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1-7-2013

Talking while flying. By Ellen Brennan

One of the scariest things about wingsuit flying in a group is that you don’t know what the other person is about to do. Maybe they get spooked and make a quick turn, cutting you off in the air causing you to lose your speed and putting you in a dangerous situation. I think about this scenario often. So when I found out that Cardo Systems makes a Bluetooth device that allows communication during noisy activates I had to try it out. Even though it is designed for motorcycle riding, I could draw many similarities between riding and flying. Everything is moving at a fast pace, in close proximity, and any individual’s small mistake could become a disaster for the group.

My biggest concerns were: would it be possible for us to communicate while flying at 160 kph? Would the wind noise be an issue? Would it have difficulties relaying the message? Only one way to find out!

My teammate and I were thrilled with how easy it was to mount the scala rider G9x, and how small it is! It fit easily to the rear of our helmets, and with its slim profile we had little concern for potential snag points or airflow disruption. When wingsuit BASE jumping I assess any additional equipment to determine if it is a safety hazard. I had no worries with the scala rider G9x.

We hiked up to try it out at a local jump just near the house. The goal was for my teammate to give me a command, “turn left,” “slow down,” “speed up,” and for me to fallow his command. Then when it was time for me to open my parachute (always a dangerous moment with wingsuit flying in groups) our plan was for me to communicate, “I am going to open.” With this command, he will be able to fly in a safe position relative to me during my parachute opening. With the ability to communicate while flying wingsuits, we hoped to make a beautiful video with everything in frame from start to finish. Typically a good video takes scores of test flights in order to get the two pilots dialed in to each other. We wanted to expedite this process.

We both leaped from the cliff and as our suits inflated I heard my first command, “slow down.” WOW! Crystal clear! I didn’t need eyes in the back of my head to see what the other flyer was doing, he told me! I slowed down and soon I see him flying right next to me. What a sight! Then he says, “Ok, now you can speed up.”

I respond, “Ok, I am going to fly to buzz that big tree.”

“ok.” We continue making a beautiful flight side by side; it is amazing to look over and see another person flying right next to me and not be afraid. The headsets took away all of the fear.

Then we fly out high over the valley, “Ok, I’m pulling now.” My teammate flies just to the side of me as to not be hit by my opening parachute.

No guess work, no stress. Safe.

Using the scala rider G9x has changed the world of wingsuit BASE. Communicating with other fliers while flying as a flock down the Jungfrau is a memory I will never forget.  It’s amazing to be able to talk with another wingsuiters while flying down a beautiful mountain at 160 kph.  This is a huge innovation in the sport of wingsuit flying, and a key tool when making long technical flights as a flock. This summer I will be using the scala rider G9x to communicate with my team while I attempt to make a world speed record somewhere in the high mountains!