As you know, I was very excited for Tony Uragallo’s AMA and the charmer did not disappoint. As always, he was honest, forthcoming, kind and generous with answers to all kinds of questions. Some highlights below, but the entire AMA is worth reading: Tony’s full AMA.
On the highlight of his 30+ year career:
What is your favorite kind of wingsuit competition?
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 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?—askingtony
I can’t think of any other competition like these guys are doing. They’re 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?
On making jumpsuits:
When did you first decide that jumpsuits was a thing you’d get into?
When I discovered that I wouldn’t have to get on the London bus to go to work in the rain as a bricklayer.
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?
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.
Also when did you transition into manufacturing of wingsuits, and what made you branch off into that category? —austin_16x
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.
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.
What’s the story behind the Jonathan canopy? —bendite02
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.
Tony, I think the entire community would love to see how things work from your end. ‘How a wingsuit is made” Any possibility of getting a glimpse? a small intro video may be? —JudeCP
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…
If I don’t want to choose between RW and freeflying, but I only want to buy one jumpsuit then what should I do? —JStarx
Freefly leg on an RW suit.
What’s your biggest piece of advice to novice jumpers, specifically those just off student status? —flyboy10029
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.
On the future of wingsuiting, BASE and his designs:
Hi Tony, what is the next awesome wingsuit after your famous Jedi….? —dreamderbase
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…
Do you think we will be able to safely land wingsuits without the need to deploy parachutes? (Mainstream, not stunts on cardboard boxes) —mkroser
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.
On the ideal ratio of fun over time:
Recently, there were lots of wingsuit fatalities. The saddest is many of them were pro flyers. What do you see in this? Is the pace of wingsuiting going too fast? —JudeCP
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.
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