United States Parachute Association > Experienced Skydivers > SIM > Section 6-9

6-9: Wingsuit First Flight Course (FFC) Syllabus

Note: As used here, “Coach” describes an experienced wingsuiter. “Student” describes a first-time wingsuit jumper required to have a minimum of 200 jumps per BSR 2-1. It is also recommended that at least 200 jumps have been completed in the past 18 months before completing a wingsuit first jump course and making a wingsuit jump. Wing-suit manufacturers offer instructional ratings for their products. All jumpers, regardless of experience in other disciplines, are recommended to seek thorough training that covers all of the elements below.

A. Classroom topics

  1. Equipment Considerations
    1. Canopy selection
      1. Non-elliptical, docile main canopies with consistent opening characteristics, with a wing loading of not more than 1.3, and having a bridle length of at least six feet from pin to pilot chute are strongly recommended for First Flight Course (FFC) jumps.
      2. Students should be familiar with any canopy used on FFC jumps.
    2. Pilot Chutes and Deployment Systems
      1. Wingsuits create a large burble above and to the back of a skydiver, and may not provide the pilot chute enough air for a clean inflation and extraction of the deployment bag from the pack tray.
      2. Pilot chutes smaller than 24 inches are not recommended, due to wingsuiters’ slower fall rates, which may result in reduced snatch force.
      3. If wingsuiting becomes the student’s primary skydiving activity, bridle length should be increased as the wingsuiter moves into larger suits that create larger burbles.
      4. The bottom-of-container throw-out pilot chute is the only deployment system that should be used for wingsuit skydiving.
      5. It is recommended that a pilot chute handle that is as light as possible be used on the main pilot chute.
    3. Helmets and Automatic Activation Devices
      1. Students should wear a helmet for FFC jumps.
      2. Use of an Automatic Activation Device is recommended for all wingsuit flights.
    4. Audible Altimeters
      1. Use of at least one audible altimeter is recommended for all FFC flights.
      2. The first warning alarm should be set for 6,500 feet in preparation for wave-off and deployment.
      3. The second alarm should be set for 5,500 feet (deployment altitude).
      4. The third alarm should be set for 4,500 feet (low altitude warning).
  2. Wingsuit Selection
    1. Wingsuit Designs
      1. Provide a general overview of the popular wingsuit models and advantages and disadvantages of different designs.
      2. Mono-wing and tri-wing designs;
      3. Wing sizes and shapes, and their advantages and disadvantages for flocking, aerobatics, distance and slow flight.
    2. Discuss popular cutaway and emergency systems in general.
    3. Wingsuits for Use in FFC Jumps
      1. Wingsuit Coaches should select a wingsuit for FFC jumps that is appropriate for use by a novice wingsuiter according to manufacturer’s guidelines.
      2. Wingsuit Coaches should explain why a particular suit has been selected and should ask the students questions to confirm that they understand these concerns.
      3. Students should be encouraged to continue to use suits appropriate for novice wingsuiters following completion of the FFC. In no event should students be encouraged in the FFC to use or purchase an expert or advanced suit.
  3. Wingsuit Attachment
    1. The Coach must ensure that the student is fully capable of properly connecting the wingsuit to the parachute harness system used in a FFC, according to manufacturer guidelines.
    2. Wingsuit Coaches should demonstrate to the student the proper method of attaching the wingsuit to the container.
    3. The student must receive training for attaching each specific type of wingsuit to the container prior to making any jump with that wingsuit.
  4. Wingsuit Pre-Jump Inspections
    1. For a Cable Thread System, assure the cables are threaded correctly through the tabs, all the way up, with the wing cutaway handles properly secured.
    2. For a Zipper Attachment System, look to see if the zipper is attached properly and completely. If applicable, check that the Velcro breakaway system isn’t bunched or pinched
    3. Tug on the wing to make certain that it is properly attached.
      1. Students must be capable of connecting the parachute harness system to the wingsuit and demonstrate a gear check prior to being allowed to make their first FFC jump.
      2. The Coach is responsible for checking the wingsuit and parachute harness system prior to the first flight to ensure they are properly connected and the student is wearing the harness correctly.
  5. Wingsuiting Special Concerns
    1. Restrictions on Motion
      1. Arm movements are generally more restricted during a wingsuit skydive, although the amount of restriction is model-specific.
      2. Some suits do allow for a full range of arm motion, although pressurized cells in the wingsuit may make full arm movement more difficult.
    2. Fall Rates
      1. A typical belly-to-earth skydiver has a vertical (downward) descent speed of approximately 120 miles per hour and a horizontal (forward) speed of zero.
      2. A typical wingsuit skydiver has a vertical (downward) descent speed of approximately 65 mph and horizontal (forward) speeds ranging between 40 to 90 mph.
      3. The deployment of the parachute following a wingsuit skydive results in the canopy leaving the pack tray at approximately a 45-degree angle from the flight direction.
    3. Importance of Navigation
      1. Wingsuits are capable of traveling tremendous distances from standard exit altitudes when compared to traditional skydivers.
      2. This means great care must be taken when planning exit points.
      3. Winds aloft must be taken into account, as should the potential for other canopy and aircraft traffic.
      4. Wingsuit flight within 500 feet vertically or horizontally of any licensed skydiver under canopy requires prior planning and agreement between the canopy pilot and wingsuit pilot.
