This is an incredible feat – they look like a flock of geese in migration (nevarmij) and it inspired me to do a little research into wingsuit formation flying.
In fact, wingsuit flyers call their formation flying “flocking” and it is far more difficult than skydiving formation flying. Think about the logistics of a wingsuit flight to start with:
A wingsuit flier manipulates the shape of his body to create the desired amount of lift and drag although most wingsuits have a 2 to 1 ratio. This means that for every foot they drop, they go two feet forward. However, his flight can be controlled to some extent. Certain design characteristics of a wingsuit can help as can his body shape…. no, not whether he’s fat or thin but by changing the shape of his torso – arching his back, bending the shoulders, hips and/or knees can all make a difference to his trajectory. Also by changing the angle of flight he can change the tension which is applied to the fabric of the wings of his suit. These are the techniques of flocking, but you also need to think about the strategy… the actual thinking
behind the flying.
To flock you have to have razor-edge awareness skills which you can only acquire through multiple and constant wingsuit jumps. It is absolutely imperative that you are aware of where the other people are or where they are coming from. Not just when you jump out of the plane but at all times – the exit, the jump itself and break-off.
Awareness includes the knowledge of the whereabouts of other jumpers, where and which direction you are flying when you hit a small cloud or accidentally become unstable.
If you have not acquired awareness you are a liability on the team and could cause a dangerous collision.
And it is always important to be relaxed. Don’t panic and think you’ve been left behind and have too great a distance to cover. Jarno Cordia has a lovely expression for the panicked flyer – ‘a stressed out monkey on caffeine’!
Wingsuit flyers are flying at incredible speeds, but once in a flock they can stabilise it to about 100km/h. If the flyer hasn’t perfected and mastered the technique of flocking the relative forward speed may make it difficult to judge the amount of time and power required to bring yourself to the same speed as the rest of the formation. One small error at that speed would result in an untimely decease.
The flight must always be smooth and predictable.
Jarno Cordia, mentioned above, has written an excellent article on how to formation fly – or flock – with a wingsuit. If you are wanting to progress from solo jumps to flocking then I advise you to read it – although he stresses that “it is by no means the ultimate guide to flocking or the definitive book of ‘how it works’…” The link to the article is supplied on his name.