10 Easy Steps to Set a USPA Wingsuit Record
1. Plan your event: keep in mind you’ll need a videographer who can provide a still photo for judging, and a computer with a photo editing program. If you don’t have Photoshop, try downloading Gimp; it’s free.
2. Collect names, USPA membership numbers, and membership expiration from each participant. Hint: for larger groups, it helps to make a spreadsheet or separate typed list of participant information.
3. Download the wingsuit judging grid from the USPA website.
4. Contact two judges (one can be the Safety and Training Advisor at the dropzone, the other a USPA or FAI rated judge, or they can both be judges) and inform them of your record attempt. A pilot may not sign off on wingsuit formation records.
5. Declare your intended formation before you jump.
6. Select the best photo of your formation.
7. You may use your own computer to place the USPA grid over the photo to see if you are confident about achieving a record.
8. Contact the judges and ask them to verify that all participants are in their slots using the grid overlaid on a still photograph of the formation. Judges should also check that your participant information is correct, and that you have at least 51 percent USPA members.
9. Fill in form.
10. Scan and email the completed form, along with a still photo with and without grid (and separate list of participants if that information doesn’t fit in handwriting on the form) to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also fax the form to USPA at +1 (540) 604-9741 if you don’t have a scanner.
Wingsuit formation flying, sometimes referred to as “flocking”, has made rapid strides as a discipline in the past four years. In 2009, for the first time, three countries began recognizing official national records in wingsuit formation: the United States, South Africa, and Australia. The largest national record is the United States’, a 68-way formation.
In January 2010, the International Parachuting Committee, the skydiving section of the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, or World Air Sports Federation) formed a Wingsuit Working Group that will make recommendations in 2011 about adding no-contact wingsuit formation records as a category. This would allow all countries to adopt the same record definition, and make world records possible. Members of the Working Group are: Jacqui Bruwer (South Africa; Chair); Larry Bagley (USA); and Ronald Overdijk (Netherlands). Non-voting advisors are Taya Weiss and Jarno Cordia.
WINGSUIT FORMATION FAQ
How many people do I need to set a wingsuit record?
The minimum is four.
Do I need judges on site?
No, the formation can be judged remotely, but it can be helpful to have them there – especially with a newer discipline like wingsuiting.
Where do I get the USPA judging grid?
Download it on the USPA website.
I don’t have Photoshop. What can I use to judge a wingsuit record?
The grid file has a .psd extension, which can be used on Photoshop and also with many free photo editing programs. One example is Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program), which can be used with a Mac, PC, and Linux, and can be downloaded free at www.gimp.org.
Why is the base of the formation not required to be centered in a grid square?
The judging criteria for records are designed to be used with both small and very large formations. In larger flocks, there are secondary and tertiary bases in addition to the person in front. People at the back have no view of the primary base, and the flight dynamics reflect this. The grid is placed over the formation using a “best fit” method. If there is a way to fit all of the participants in the grid, that is how it will be oriented.
Do we have to maintain a specific distance between fliers to achieve a record?
No. The angle is what matters: because of the shape of the grid, a 45-degree angle between fliers must be maintained. The 3 meter distance flown on the US National Record dampens oscillation in larger groups and has been the most successful method tested. But you are welcome to fly closer spacing as long as all fliers make it into their designated slot.
Does a record formation have to be diamond shaped?
No. It can be any shape as long as it is a two-dimensional formation and the shape is pre-declared.
How long does the formation have to be held? Is there a duration requirement?
No. As with other disciplines’ records, there is no duration requirement. A still photograph is used to judge completion, and the video is used as a backup to show continuity of the dive and prevent cheating with photo editing software.
How many participants have to be American to set a USPA record?
More than half of the fliers in the formation must be USPA members. Nationality is not an issue, but membership organization is. For example: a British national whose primary membership is with USPA counts towards a USPA record. An American national whose primary membership is in another country does not count towards a USPA record.
What if we try for a 9-way but only 6 people get in to their grid squares? Can we call it a 6-way record?
No. You must achieve your pre-declared goal.
What information do I need to submit to USPA to get my wingsuit record certified?
Download the relevant pages of the Skydiver’s Competition Manual, including the one-page form you will need to fill out and submit. Hint: Make sure to collect the names, USPA member numbers, and membership expiration dates of all participants on a record attempt. The rest is fairly self-explanatory.
Can the grid be “squished” to make any formation fit?
