Skydiving and base jumping are among the most adrenaline-releasing sports. In these disciplines individuals jump from a plane, a cliff, or a structure, and after falling for a certain amount of time they open a parachute. One modality of these sports involves wearing a wingsuit. A wingsuit is a garment with stretches of fabric that extend between the legs and between the arms and the legs in a design akin to the skin folds of flying squirrels. The wingsuit essentially turns the human body into a wing producing a certain amount of lift that allows flyers to move forward up to 2 or 3 units of distance for each unit of distance that they fall. Wingsuit flyers can achieve forwards speeds of up to 100 miles per hour or more.
A wingsuit flight ends with the opening of a parachute, so in principle wingsuit flying should be no more dangerous than skydiving or base jumping. However the real allure of wingsuit flying is proximity flying. This is when the flyers fly at speeds upwards of 70 miles per hour next to cliff faces or very close to the ground and even through geological formations. This has made wingsuit flying a very dangerous sport that has claimed the lives of many individuals including some of the top performing flyers in the world.
Italian wingsuit flyer Uli Emanuele won the Base Jump World Championship held in Spain in 2010 leaving all the professionals of the sport behind. Uri went on to take the world by storm with his daring jumps and stunts winning him a huge fan base. In the video below Uri performs one of the most extreme stunts ever attempted by flying through a 6 feet wide opening in a rock in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, in 2014. One of the amazing things about this stunt that is not obvious from the video is that he repeated it 3 more times!
Emanuele died in 2016 at the age of 30 while flying in the Dolomite Mountains in Switzerland when he lost control and crashed into rocks before he could open his parachute. He is part of a long list of wingsuit proximity flyers such as Alexander Polli, Graham Dickinson, and Dean Potter who have lost their lives practicing this dangerous sport.