      5. The USPA Basic Safety Requirements prohibit wingsuit flight within 500 feet vertically or horizontally of any solo or tandem student under canopy.
    4. Water Landings
      1. If the wingsuit flight occurs near a coastline or other large body of water, remain close enough to the shoreline to ensure each wingsuit flyer can make it to the designated landing area or another suitable landing area
      2. In case of a water landing, it is critical that the arm wings and leg wing and booties are released before landing in the water to allow the jumper as much freedom of movement as possible after entering the water.
  6. Exits
    1. Exit Order
      1. The minimum exit altitude for a first flight should be 9,000 feet AGL.
      2. Wingsuiters should be the last to exit the aircraft (i.e., after tandems).
    2. Exit Position
      1. Regardless of the aircraft, Wingsuit Coaches should always choose an exit position for the student that allows the student to exit safely:
      2. The exit should allow the student to exit the aircraft in a stable manner.
      3. The student must be trained for an exit that allows for safely clearing the tail of the aircraft.
      4. The student should maintain eye contact with the Coach.
      5. The Coach must maintain proximity to the student.
      6. The Coach must maintain stability and eye contact with the student
      7. The Coach must not create a distraction or collide with the student.
    3. Typical FFC Jump Exit:
      1. Coach checks the spot with student.
      2. Coach signals for an engine cut (if applicable).
      3. Student takes position at Coach’s direction.
      4. Student uses an exit technique that directs his or her face toward the propeller of the aircraft.
      5. This method not only provides a clean exit for both skydivers, but also provides for a good angle for video of the student exit.
      6. Exit procedures should be practiced on the ground several times at the mock-up until the student can physically and verbally demonstrate all points of the exit clearly and with confidence.
    4. Avoiding Tail Strikes
      1. Students should be informed of the danger of collision with the tail of the aircraft if they open their wings immediately upon exit.
      2. Students should demonstrate a two-second delay between exit and opening of their wings.
      3. Instruct the student to open wings after clearing the tail of the aircraft.
  7. Body Position for Flight
    1. Demonstrate Basic Neutral Body Position
      1. The Coach should demonstrate a basic neutral position for the suit that the student will be flying in the FFC jump.
      2. Have the student practice in both horizontal and vertical positions.
    2. Demonstrate How to Accelerate.
      1. The Coach should demonstrate how to accelerate.
      2. Have the student practice this position.
    3. Demonstrate How to Decelerate
      1. The Coach should demonstrate how to decelerate.
      2. Have the student practice this position.
    4. Demonstrate How to Turn
      1. The Coach should demonstrate how to turn.
      2. Have the student practice these motions.
    5. Flat Spins and Tumbling
      1. Poorly aligned body position and overly aggressive turns can result in flat spins or tumbling.
      2. Students should be instructed in how to best manage flat spins per manufacturer guidelines.
      3. If the student’s flat spin is uncontrolled after 10 seconds, or if the flat spin occurs below 6,000 feet AGL, the student should immediately deploy.
      4. Have the student practice this process.
    6. Signals
      1. Present any hand signals that the Coach intends to use during the first flight.
      2. Quiz the student on these signals after presentation and periodically throughout the remainder of the FFC.
  8. Deployment Procedures
    1. At 5,500 feet AGL, the student should wave off and deploy by 5,000 feet. This altitude provides ample time to deal with any emergency procedures and provides ample time to unzip/release and stow any parts of the wingsuit that may require release.
      1. Wave off by clicking the heels together three times; this is mandatory on every skydive.
      2. Collapse all wings simultaneously while maintaining proper symmetrical body position.
      3. Pull at correct altitude.
      4. Collapse both arm wings and grasp the pilot chute handle.
      5. Throw the pilot chute: the left hand makes a simultaneous symmetrical “fake throw” as the right hand throws the actual pilot chute.
      6. Following release of the pilot chute, bring both hands forward symmetrically to the front of the harness.
      7. Keep tail wing closed until the canopy is fully deployed.
    2. Wingsuit Coaches should stress the importance of maintaining body symmetry and closed wings throughout the deployment sequence to avoid difficulties with deployment (e.g., line twists due to asymmetry or a pilot chute caught in the leg wing burble).
  9. Emergency Procedures
    1. Arm wings may restrict movement and prevent the jumper from grabbing risers until the wings are released
    2. Leg wings also restrict movement, and the large wing surface can have an effect on which way a body moves following a cutaway if the wing is still inflated.
    3. Any wingsuit, regardless of the model, should allow enough range of motion to pull the cut-away and reserve ripcord handles without having to disconnect the arm wings.
    4. In the event of a main canopy malfunction, immediately pull the cutaway handle followed by the reserve ripcord. Do not waste time by disconnecting the arm wings first.
    5. It may be necessary to release arm wings in order to reach as high as the risers in the event the main canopy opens with line twists and the jumper needs to reach the risers.
  10. Procedures After Normal Canopy Inflation
    1. Clear airspace.
    2. Unzip arm wings first; remove thumb loops (if necessary); unzip leg zippers and remove booties.
