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Science

Closer to Human Flight 290

Posted by Hemos
from the icarus-here-we-come dept.
negativeblue writes "Dropzone.com has (had) a story about the preparation of a man (Jeb Corliss) who prepares to land a wingsuit without a parachute. If you don't know the current abilities of parachutes, now-a-day, you should do your research. Basically airfoils, they can perform close to an airplane wing (high performance turns and lift)."
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Closer to Human Flight

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  • jeb is the man (Score:4, Informative)

    by joatmon (24696) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:39AM (#11190678) Homepage
    if you've ever seen a base jumping video 90% chance it was jeb.
    • I don't see what the big deal is. In the early days of flight many people flew with out wings. They just made sure to fly downward (really fast).
  • Closer? (Score:3, Funny)

    by SlayerofGods (682938) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:40AM (#11190683)
    Damn those fictional airplanes landing all the time without a parachute!
  • landing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by confusion (14388) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:41AM (#11190687) Homepage
    They say they're dealing with it, but I really have to wonder how they slow to a resonable speed to land. It seems to me that the "pilot" would be moving at a good clip most of the time. Maybe they have a way to modify the aerodymanics of the wings to slow down + add lots of lift, like flaps on an airplane.
    Cool stuff, though. I won't be trying it.

    Jerry
    http://www.syslog.org/ [syslog.org]

    • Speed is good (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:10AM (#11190858)
      The trick I think is to develop enough forward speed. More forward speed develops more lift. In a regular plane, you do something called a flare as you land. As you get close to the touchdown point, you steer up (technically, you change your angle of attack). This burns off forward speed and creates lift. This guy has a lot more freedom about his angle of attack. (Him landing on his feet would be the equivalent of a plane landing on its tail.) I think it could work but, of course, I'm not going to try it. My guess is that he will still have a lot of forward velocity when he has essentially no lift left.

      The more I think about it, the more I think I agree with the parent.
      • Re:Speed is good (Score:3, Interesting)

        by luguvalium2 (466022)
        Isn't a flare essentially a stall that is really close to the ground? If you watch birds land they flare and then pop their feet out of the tuck position so that they land on their feet. My guess is that with practice, a human can do the same. It's surviving the practice thats the tricky part.
        • Re:Speed is good (Score:5, Interesting)

          by delcielo (217760) on Monday December 27, 2004 @10:30AM (#11191416) Journal
          Most flares result in touchdown before a stall occurs, though at least in light planes a stalled landing is considered a good one. It requires keeping the airplane inches above the ground while the Angle of Attack increases to the stall point and drops the airplane gently on the runway.

          The term "Angle of Attack" is defined as the angle between the chord line of the wing (a line drawn from the leading edge to the trailing edge) and the relative wind, which is essentially your direction of travel through the air. So for instance, during the landing flare the wing's chord line is pointed up with the rest of the plane but the airplane continues a slight descent, making the angle between the two very large compared to cruise flight where they're both pointed more toward what land-lubbers would call level.

          The trick is that as the Angle of Attack increases so does lift... to a point. Every airfoil has a critical angle of attack beyond which airflow separates, lift is destroyed, and the airfoil ceases to work aerodynamically and becomes simply an object sticking out into the wind.

          I would imagine that this guy will have to build a great deal of forward speed which will give him a flatter trajectory and therefore a lower angle of attack. He'll then need to raise his angle of attack at the right moment and flare without exceeding that critical angle, which may or may not be anything the engineers who built the suit ever determined. He definety does not want to stall the wingsuit. His life depends on its lift.

          I know this guy is doing a lot of testing using gps data, etc. to figure all of this out; but it is exceedingly risky.

          I predict this will end bad, though I really hope I'm wrong.
          • Re:Speed is good (Score:3, Informative)

            by spagetti_code (773137)
            You are right. And a little more detail is that he has probably got a low lift wing. Wing lift is proportional to velocity^2 * wing area * air density * lift-coefficient (basically aerofoil shape and angle of attack - AoA).

            He's got a very small wing area so to achieve lift he needs speed, a high-lift wing shape and AoA.

