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Flying the Birdman Suit
by Captn Chaos -

The basics when flying the Birdman Suit: Get familiar with the suit on the ground. Do a few practice cutaways to become familiar with the feel of the suit. Wear a wrist-mounted altimeter. Make a flight plan! Your forward speed will be between 100-110 mph and you cover around 2 miles from 13,000 feet.

Here's a flight plan I have found to work great in most conditions: Exit and make a 90 degree turn away from the airplane's flight path. Fly that direction for approximately 30 seconds, then do another 90 degree turn and fly towards the dropzone. If multiple loads are in the air, coordinate with the pilot. When you open, see the other people on the load land.

Safety: Your speed towards the ground is 50-70 mph. You can fly this suit to the ground and your Cypres will never fire. However, Birdman International did test unstable flying (no one has unintentionally done this so far, and it was done to simulate unconsciousness) and this produced descent rates at which the Cypres will fire. The body position may be less than ideal though. Altitude awareness is extremely critical. Birdman International has tested the Birdman Suit with gadgets from "Cool & Groovy" (timeout) and "Brusgard Larsen" (Pro-Dytter). They both work fine.

Exit: Exit last as you will be flying at a much slower descent rate, making it back is never a problem. You *must* exit with the wings collapsed. The reason being the tail of the airplane. With the forward speed of the airplane, you want to make sure you are clear of the airplane before your wings start creating lift. As soon as you are clear of the airplane spread your wings and relax. This may sound strange to some, but relaxation is key to flying your suit. By relaxation i mean the kind of relaxation needed in freeflying and the like. Relaxed, aware, ready, strong and agile. It takes a little work with your abdominal and leg muscles to get to the ideal de-arched "max track". Get used to the feel and smile as you realize that you are still way high. Try a few practice pulls to get familiar with the pull technique (described later). Then keep on enjoying the long flight. Birdman International recommends opening higher than you normally do, especially in the beginning.

Yuri K. in a Birdman Suite
Photo © 1999
Marvin Vendeline/Yuri Kuznetsow

Wave off: If you fly with others it is imperative that you make sure they know you want to open. Arm movement is restricted, so a "normal" wave off is not possible. The technique found to work well is as follows: close your wings between your feet a few times. Then fly on a short while to allow the others to alter their flight path.

The pull: Re-collapse your wings between your feet and simultaneusly bring arms *symmetrically* to the side of your body. Place both hands (to ensure symmetrical position) on the middle of your BOC pocket and gradually slide hands outward. When your right hand holds the pilot chute, throw it hard to the side, make sure you move both arms *symmetrically* when throwing the pilot chute. A hard throw is important to make sure the pilot chute clears the burble behind you. Then re-collapse both arm wings. Your legs should remain together during this entire procedure. This technique makes sure that you are stable during pull, it also reduces the burble behind you to minimize the effect on the opening.

During opening: As you re-collapse your arm wings your hands are at the height of the cutaway handles. Rest your hands on the handles as this minimizes the time delay if you want to/need to reach your risers quickly. Due to the forward speed the canopy is opening approximately at an angle of 30-45 degrees behind you. This causes your body to swing more forward and higher than what you are used to. No one has ever reported any problems because of this, but it may feel different in the beginning. When the canopy has opened, move hands away from cutaway handles and unzip one arm at a time.

Malfunction: If for any reason you need to use your reserve, cutting away the wings is possible, but not necessary. You have full capability of reaching and pulling both your cutaway handle (main canopy) and reserve handle. Both single hand and both hands techniques are possible and have been tested.

Under canopy: Undo at least one bootie and zipper, as this will allow longer travel of your legs as you come in for a nice swoop.

Basejumpers beware:

This suit was not designed for basejumping! Birdman International does *not* recommend using this suit for basejumping. However, several people (crazy?) have already had incredible flights from different mountains around the world using the Birdman Suit. Airplane experience is a must! Get completely comfortable with all the aspects described above. Base experience is a must! This is for experienced birdman fliers that have extensive base experience. The first and obvious and challenge is exiting. Here's what my friends and I've found out, and all the people I've talked to who have basejumped the birdman agree on these basics.

Equipment: Pin-closed container is a must. Although successful jumps have been done using velcro, the angle of your body places a lot of air pushing on that top flap. A tuck tab like on the Perigee II may be all you need, but it has not been tested. Early jumps were made using regular velcro rigs, some modified, some not. Later research has been using pin-closed containers from all major manufacturers. Both 32" and 38" pilot chutes have been used without problems.

Yuri's Birdman BASE
Photo © 1999
Marvin Vendeline/Yuri Kuznetsow

Exit: Slightly flatter than the "normal" 45 degrees, this to expose the air inlets quicker to the airflow. Some jumpers have reported that they exit just as they would without a suit, this seems to work just as well. On average it takes 3-6 seconds for the wings to inflate and start producing lift. During this time it is essential that your body remains stable and symmetrical, for obvious reasons. Do not try to fly it aggressively at this early stage as stall is possible at these low pressurizations of the wings combined with slow airspeed. Relax and let the wing fly away and leave the mountain behind as you "feel" it start to fly. It can not be understated that aggressive flying early after exit increases the risks dramatically.

Wave off and pull: Same as for skydiving, symmetrical movement of body cannot be understated. A hard throw is especially important to make sure the pilot chute clears the burble, you only have one pilot chute.

During opening: As you only have one parachute, your main focus should be on finding those handles on the side as you re-collapse the wings after throwing the pilot chute. Your fastest way to get to the risers is cutting away the wings, however unzipping works fine under normal circumstances. Some people have experimented with undoing the zippers as the canopy is opening. This has worked fine, but be careful not to change body position dramatically during early stages of opening. On heading performance does not seem to be adversely affected, but depending on body position and other factors (anyone seen Murphy lately ?) be ready for a line twist. Basejumping the suit is in the way early stages and you will be a test pilot. Let everyone know if you have any updated information. Good luck!

Thanks to Colon Berry, Yuri and all the Norwegian basejumping birdmen for inputs as well as the makers of the suit.

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