edge of what's possible with a wing. Knowing that PD & NZA do a bunch of testing that the public doesn't know about, are there any planforms out there that might not have been tested as of yet and may yield higher/faster/farther results?
- Squirrel recently burst onto the scene and have been making huge waves in the BASE community. Do you see their meteoric rise continuing or will their time as flavor of the month come to an end as another manufacturer rises or one of the originals releases a new suit?
- See post from earlier: <Back in the day, when everyone was jumping rectangles, I saw a ridge-surfing parachute with the rear corners cut off. And I wondered how that would be for skydiving. So I started making kites, testing different shapes, and while I was flying them, people asked, why the different shapes? and what's wrong with the rectangle? to which I usually replied, I don't know. And they'd ask, how will you steer it if you cut the corners off? to which I replied I don't know. And all of that reminded me of the book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach (who skydived at the time). In the book all the seagulls are asking Jonathan, why do you want to fly higher and faster, what's wrong with hunting food all day like the rest of us? So I called the parachute Jonathan, after the seagull, and then later, we put airlocks in it and it became the Jedei.
- Of course. Designs will always keep developing. It's as good as they've found so far, but I believe there's always something new to discover.
- Only time will tell.
EDIT: It's spelled Jedei, not Jedi.
What is your favorite kind of wingsuit competition? I think Red Bull aces is the best format so far, in terms of safety and excitement. Do you have any competition format ideas that haven't been tried yet? If red bull aces style competitions that reward a more agile suit start to take off will you start making suits more geared towards that type of flying? Or just stick to your domination of the BASE race type events?
Another great group of questions!
I have thoroughly enjoyed every wingsuit comp I've ever done, except for the Stechelberg one which was too low. Diving at the ground for 20 seconds from 2,000 feet, is not my idea of a fun skydive.
I can't think of any other competition like these guys are doing. They've coming up with new ones all the time, and I'm gobsmacked every time. The thrill of doing them is the highlight of my career. More so than the 6 world meets I've done competing for my country, which at that time I thought was it. And at age 56 I found something to top being at the world championships. Isn't life grand?
It's like two markets, two suits. Glide ratio and speed. Right now it's all about racing. My top suits are built to be first across the line. The skydiving competitions need glide ratio, and all wingsuiters adore glide ratio. So that's the more popular suit.
hi tony and flora. tony, how many jumps did you have and how old were you (what year) when you made your first wing suit jump? Also, what was the first wing suit you jumped?
The Birdman Classic was the first wingsuit I jumped 15 years ago (1999) when they first came out. I had over 9,000 jumps (I'm guessing, I don't log).
I've jumped once and would happily do it for a living. How do I make that happen?
Get your rating and find a dropzone that's hiring
How many people do you know who have died BASE jumping?
Know personally? Oh, I'd guess 15. I don't know, it's probably more than that. I could say, lots. I try not to think about it.
After knowing so many people who died doing it, what makes you want to continue?
You just keep going, they wouldn't want me to stop.
Hello again Tony, here is another question if it's not too late over there!
I've read that you and Mary have 6 children, as well as a couple of grandchildren!
Do any of your children skydive or BASE jump?
If yes, did you ever pressure them to jump or did they have a natural desire to follow your footsteps?
Do you worry with the knowledge that your children are taking part in a high risk sport? Did you ever try to persuade them not to skydive? Or do you want your children to experience the same beauty you do when skydiving/ BASE jumping?
I wish I had a skydiver in the family! Would be a lot less difficult to explain it to the parents!
Yep, we have 6 kids. I'm a grandfather of one and my wife is a great-grandmother. Our children (not grandchildren) have all done tandems, but so far only one has taken up skydiving and speedflying, but not BASE jumping.
I would never pressure anyone to jump. In fact, seeing my children jump terrifies me. So they have to really want to do it before I'll help with encouraging them.
Being a skydiver family is really great, though. Whether they skydive or not they understand and are engaged in the discussions and promotions of the sport, and they get to see the world via the exploits of all our friends overseas. All four of my children work for me, so they get to meet all these crazy foreigners that walk into my shop.