            He will likely have a high stall speed. (Note: you stall at an AoA, not a speed. But for a given configuration - weight, wing shape, bank angle, CoG, environment - the stall speed is consta

        • Re:Speed is good (Score:2, Informative)

          by mattlyle (154875)
          yes, that's correct: a flare is just stalling.

          under a normal parachute we flare every time we go to land... if you've ever seen a skydiver land, as they touch down you will see them pull down on two handles (called toggle)... these are connected to the rear of the canopy, which distorts the trailing corners of the canopy to create more lift... so you're converting forward speed into lift.
        • by i.r.id10t (595143) on Monday December 27, 2004 @01:04PM (#11192630)
          I thought the tricky part was throwing yourself at the ground and missing....
    • I gather that he would be falling straight down initially, then use his wing suit to convert his vertical velocity into horizontal. He could then have a very low vertical velocity, or possibly even a slight upward velocity. Unfortunately, to achieve this he will be moving horizontally at upwards of 100 mph.

      Now, you probably have a better chance of surviving if you contact the ground moving horizontally at 100 mph than moving vertically, but it's still a pretty tough trick. Think about some way you could sa
  • by TrollBridge (550878) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:42AM (#11190693) Homepage Journal
    ...that this guy is more likely going to win a Darwin Award than survive his fall.

    Oh well, I guess something's got to thin the herd...
  • by bildungsroman_yorick (825714) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:44AM (#11190702)
    I sure hope he hasn't used wax and feathers as the material for his incredible man flying machine.
  • ...er... (Score:5, Informative)

    by skinfitz (564041) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:44AM (#11190703) Journal
    If you don't know the current abilities of parachutes, now-a-day, you should do your research.

    Shouldn't that be wingsuits? I should dearly hope that most people know the abilities of parachutes - they have been a regular plot device in the media for years.
    • Re:...er... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 27, 2004 @10:14AM (#11191260)
      I don't think most people know the abilities of modern day parachutes. It has been a few years ago when I left the skydive scene, but at that time huge progress was made using new materials and designs. Modern parachutes might look like ordinary square parachutes, but there are some important differences: so-called 'zero-porosity' fabrics and high-tensile fibers, combined with elliptical shaped canopies result in very efficient parachutes. Some of those can be made *extremely* small (like the Icarus mentioned in the article). Smaller canopies result in higher speeds, but also in higher descent rates. Some of those canopies cannot be landed safely without diving for speed first (using so-called 'hook-turns' or 'front-riser' turns). Seeing somebody land a high-performance parachute is rather spectacular because of the speeds involved. The gap between flying the smallest of those high-performance parachutes (and the technique needed to safely land them) and flying a wing-suite is not that big anymore, and that is what the poster meant to say.
  • There is a reason (Score:5, Interesting)

    by harks (534599) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:48AM (#11190721)
    why most famous BASE jumpers are dead. This is it. Unless he's got some secret technology nobody knows about, this is likely suicide. It's also not good for the public image of skydiving when sombody dies like this.
  • by Synapsys (795856) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:48AM (#11190723) Homepage
    I'm no expert in aerodynamics or atmospheric dynamics, but don't you take a huge risk with that (apart from the obvious things) with the help of a nasty gust, updraft or the like, an un recoverable spin could occur.... The problem with having a set of wings and no engine is once you our out of control, recovery won't be easy.
    • I have a set of wings and no engine - it's called a GLIDER. It's a lot easier to recover from nasty situations (spins, stalls etc. and landing in unprepared fields) than powered aircraft. An engine doesn't necessarily make something inherently more controllable.
    • Nonsense! He just moves his limbs and breaks the spin. Even with traditional planes most spins are recoverable, given enough altitude.
    • I'm no expert in aerodynamics or atmospheric dynamics, but don't you take a huge risk with that (apart from the obvious things) with the help of a nasty gust, updraft or the like, an un recoverable spin could occur.... The problem with having a set of wings and no engine is once you our out of control, recovery won't be easy.

      With the wingsuit, you can fold your arms and legs in and get rid of your "wings", and lose all lift. So it would be easy to recover from a spin if he went into one. He'd merely go fr
  • Batman!!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by nbharatvarma (784546) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:49AM (#11190725)
    So we are gonna have Batman soon.. Position of Robin is probably available. Any takers ?
  • suggestion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by beaverfever (584714) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:50AM (#11190729) Homepage
    I'm sure these guys know what they're doing and are figuring out the equations, but here's a suggestion I would like to make: try landing in the suit near the edge of a big cliff, like perhaps near the Grand Canyon, for example. If Jeb gets very low and doesn't like his chances, he could try his damndest to pull up and clear the cliff edge, giving him another chance to release his parachute.

