Sep 9, 2012, 1:58 AM
Post #1 of 39
The next big step
So in the interest of talking about wingsuits ;)
I have been around awhile with wingsuits and seen them go from very small wings with little more than an basic aerofoil to mega wings with cross venting, airlocks, grippers, profiled leading edges etc.
So bar rocket men and solid carbon fibre wings. Where do you think wings will go; since we appear to be approaching some limits in terms of wing size and the human frame. So are we now just amking very small improvements or is there another step?
Although I do see manufacturers looking into fully integrated rigs/suits, I think that might be something to look at for BASE because skydive rigs are just too expensive. I have a rig and just want to upgrade the suit not go for another reserve & AAD on top of it
Also I don't see wings getting that much bigger than what we have now!I recall a post somewhere here about Lurch making a suit with ALLOT of leg wing and he seemed to think it was a very bad idea to keep going in that direction
So to answer the question, I don't know where the manufacturers are heading in the near future but I think it will only be small tweaks for some time... I would love to be proved wrong!
You rang? Thoughts: Its all in what you can get used to. The test models I did awhile back proved we definitely can not handle a tailwing that goes much more than about 18 inches past the toes without a mechanism for relieving the skeleton and muscles of at least part of the loading.
But this season I've been flying Tony's Rebel which has more armwing area than I'd have thought reasonably possible, and by now, I'm so used to it that it doesn't feel big, all other suits just now feel small.
The pressurization is only part of the picture on that. 95% of the time I have the suit's airlocks all wide open because I need the reduction in drag, enhanced range width, flexibility and controllability. I love the way the suit flies with the locks closed, very self supporting and stable, but the price is, the usable range is horribly restricted.
The suit tends to be unstable when driven hard or in a steep dive with the locks closed, develops a bit of a will of its own and its much trickier to fly it dirty/with others that way. It'll cruise all day easily, closed up, and for flights beyond 4 minutes its awesome, but for most other uses I downtune it.
Yet I have no problem supporting and managing a wing that size, pressurized hard or not. Theres some other factors in play here I don't fully understand myself. Some of its just me, getting used to it, but I think most of it is a sum total effect of the way Tony's been evolving his suit line.
I've already been talking to Tony about continuing development of this suit chassis to see how far it can go. Asking for about 3 more inches on tail and armwing trailing edges. Its the only place I can conveniently add even more surface area without wrecking the dynamics that make the suit work. No answer on that one yet.
If he's not interested in working with me I'll either take my ideas to another suit builder who is, or strike out on my own again and get back in the lab, start fabricating add-ons.
More subtle this time, though. I've learned a LOT since last time, and now with the size of today's suits theres a lot less room for sloppy growth. I can't get away with the kinds of heavy gear I used to. My last series of suits and suit mods were based on really crude designs... a Birdman S-6 tripled in size, and that leather jacket monstrosity which wasn't based on anything, but as an early prototype of its own class it was only about equal to an S-6 in performance. Stylewise its 400 years ahead of (or behind, depending on how you interpret the look) any suit ever built, performancewise its a dead end. But by way of add-on mods I was able to extend a puny S-6's performance envelope to the point where I could beat all Mach suits easily with it, and hold my own against a pair of x2's.
The same approach applied to the Apache is likely to produce...?
I'd like to find out, and maybe I will.
I think with the self-supporting nature of the Apache suit chassis we can get away with another couple square feet of surface area, but beyond that, I'm not sure.
I had another suit design on the lab bench this spring, something too radical to even describe here which included a radical revision of the deployment mechanism, but it was in its early stages of development when my Apache arrived. As soon as it did, I turned all my attention to it, working up a handle mod and then training with it for the Hungary comp.
It was going to take me a good year, maybe longer just to physically assemble the design I have in mind, because I had to fabricate the entire thing almost down to the last stitch from scratch and I had no time to continue it so I boxed it up for later. I was still in the early stages of laying out and working up the exact proportions, shapes, mounting and attachment point locations. At the time the basic shape was going to be derived from the S-Bird I had as a foundation building block, but now that basic foundation has been rendered obsolete before it was even finished.
It can, however, be transferred over to the Apache and continued from there. I was still laying out the basic mapping of the suit, rough pieces and wads of fabric held together with safety pins, and when I resume the project I can just lay it over an Apache and continue, expanded. Its why I dropped it the moment I got my own Apache. I knew that what I was gonna learn from it was awesome and I wanted that whole new encyclopedia of experience and technique already stored in my head before I went any further.
There were dozens of separate mechanical elements involved, each one of which I had to design and make straight from raw materials which is incredibly time consuming, and I still have to hold down a fulltime factory job to fund my flying career. Now, what I've learned from a season flying Tony's latest monster has given me a LOT of new design data to integrate into the basic idea.