No. It is defined in the Skydiver’s Competition Manual as a fixed-aspect-ratio lattice, which means that each box delineating allowable flying space has four 90-degree angles. This aspect of the spacing cannot be changed. It is, however, scalable, which means that both tightly and more loosely spaced formations can be judged.
Does every participant have to be completely within their grid square?
Yes. Each flier must be inside their square. They can be touching a line from within their allowable flying space, but may not have any part of their body or wing visible outside that line.
What is the 27% rule?
There is a constraint on the ratio of the base flier to the height of his or her grid square. The purpose of this constraint is to prevent the grid from being scaled to a huge size relative to the fliers in a small formation. There are markings on the base square of the USPA grid that correspond to 27% of the corner-to-corner measurement of the square. The base, measured from head to feet, (i.e. excluding tail wing and any camera gear on the helmet)must meet or exceed these markings.
Height is being used as a constraint because it is easily measurable (vs. area). With an original proposal of a 25% constraint by Taya Weiss, the 27% arose in a negotiation at the February 2010 USPA Board meeting between Weiss, Zach Schroedel, Andreea Olea, and Phil Peggs. This percentage is based on formations accomplished in the last year, while also encouraging even tighter flying to avoid “worst case scenarios”.
We use the base for scaling because the base sets the correct altitude for the formation. So far, no judging system can account for vertical movement within a formation. A person other than the base could, technically, be high or low on the formation, skewing the perspective of their height from the camera’s point of view.
Does this mean that it would be beneficial to get a relatively tall person as base vs. a relatively short person? Sure. It’s not a perfect system. But hopefully we will keep getting inspired to develop better ways of doing things.
Who decides whether a formation is a record or not?
Two judges are required to sign off on the record form. Both judges will decide whether the USPA’s criteria were met. The record paperwork is then sent to USPA headquarters, where it is double checked again and certified. Once this is done, a certificate will be sent to the address specified on the certification form.
How much does it cost to set a record?
The USPA charges $35 for an initial state record certification and $35 for initial national record certification, including one paper certificate for each. Additional certificates are available at the time of filing for $5 each, with a minimum order of 4 ($20 minimum).
How did the current wingsuit formation judging system get adopted by the United States Parachute Assocation, Parachute Association of South Africa, and Australian Parachute Federation?
Each country had a different experience and process to acceptance. The USPA heard a proposal at the July 2009 Board Meeting by Taya Weiss. The substance of that proposal was vetted with extensive discussion in the Competition Committee before being voted on (unanimously) by the entire 22-member Board.
In South Africa, the PASA (Parachute Association of South Africa) judges adopted the judging grid and rules similar to the USPA. The first South African record was set on October 3, 2009, and consisted of eight South African PASA members.
The first Australian record was organized with the participation of Neil Fergie, a Birdman Chief Instructor and APF coach, and Jari Kuosma, the CEO of Birdman, Inc. The APF process happened independently of the US and South Africa, but the same grid judging system was adopted.
I have an idea for a different formation judging system. How can I get it recognized?
Currently, the International Parachuting Commission is considering the addition of an unlinked wingsuit record category as a world record. If this occurs in 2011, all countries will bring their national rules into compliance with the IPC designation. However, it should be noted that the IPC will not be voting on a judging system; rather, they vote will on the rules that make a record, and any judging system that corresponds to the rules may be used.
In a broader sense, each country will have a different process for considering proposals. The USPA Competition Committee is the starting point in the United States. Member contact information is available on the USPA website. The future of wingsuit formation skydiving may extend to three-dimensional and sequential formations, so innovation in these areas will be welcomed. Before making a proposal, test the system by organizing events and watching the results. Without proven results, it is difficult for any sport governing body to adopt rules. The current USPA system grew from the 71-way event at Lake Elsinore in November 2008, and has been proven by multiple state records and a 68-way national record.
Can the current judging system be used to set international world records, recognized by the FAI?
The FAI has not yet recognized wingsuit formations as a record category. No world records have yet been set in wingsuit formation flying.
If the FAI recognizes wingsuit formation flying based on records that have been achieved so far, does that stop development or changes to the current judging system?
No. It simply recognizes current achievements as a basis for the future. All disciplines in skydiving have seen their record and competition criteria change over the years. The FAI exists to recognize individual and group achievements in air sports, and to promote safe parameters within which records can be set. FAI recognition, which happens by a vote of the International Parachuting Commission (the subset of the FAI devoted to parachuting), is the beginning, not the end, of the growth process for wingsuit flying.