    On the other hand, if he did pass the point of no return and went for the landing and overshot a bit, that might be a problem. hmmm.

    Water - try landing on water first. Or a mattress - king-size, preferably.
    • If Jeb gets very low and doesn't like his chances, he could try his damndest to pull up and clear the cliff edge, giving him another chance to release his parachute.

      The way I interpreted the article: he doesn't have a parachute. So first time right...

      Z
  • by bildungsroman_yorick (825714) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:51AM (#11190730)
    It's more of a very impressive controlled fall. Can the wing suits be used in conjunction with parachutes so as to have a back up in case of a failed opening?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:51AM (#11190735)

    ...from the Addams Family. Every time he did a jump, he used a smaller parachute. By his theory, eventually he would not need any paracute at all.

    And of course, he was correct. Eventually, he would have no need for a paracute...

  • Human flight? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anubis333 (103791) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:52AM (#11190740) Homepage
    Human flight? don't you mean slowed and directed human falling? It's not like he can leave the ground as soon as he starts flapping his wing suit.

    There are a few people that have fallen out of commercial airliners and survived. They didn't have wing suits and fell thousands and thousands of feet.
    • Hang gliding is human falling too, but you can get lift from thermals and stay up all day. If he can get a decent glide ratio off that thing, he could probably do the same thing. Just looking at it I'd expect it to stall very easily and even if he lands without killing himself I very much doubt that using a suit like that to replace parachuting and hang gliding anytime soon.

      By the way, did you notice the last line of TFA? "If Jeb lands the wing-suit without a parachute and survives--he is going to be my

  • by Beolach (518512) <beolach@@@juno...com> on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:52AM (#11190743) Homepage Journal
    That's falling... with STYLE!

    Way cool... nice photos in TFA.
  • by CdBee (742846) on Monday December 27, 2004 @08:55AM (#11190765)
    Not strictly true - the following is one of several true stories of WW2 bomber crew jumping without chutes and surviving.. in this case because he landed on a glass-roofed railwsy station and was slowed by successive levels of shattering glass

    Man Survived 22,000-Foot Fall Out of Bomber [209.157.64.200]

    Also:
    "The greatest fall without "riding" a piece of wreckage goes to Russian Lt. I.M. Chisov, who bailed out of his Ilyushin 4 bomber at 22,000 feet in January 1942, after being attacked by German fighters. His plan was to free-fall to 1,000 feet before opening his parachute, thus limiting his exposure to enemy fire while still in the air. Unfortunately he lost consciousness on the way down, and never opened his parachute. Like Vulovic, he landed in snow and survived, returning to duty three months later". - link [manbottle.com]

    There was also a British gunner from a Lancaster bomber who fell from his aircraft during an attack and was saved by fir trees and deep snow.

    That said, I still think this guy's a loon. Nobody ever volunteered to jump without a parachute before.
    • On a related note, I've read that in the Halifax explosion, someone was thrown a few kilometers through the air, landed in a tree, and survived.

      This was mentioned as an anecdote in a physics book I used two years ago. Does anyone have any further information on this event?
    • Can someone explain to me how the hell these people survived? I always thought you could even hit water and still be crushed at such heights. (On the other hand it's nice to know you pass out before hitting the ground).
      • by CdBee (742846) on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:50AM (#11191085)
        Lieutenant Chisov survived mainly through being unconscious - he landed on the side of an extremely steep ravine filled with snow several feet deep and slid through the snow all the way to the bottom, where he awoke with serious bruises, a few fractures and presumably a sense of bewilderment. The British gunner survived in near-identical circumstances but was totally unhurt. The Germans refused to believe his story....
      • by Matts (1628) on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:51AM (#11191089) Homepage
        It all comes down to how much you can move an object. When you hit water the object has to move sideways to get out of your way. This is much harder to achieve than moving something down (i.e. by breaking glass) plus the glass will weigh a hell of a lot less than a few hundred meters of water going straight down, so the opposing force is a lot less.

        By breaking several layers of glass one by one you slow the body down with a succession of small forces rather than one big one.
    • Nobody ever volunteered to jump without a parachute before.