    3. Tuck away or snap up leg wing (the student must do this on the ground until it can be done without looking, so student can keep eyes on surrounding airspace under canopy).
    4. If video of the first flight is being recorded, the videographer (or Coach, as applicable) should attempt to obtain footage of the complete deployment sequence.
    5. Post-deployment Awareness
      1. Wingsuit skydivers often share canopy airspace with tandems and jumpers still on student status (as well as other jumpers that may have deployed higher than 3,000 feet AGL).
      2. As experienced skydivers, the FFC student should exercise care around these other canopies to avoid canopy collisions.
  11. Navigation and Descent Plans
    1. Navigation
      1. Because wingsuiters can travel miles from exiting the aircraft to the point at which they deploy, navigation is a critically important skill.
      2. Winds aloft should be determined prior to FFC jumps by consulting the pilot or winds aloft forecasts.
    2. Wingsuits generally fly a standard flight pattern, which may vary with the drop zone and air traffic concerns.
      1. In a typical “left hand pattern,” the wingsuiter exits the aircraft and immediately turns 90 degrees from the line of flight for 10 to 30 seconds. They make a second 90-degree turn back along the line of flight, with significant separation between the wingsuiter and any deploying canopies.
      2. Wingsuit Coaches should plan the navigation for the jump using an aerial photograph of the drop zone and surrounding areas.
      3. After outlining the desired pattern, the Coach should plan the skydive with the student.
      4. The student should be able to plan a basic exit point, flight path, and deployment point that assures vertical and horizontal separation from other skydivers on the load.
      5. Wingsuiters often deploy at altitudes where large canopy traffic may be found (e.g., tandems and AFF students). The planned flight path must take this into account. Emphasis should be placed on deploying at a safe distance from tandems.
      6. If multiple groups of wingsuiters are to exit on the same load, the groups should exit and fly in opposite patterns (e.g., the first wingsuit group to exit may fly a left-hand pattern, and the second group may fly a right hand pattern).
      7. There should be a minimum 10-second separation between wingsuit groups.
      8. Wingsuit Coaches should anticipate possible student out-landings and communicate a plan with the drop zone’s management. Students should be encouraged to carry a cell phone with them on all wingsuit jumps.
      9. If a student makes any gross navigation mistakes, the Coach should require another jump before signing off on the FFC.
  12. Clouds and Visibility
    1. A hole in the clouds suitable for typical skydivers (see SIM Section 9, Part 105), may not be sufficient for wingsuit skydivers.
    2. Wingsuit skydivers must meet the requirements of (it is recommended that they exceed the requirements of) FAR 105.17.
    3. Below 10,000 MSL:
      1. Three mile flight visibility;
      2. Not less than 500 feet below clouds;
      3. Not less than 1,000 feet above clouds; and
      4. Not less than 2,000 feet horizontally from clouds.
    4. Above 10,000 MSL:
      1. Five mile flight visibility;
      2. Not less than 1,000 feet below clouds;
      3. Not less than 1,000 feet above clouds; and
      4. Not less than one mile horizontally from clouds.
    5. Wingsuit Coaches should avoid taking students on first flights if weather conditions may present visual obstructions.
    6. In the event of inadvertently entering a cloud, students must be trained to maintain a straight-line flight path and avoid making any radical turns while in the cloud.
  13. Communication with Pilots and Other Skydivers
    1. Pilot Considerations
      1. Pilots should not be distracted during takeoff or jump run.
      2. Wingsuit Coaches should communicate with the pilot either on the ground, or between 4,000 and 10,000 feet AGL.
      3. Wingsuit Coaches should inform the pilot of intended flight direction, any special needs, the number of wingsuiters exiting, and of any wingsuit floating exits.
    2. Pilots
      1. Wingsuit skydivers often exit the aircraft following tandems, and are usually the last to exit the aircraft.
      2. Inform the pilot if wingsuiters will remain in the plane for a minute or more following the exit of the last of the “traditional” skydivers (especially when there are significant winds aloft)
      3. Inform the pilot in advance if wingsuiters need an extended jump run requiring the pilot to power up the aircraft again prior to the wingsuiters’ exit.
      4. A solid engine cut is necessary for wingsuiters to avoid colliding with the tail during the exit, particularly in low-tail aircraft.
    3. Other Skydivers
      1. Wingsuiters should be aware of the deployment altitudes and types of skydiving activities (e.g., tandem, FS, freeflying, etc.) that are being conducted on their loads.
      2. Wingsuiters should be aware of any skydivers on the load intending to deploy above 6,000 feet.
  14. Confirm the Student’s Understanding
    1. Ask Questions
      1. Wingsuit Coaches should ask questions throughout the FFC to make sure that the student understands the material.
      2. At the conclusion of the FFC, the Coach should encourage the student to ask questions.
      3. The Coach should repeat any material that appears to have been misunderstood or which requires additional explanation.
    2. Perform a walkthrough following the completion of the ground portion of the FFC, the Coach should walk the student through the complete FFC jump.
      1. The student should be able to verbally relate the flight plan without prompting or coaching.
      2. The Coach should confirm that the student knows any hand signals that the Coach intends to use, and that the student is aware Coach may guide student via flight pattern.
      3. The student should be able to complete all of the activities without prompting by the Coach.

