BIRDMEN from Warwickshire will be flying high this summer.
Mike Williams, Dave Francis and Chris Berte form part of the eight-strong Team GB competing in the third Wingsuit Flying World Cup taking place in Italy in August.
Wingsuiting is described as a cross between skydiving and hang gliding. The wingsuiter jumps from an aircraft or precipice and the suit allows the jumper – while falling at a rate much slower than a skydiver – to soar horizontally at average speeds of around 100mph and perform acrobatics.
The wingsuit, which emerged in the 90s, is commonly described as a bird or squirrel suit because of the fabric – which creates a surface area between the legs and arms.
Dave, from Wellesbourne, has done over 2,200 skydives and made the leap to wingsuiting in 2015.
He said: “In moving from skydiving to wingsuiting the main thing I noticed was the additional time. There is much more time to spend flying and taking it all in – two to three minutes rather than one minute.
“And who wouldn’t want to try flying like a superhero next to their mates for a couple of minutes? It really is great fun.”
Chris, a floor-layer from Leamington, also described wingsuiting as making him feel like a superhero.
“Wingsuiting for me has been a dream since day one. When you look up you don’t realise how many different dimensions are above us and I love to have moments really experiencing the dimensions. It’s pretty magical.
“I remember being super-stoked after my parachute deployed from my first wingsuit jump and the wind trailed my nylon behind me as I was flying back to the parachute landing area. It was a real superhero moment for me.”
During the world cup, competitors are tracked via a GPS device through a ‘vertical window’ competing across nine jumps for the fastest speed, distance covered in a straight line and the slowest fall rate.
Chris added: “Competing always feels mega-rewarding for me, from the before calm and focus, to the roar of the podium.
“All my family and friends are behind me and it feels great to have such tremendous support being a floor layer in Leamington.”
Mike, from Long Itchington, remembered the first time he came across wingsuiting, which he took up ten years ago.
The 50-year-old said: “I was out in California on a skydiving trip. A group of us were doing a balloon skydive. One of the group was wingsuiting. I never saw his exit or his flight. But I did see the fun and enjoyment in his face. I said to myself I want some of that.”