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Wingsuit Malfunctions in Flight

Occurred on June 2014 / Sturtevant, Wisconsin, USA

Info from Licensor: "I'm sharing this video to help educate and inform other wingsuit pilots of the things I did to mitigate this potentially fatal incident, with hopes it aids those who find themselves in a situation similar to this one.

While doing some performance training back in 2014, I was trying different wingsuit configurations to maximize performance in a steep dive when things didn't exactly go as planned. During the dive, the right shoulder zipper blew open. I assume it started as a small opening given it only caused some mild instability. Confused as to what happened, I shrugged it off and continued my dive. The zipper slider then opened more and flipped me onto my back, inducing a flat spin. After I recovered from the flat spin I had to maintain a steep dive to prevent myself from immediately getting flipped back over again and losing control. If you watch the video closely you will see the stiffener blow out of the gripper from all the air rushing into the opening. I used my fingers to pinch and climb my way up to the wrist where I knew I needed to get my hand over the deflated wing to deploy my pilot chute. I initiated the deployment, at which time my right elbow was fully exposed and protruding from inside the suit. I knew I needed to pitch the pilot chute as quickly as possible to avoid an entanglement with the bridle and the loose fabric of my deflated, malfunctioning wing.

Immediately after landing I carefully inspected the suit and found the right shoulder zipper slider was still all the way down on the top surface (back) of the wing. The velcro strip was also still fastened as it should be. I then took all the equipment directly into the hangar and showed the S&TA and a few fellow WS pilot friends who also examined the suit. It was determined by the group that all equipment was properly rigged and no physical defects on the equipment were visible, including the right shoulder zipper.

Note: It was common knowledge in the sport at this time that #8 zippers (especially the cheap, generic ones used on this suit) do not provide the strength and durability required in this application.

Following this incident, I immediately stopped flying this brand of suit and found a wingsuit manufacturer whose products, in my opinion, meet a higher standard of quality and safety."

Location Sturtevant, Wisconsin, USA
Occurred not known
Posted By Joe Ridler
Posted On Aug-8-2023