B. Gearing up and pre-flight gear checks

  1. Gear Checks
    1. Three Gear Checks. Wingsuit Coaches should perform a complete gear check at least three times:
      1. Before rigging up;
      2. Before boarding; and
      3. Before exit.
    2. Checking the Rig
      1. Always check the wingsuit and rig in a logical order, such as top to bottom, back to front.
      2. Automatic activation device switched on.
      3. Closing loop tight for properly closed container
      4. Pilot chute handle easily reached
      5. Flap closing order and bridle routing correct
      6. Slack above the curved pin
      7. Pin fully seated
      8. Tight closing loop, with no more than 10-percent visible fraying
      9. Pin secured to bridle with no more than 10-percent fraying
      10. Collapsible pilot chute cocked
      11. Pilot chute and bridle with no more than 10-percent damage at any wear point
      12. Main deployment handle in place
      13. Canopy release system and RSL
      14. Cutaway handle
      15. Reserve ripcord handle
      16. Leg straps threaded properly
      17. Chest strap threaded properly through the friction adapter and excess stowed securely
    3. Checking the Wingsuit
      1. All zippers intact
      2. No rips, tears or excess fabric that may cover handles
      3. Handles not pulled into or covered by wingsuit
      4. All cables neatly secured (if applicable)
    4. Checking the Helmet
      1. Adequate protection
      2. Fit and adjustment
    5. Audible – settings (for example):
      1. 6,500 feet
      2. 5,500 feet
      3. 4,500 feet
    6. Altimeter
      1. Readable by student
      2. Zeroed
    7. Goggles
      1. Clear and clean
      2. Tight
  2. Attaching the Wingsuit to the Parachute Harness System
    1. Student Responsibility
      1. The student is responsible for attaching the wingsuit to the harness under the supervision of the Coach.
      2. The student should be able to attach the wingsuit with minimal guidance from the Coach.
    2. Coach Responsibility
      1. The Coach is responsible for inspecting the attached wingsuit/harness system once it has been attached by the student.
      2. Any mis-attachments or errors should be pointed out to the student for correction by the student.
      3. Consider delaying the FFC jump to focus on gear issues if the student appears to have difficulty with this subject.
  3. Putting on the Gear
    1. Student Responsibility
      1. The student is responsible for attaching and putting on the gear.
      2. The student should be able to put on the wingsuit and parachute harness system without input (but while under supervision) from the Coach.
    2. Coach Responsibility
      1. The Coach is responsible for inspecting the gear once it has been put on by the student. The Coach should complete the second complete gear check at this point.
      2. Wingsuit Coaches should pay particular attention at this point to harness attachment systems (i.e., leg straps and chest straps):
      3. Wingsuit Coaches should instruct the student to feel his or her leg straps through the wingsuit fabric to make sure that they are on and tight.
      4. Wingsuit Coaches should have the student shrug and the student should feel tension from the leg straps if they are on properly.
      5. The Coach should visually affirm that the leg straps are properly tightened around both legs of the student.
      6. Consider delaying the FFC jump to focus on gear issues if the student appears to have difficulty with this subject.
      7. Once the gear is on, the student should be instructed not to remove any gear without informing the Coach.