Tony, out of curiosity, how many hours have you spent in a wind tunnel (if any)?
Also, are there any wind tunnels in existence that could accommodate the horizontal factor which wingsuits present?
Do you know of any plans to create tunnels like these? How would they benefit wingsuit design and efficiency?
I've just got an hour in the wing tunnel. I can see the skydivers doing great. Tunnel rats reign supreme at deflecting air.
There are horizontal tunnels. It's just expensive. Probably cheaper to skydive, as a minute of freefall in a wingsuit costs a third less on a skydive.
Design would be great. I want to run smoke over a wingsuit!
How have you survived so long, while such a high percentage using wing suits perish? Not as risky maneuvers?
Yes. I take it very easy, even though some people think I'm crazy, I'm very careful with my flights.
What's you biggest piece of advice to novice jumpers, specifically those just off student status?
Do lots of jumps. Lots and lots of jumps. And quality jumps. Always trying to go beyond. Always trying something new. Don't get locked into one event. People think they have to do one event to get good, to concentrate on that one thing. But I say do lots of different stuff to learn lots of things.
Would you rather go for a space flight with a visit to the ISS or do a James-Cameron-Style dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench?
Oh space any day. Water is scary.
Yeah, Z-p rules. I even prefer a cross-braced for the landings.
What's the typical angle of attack on proximity flying? How do you know beforehand whether or not it is possible to go down a face of a mountain?
I was very young in my BASE career and only did exits that were established. A lot of guys know their glide ratio and would use laser sights to get distances and trajectories. They would predict that they would be a certain number of degrees below their optimal glide ratio so they can flare up and out of a possible situation.
Are there any mountains in particular here in the U.S. that would be of interest for proximity flying? I know you're no longer interested in BASE/proximity but if it was possible here, what are some of the best possible spots?
Yosemite has hundreds of fabulous jumps, but it's illegal in the land of the free.
Tony, thanks for doing an ama!
Firstly, how long do you think it will be before flyers can safely land their wingsuits without the use of a parachute? I am aware Gary Connery has completed this feat, but I mean as regular method for landing. Are there people who are actively working to bring this practice to mainstream wingsuiting? I read an article after Ludovic Woerth’s death that stated, “before he died, Woerth was working on a device, a kind of airbag shock-absorber worn on the belly, which he hoped would avoid the need for a parachute.” Do you know anything about this or any other technologies being produced for the same goal?
Secondly, where do you see proximity flying in 5 years from now? First flyers were trying to fly away from the object, and then next to it, now they’re carving mountain tops and flying merely meters off the ground! What’s next!?
Love your work Tony. I hope this isn't too late :S
As I said earlier, we hurt ourselves enough landing parachutes, I don't think it'll ever be mainstream, until the wingsuit has the efficiency of a hang-glider. As for the airbag idea, I don't know any other technologies being produced for that goal.
It's easy to get rid of the downward speed, it's the forward speed that we've got to deal with, it's going to be comparable with a motorcycle racer falling off his motorike and sliding across the road, hoping you don't hit something. Who wants to land like that every time? I'm pissed if I fall over from landing a parachute, haha
I'm scared of heights too. Probably the biggest reason for getting out of BASE jumping. I didn't like the mountain climbing. But yes, you get better at it and your vertigo is less every time.
What is your favorite color?
haha, what? Blue.
First of all I would like to say that you are an inspiration Tony both in your design and construction of suits and in your pursuit of human flight. Also with as rough as the last bit has been I send my best. I would like to ask about a suit you made out of a special fabric from thinredline but don't think you would comment on that so...lol. My question is if you could tell me one thing about flying...what would it be? Thx Tony. Keep up the great work I hope to meet you and get measured for my next suit.
One thing about flying...enjoy it.
Tony, I think the entire community would love to see how things work from your end. 'How a wingsuite is made" Any possibility of getting a glimpse? a small intro video may be?
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