Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Ars Longa, Wingsuit Flight Even Longa

Why, I ask you, do we need to pit sprinters against each other at the same time, and in front of an audience to boot? I understand about the money, and that for the officials it's more efficient to have everyone hustling around the track together, but, you know, some people just don't test well. It could be that the fastest runners in the world remain unknown because they've got stage fright, are skittish around others, are slowed by the oppressive gaze of the man with the stopwatch, freeze at the sound of a pistol shot, etc. Seriously. Er, not seriously. Doesn't matter really.

What I'm trying to tell you is that in the world of wingsuits there exists a race that can be done at your leisure. This, again, is thanks to the magic of the Global Positioning System. Climb into your wingsuit, strap your GPS to your wrist, get in the nearest plane, take it to 13,500 feet, jump out, wait for fifteen seconds then fly—for all you're worth, or some portion of it—for two minutes, and see how far you've gone. Anytime. Any time. Have I overstated my case? Anyway, afterward you can enter the data at trackingderby.com. As you must first dowload the tracking derby "agent," your results will come straight from your GPS—you can't just write in that you flew for 94 miles. Cheating, though, is not impossible. I recommend jumping with a bazooka, stuffing the GPS inside midflight, and firing it before opening your parachute. Of course, now that the word's out, the contest will turn into one of who's got the biggest bazooka. Then again, all contests do.

The current leader is the Belgian (well, he claims to be Dutch, but who knows?), Costyn Van Dongen, who flew for 2.799 miles (long flight, small bazooka). If you don't feel like competing, you can still get a taste for what a wingsuit flight is like through Van Dongen's eyes by clicking here.


Andrew Nahem said...

Any time!

Michael Abrams said...

I thought you might say that.

jwinters said...

So, 84 miles per hour horizontally, but how far did he drop in those two minutes? Those numbers, and a little trig, give his total airspeed. And since that number would be bigger, it would be a lot more impressive.

Maybe not as impressive as a big bazooka, though.

Michael Abrams said...

Big numbers are impressive, I'll grant you that. I'm fond of 1,345,987,954,325, but that's not even that big compared to some. However, in this case the total airspeed is not what counts. Wingsuit-free skydivers can reach 180 mph by going into a dive (deltaing) and wingsuited skydivers in dive fly at that speed as well. No one in one of today's wingsuits will fly that fast horizontally (though the rigid Skyray hits that number easily). Peregrine Falcons are the fastest birds when they dive, but the spine-tailed swift actually flys faster. And skyflyers are always trying to get their vertical speed lower and are pround of fall rates under about 45 mph. So it's distance and forward speed that matter most.

Costyn van Dongen said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for mentioning me and linking to the video. I am, in fact, not Belgian, but Dutch. :-) I jump a lot in Belgium and thus have Schaffen in Belgium listed as my home DZ. You can see people's actual nationality by the little flag icon to the right of their name.

Unfortunately, as of a week or so, a German named Sandro Bohme is now at the top of the list. Like I mentioned in a post at DZ.com, I have no fantasies about being the best, it's just that the really good people either don't have a GPS or haven't bothered uploading a long flight.

I will try to get first place again, of course, just because it's fun.

Michael Abrams said...


Thank you kindly for comments. It's great to finally have an actual wingsuiter chime in on the site. However, how can I be sure that you are in fact Dutch and not Belgian, as you claim? You say you're willing to scan your passport——but passports have been forged at times, have they not? And yes, the birth certificate seems like additional evidence, but how can even you be sure that your parents didn't have the thing doctored? The real question is why are you trying to cover up your true country of origin? Belgium's a nice place, home to Rodenbach Grand Cru, the greatest beer on the planet.

It does seem that Mr. Bohme has you by 388 meters. But I have faith that, whatever your nationality, you will overtake him soon. You have the better name, if you will allow me my prejudices. We here at the Icarus Report cheer you on, if only in the name of fun.

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