      That's not true, either.
      I remember seeing a video once of a Hollywood stuntman who jumped out of an airplane without a parachute or "flying suit", and landed on an airbag (not the car kind; the kind that Hollywood stuntmen use for falling-from-a-great-height stunts).

      I think that there also have been several cases where a stuntman jumped out of an airplane without a parachute, another stuntman handed him a parachute in mid-air, and the first stunt

    • I remember reading about all those people in my Second-Edition Dungeon Master's Guide! Wow, what a nerd I am!
    • A friend of mine who was in the military (briefly) told me about "earth angels": soldiers who had survived their chute not opening. Supposedly, they are transferred out of their unit rapidly, not because they don't want to go back up, but their presence creeps out the rest of their unit.

      Anyone care to confirm?
  • lol (Score:2, Funny)

    by moro_666 (414422)
    a madman on fire imagining that he can fly like batman ???
    c00l .....
  • surviving falls (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jeif1k (809151) on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:01AM (#11190811)
    as no one has ever survived a landing attempt without a parachute.

    I don't know whether people have survived "attempts", but you can certainly survive falls from airplanes without a parachute: hitting brushes, trees, water, or snow can break your fall sufficiently so that you don't die. Theoretically, even hitting a solid, hard surface is survivable if you break the fall correctly (but I don't know of any actual cases).
    • Yes, try breaking a fall on concrete or solid Earth!

    • Theoretically, even hitting a solid, hard surface is survivable if you break the fall correctly

      I find that rather hard to believe... If you directly impact a hard surface, then you are going to decelerate from free fall of approx. 120 mph to 0 mph in a distance of approx a foot (the width of your body).

      From one of the equations of motion we have:

      Vt^2 = Vo^2 + 2 a s

      Which gives a = - 4795 m/s^2 or ~489g

      Which I'd have to hazzard would turn your brain to puree rather effectively.
    • Re:surviving falls (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zeux (129034) *
      A couple of them survived a landing attempt without a parachute:
      - Chissov from russia (1942) fell from 6705 meters (20000 feets) on snow, he was wounded but survived.
      - Nicolas Stephen Alkemade (1944) survived a fall from 5490 meters (16500 feets). He landed on a tree and a pile of snow and survived.

      I only have a document in French though:
      Click here. [www.quid.fr]
    • Re:surviving falls (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pclminion (145572)
      Theoretically, even hitting a solid, hard surface is survivable if you break the fall correctly

      Probably not. The "best" way I can imagine landing would be to land in a standing position, with your knees locked. You are hoping that the impact energy will be absorbed in your lower body instead of your internal organs, spine, and brain.

      Upon landing, the bones in your legs would shatter, the flesh of your legs would be pulverized, and your lower body would basically explode like a blood-filled water balloo

  • Downer (Score:5, Funny)

    by JustOK (667959) on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:06AM (#11190829) Journal
    Be a real downer if it doesn't work. He'll probably be in a big depression.
  • article text (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hyfe (641811) on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:11AM (#11190861)
    If you don't know the current abilities of parachutes, now-a-day, you should do your research.

    Why? I couldn't care less about the abillties of current parachutes.

  • I never thought I'd live to see the day when humans would take to the air.
  • by JJ (29711) on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:13AM (#11190879) Homepage Journal
    Don't Fly!! Don't Fly!!

    You'll get too close to the sun and your wings will melt !!
    -- Icarus
  • by Alioth (221270)
    Surely if this is human flight (as the Slashdot headline surmises), then hang gliding and paragliding is too? At least with a hang-glider you can soar.
  • An Austrian crossed the English channel in the summer of 2003 with a wing suit.
    • Slashdot covered this: link [slashdot.org]

      The guy landed with the use of a parachute, not the wingsuit!
      • Ahh... I'd forgotten that bit. Well good I'm glad we've cooked up a new to try and die but narrowly miss. I'm sure it will 'take off' here in Austria!
  • ...it's human landing without killing yourself that's the tricky part.
  • You guys are very quick at pointing out how ridiculous this idea sounds. Have you guys seen fotage of the wingsuit in use? It's pretty impressive. Why is it totally impossible to take it a step further? Don't you think that before the wingsuit, people were ridiculing it? And the parachute too? And the airplane? I'm not saying it's a sure thing, but it may very well be possible to land safely with a wingsuit.
  • Best Quote (Score:2, Funny)

    by Bob(TM) (104510)
    Best quote from the article:

    "If Jeb lands the wing-suit without a parachute and survives--he is going to be my hero," added Cani.