C. Walk-through; boarding; ride to altitude

  1. Full Walkthrough
    1. Complete a full, geared up walk through of the skydive, from climb out to deployment.
    2. Demonstrate several hand signals that may be used by the Coach to confirm that the student understands them.
    3. The student should be able to complete the walk-through with minimal input from the Coach.
  2. Confirm Weather Conditions
    1. Confirm that the Coach has an up-to-date weather forecast.
    2. Confirm surface winds and winds aloft are appropriate for wingsuiting.
    3. Confirm sufficient daylight is remaining.
  3. Boarding the Aircraft
    1. Student Equipment
      1. Monitor the student’s equipment.
      2. Encourage wingsuit and gear awareness.
    2. Coach’s Equipment
      1. if other experienced wingsuiters are present, ask for a gear check from one of them.
      2. This demonstration highlights to the student that even experienced wingsuiters seek out gear checks.
  4. Pre-exit Gear Checks
    1. Conduct a complete pre-exit equipment check with the student at 3,000 feet below exit altitude.
    2. Have the student shrug and feel the leg straps to confirm that they are properly routed.
    3. Remind the student to be aware of his movement in the aircraft during climb out.
  5. Spotting
  6. Coach Responsibility
    1. The Coach should ask the student to identify the proper spot for exit.
    2. The Coach is responsible for confirming the spot and should not allow the first flight to occur unless the spot is appropriate.

D. Wingsuit exit and flight

  1. Spotting
    1. Proper spotting techniques will help to assure an on-field landing.
    2. Flying a standard box pattern will help to avoid other skydiver traffic and will increase the likelihood of making it back to the drop zone.
    3. The student should make a visual confirmation of the landing area as well as make a note of where other jumpers are relative to the drop zone.
    4. The airspace also needs to be checked for aircraft or any other air traffic.
  2. Climb Out and Exit
    1. Climb out or set up in door, breathe and prepare to exit as per Coach instruction.
    2. The Coach should observe the exit to evaluate:
      1. the students’ stability; and
      2. that the student delayed opening their wings as instructed to avoid the horizontal stabilizer.
    3. The student should establish stability as soon as possible.
  3. Practice Pulls/Touches and Circle of Awareness
    1. After establishing stability, the student should complete three wave offs and practice pulls/touches as taught in the ground portion of the FFC.
    2. The student should demonstrate awareness by responding to hand signals from the Coach and by being aware of his altitude.
  4. Navigation
    1. The student should fly a standard pattern with minimal input or prompting from the Coach.
    2. The Coach should note any discrepancies between the student’s actual flight path as compared to his planned flight path.
  5. Formation Flights
    1. Due to the significant forward speed generated by wingsuits, each wingsuit flyer should fly parallel flight paths with one another.
    2. Flying head-on toward another wingsuit flyer should never be attempted.
    3. Flying an intersecting flight at 90-degree angles should never be attempted.
    4. Reducing any significant lateral distances should be accomplished by flying towards the other wingsuiter at a gradual angle of 30 degrees or less.
  6. Deployment
    1. The student will wave off at 5,500 feet AGL and deploy not lower than 5,000 feet AGL.
    2. If possible, the deployment sequence should be captured on video.

E. Debrief

  1. Verify that the student has landed and returned safely to the hangar.
  2. Provide a post-flight debrief.
    1. Conduct a walk and talk, allowing the student to act out his or her perceptions of the jump first.
    2. Particular attention should be paid to whether the student was aware of any mistakes he made during the jump.
    3. Explain the jump from the Coach’s viewpoint.
      1. Accentuate the positive.
      2. Discuss areas for improvement.
      3. Review the video, if available.
    4. Provide any necessary corrective training.
    5. Conduct or overview the training for the next jump.
    6. Record the jump in the student’s logbook.