It was my first wingsuit jump…I was underqualified and changing variables. I was a little uncurrent because of a lack of winter jumping, but managed to get out to a popular northeastern turbine DZ that jumps year-round. After a few freefly and tracking jumps to get back into the groove I donned the suit. Because it was so cold out (as winter-time jumping sometimes is :p) I changed my gloves from my regular tackified Newmann’s to a warmer cotton brand that I would find to be slipper later on.
I’m a pretty self-taught kind of guy and have been told I have a good head on my shoulders and approach things the right way. So I was confident, knew my EP’s, practiced, did all the appropriate training but was still underqualified (probably around 150 jumps at the time and no FFC or wingsuit coach at my local DZ). I got up in the plane and had a phenomenal exit, and really picked up the flying aspect pretty quickly.
This was in a Birdman GTi which is considered more or less a good suit to start in, not necessarily a “beginner” suit however. Regardless, I was having fun flying lines and carving and getting the feel of things and because of my slow fall rate decided it was OK to smoke it down to my regular pull altitude. By the time I decided to pull I was passing through 3k. I reached back and pulled but my non-tackified gloves slipped off my hackey handle! I went back to grab for my PC but found nothing was there, I must have half pulled it out and I had the impression that it sitting in my burble not inflated. Thoughts of pulling silver flashed through my mind as I went back one last time. I found some bit of fabric still in my BOC and chucked it with a rather hefty flick of the wrist. I looked over my shoulder and saw an inflated PC begin the deployment process.
I found myself in the saddle around 1800ft with 3 line twists. My conservative loading (1.0/1) on a quick opening Triathlon 160 gave me the leeway to get away with this- the canopy wasn’t diving or turning as I pulled myself out of my linetwists and unzipped my suit.
1) Formal training would have drilled me to open higher than normal.
2) Complacency kills! Because things were going great I decided to smoke it lower- this could have been fatal!
3) Changing too many variables at a time (new suit, new gloves) is not a good choice.
Hopefully some of the newer birds can learn something from this. I am all the more humbled and wiser because of the experience and as a result, always am more aware during the opening process- giving more effort into my pulls than I did before.
Do you have a similar story to Andrew’s? What would you tell someone who just got down from doing something like this? Add your two cents in the comments below.