    Between the lines:

    And, if he doesn't survive - he'll be dead. Hero/dead ... mutually exclusive.
  • by lxs (131946) on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:34AM (#11191000)
    I believe that Douglas Adams actually channeled this guy's thoughts during the attempt:

    And wow! Hey! What's this thing coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding word like... ow... ound... round... ground! That's it! That's a good name - ground! I wonder if it will be friends with me.
  • This seems to be exactly the same thing I have been watching every July 4th for over ten years. So far as I can tell, his wing may be a little narrower, front to back, but each year I watch the group from the local club glide in on a controlled wing to try and hit a small target. What makes this new one such a big deal?
  • by speedphreak (834189) on Monday December 27, 2004 @09:47AM (#11191066)
    The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of flying:

    "There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying.

    The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.

    Pick a nice day, it suggests, and try it.

    The first part is easy.

    All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and willingness not to mind that it's going to hurt.

    That is, it's going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground.

    Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.

    Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.

    One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally. It's no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won't. You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when you're halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground, or about how much it's going to hurt if you fail to miss it.

    It is notoriously difficult to prise your attention away from these three things during the split second you have at your disposal. Hence most people's failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this exhilarating and spectacular sport.

    If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phyllum and/or personal inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinity, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.

    This is a moment for superb and delicate concentration.

    Bob and float, float and bob.

    Ignore all considerations of your own weight and simply let yourself waft higher.

    Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful.

    They are most likely to say something along the lines of, 'Good God, you can't possibly be flying!'

    It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly be right.

    Waft higher and higher.

    Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the treetops breathing regularly.

    DO NOT WAVE AT ANYBODY.

    When you have done this a few times you will find the moment of distraction rapidly becomes easier and easier to achieve.

    You will then learn all sorts of things about how to control your flight, your speed, your manoeuvrability, and the trick usually lies in not thinking too hard about whatever you want to do, but just allowing it to happen as if it was going to anyway.

    You will also learn about how to land properly, which is something you will almost certainly cock up, and cock up badly, on your first attempt.

    There are private flying clubs you can join which help you achieve the all-important moment of distraction. They hire people with surprising bodies or opinions to leap out from behind bushes and exhibit and/or explain them at the critical moments. Few genuine hitch-hikers will be able to afford to join these clubs, but some may be able to get temporary employment at them."

    -- Douglas Adams, 'The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy'
  • by Bake (2609)
    Somebody put a turbine in the grave of Charles Darwin!

    What this guy is going to attempt to pull off will generate at least 10 megawatts!
  • flybirdman.com (Score:2, Informative)

    by kevin922 (84000)
    http://www.flybirdman.com/ [flybirdman.com] all you wanted to know about wingsuit flight..
  • impressive (Score:2, Informative)

    by moterizer (640201)
    For those who wonder what a wingsuit looks like in action, check out some of the videos on this page [objectjump.com]. I particularly enjoyed the one called "BirdMan on Monte Brento" which links to this other page [bird-man.com].

    My other sig is funnier.
  • it's very important to land with zero injuries
  • Land a Snowboard... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ayjay29 (144994) on Monday December 27, 2004 @11:17AM (#11191810)
    I heard about a French guy once, who had done the math, and worked out that free-falling with a snowboard is pretty close to the speed and direction of the guys hopping off the 80m ski jumps.

    He had a plan to jump from a helicopter, and land on a steep powder field in the Alps somewhere. I think around the time (1994), the record for the highest survived drop on skiis or a board was around 270 feet.

    Never heard if he pulled it off or not.

    (I heard all this over a few beers in a bar in Chamonix, so I've no idea if theres any truth behind it.)

    One thing i think is cool though, is that the speed skiing record is about 75 mph faster than a free-fall sky diver.
  • I ran across this video a year or so back, when I was actually doing that jumping out of planes thing.

    I believe it's of Loic Jean-Albert, the fellow that shot the photos in the article. I could be wrong, but pretty sure the guy in the video is named Loic. What the fellow does is jump out of a helicopter over a mountain that he had picked out because of the angle of slope. He matches the slope after he picks up speed and comese about 9 feet from the surface. Granted, he's flying at about 70mph, but quit

That does not compute.

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