Much of the new knowledge consists of subtle, hard-to-quantify technique about what and how much load I can take at the perimeter of the suit and how to manage it. But the suit itself has reopened several lines of research: I'm once again considering developing some semiautomated end-of-arm exoskeletals, controlled by gripper position to add another foot or so to the wingspan, and possibly a rather more subtle and elegant form of tail extension than I did last time. Not quite so exaggerated and intended for longer-term usability. My first few models were so very crude and clunky, but they did give me very valuable data to work from.
So, don't expect big steps. Its taken us a decade to progress from the nearly-useless wings of a Classic 1 to the Apache sized suits, and anything beyond this will have to be done the same way... by creeping up on it, one little survivable change at a time. But rest assured, there are a few freaks out there like me, who, the minute we get used to what we DO have, start asking "How do we get even MORE?" It'll be quite some time before I can produce an answer to that question, but I'm working on it.
I recently stumbled on a totally new technique (to me anyway) for flying the Apache which resulted in an accidental 9mph fallrate, short-term, with no muscle effort whatsoever. None. I was not bearing down on the wings at all. I was in fact flying limp, but in a very particular way which produced a slow wave oscillation that caused the suit to do a very slow planeout entirely on its own, (a whole series of them, in fact, only visible when I played back the Altitrack, repeatedly, at triple speed, and only because I was flying "that way" most of the way down) revealing an actual canopylike recovery arc that works without effort if you can see where on the wave you are and how to hook up to it.
Its one of the most subtle effects I've found yet, and I think it has a lot of potential if I can map it. I'd been expecting a fallrate that stayed in the 30's to 50's range and what I got was a fallrate that slowly drifted down to the teens, back to the 40's, down to the single digits, back to the 40's, repeatedly, on its own. I'm pretty sure what I've isolated is just the wingsuit equivalent of a canopy swoop recovery arc.
Its going to take me quite awhile to figure out how to produce this effect at will and what the parameters are, (window of entry, amount of range inside the effect before it is disrupted, where the edges are) but I think there is a whole new body of technique I can develop based on it, once I understand it. I came down from the dive thinking "Holy crap, all this time, I've been doing it wrong."
Downside is, as a non-forced effect, its very altitude-consuming to set up deliberately, but at least I've already found that at certain speeds and angles I can sort of "click into it" if I happen to be going the right way at the right time. For now, I'd settle for finding a way to integrate it into my planeouts and breakoffs. As near as I can tell, the trick is setting up a field and letting dynamic lift do all the work, but as ninja tricks go, this one's very hard to see, mentally speaking and moving around, navigating, making major changes to body shape all disrupt it, blur the edges, make it fade out. As soon as you use force to do anything with the airflow, it goes away. Best I can do so far is find a window in which I can invoke it, (starting to get THAT part down) then sort of nudge and guide it and let it reveal itself a little at a time by experience.
I've already begun finding excuses to fly "that way" in my day to day jumping just to see if I can turn it on and off, or invoke the effect at will for a second or two anyplace its convenient. Breakoff, for instance. I have not yet tried it with the winglocks closed, either, and I have a whole lot of experimenting to do before I can report any more than "interesting new airflow-hookup effect independent of bodily rigidity". Right now all I have are glimpses of the technique, momentary flashes where I can see and do it. When I've made it systematic and integrated it into daily flying in a way I can put numbers to and teach, I'll report it in enough detail for others to reproduce it, assuming it can be defined enough to repeat and actually proves useful. I suspect Robi already knows it, and when I figure out the words to describe it, I'll ask him. We're not yet out of new places to go with this. Not even close. Where we're at, isn't the limit, the pinnacle of development. Its the beginning of a new one, one so hard to find we had to advance this far just to even begin to see it. You'll see.
Well Chuck, the way the forums have been lately, wanna take bets on how long before somebody pops in to haughtily and self-righteously start trying to pick me apart? I think the usual knockdown tactic is to find specific phrases to twist or interpret literally against a rigid straw-man definition in order to inform me that I'm wrong, attempt to discredit my credibility, or smugly imply that I don't know what I'm doing, or I'm not in fact exploring anything new and so-and-so mastered it years ago, and I'm reading my gauges wrong, or theres too much noise in the data to know anything, or whatever.
Its ok, though. Since I jump a lot more than I post, I'll probably be in the air at the time. Last time that happened, I spent the entire season doing exactly what the guy said my numbers clearly showed I was not in fact doing. I've now grown used to punching climbs with the suit, with and without setup dives, from normal flocking speeds, routinely. Starting to get a fairly decent handle on the actual range and what I can expect from any given speed, too. Often normal flocking speeds are too slow forward and its much easier if I translate to a forward runup before punching it... a straight punch wastes a lot of energy. I may not have to dive, but a certain minimum forward speed makes the use of any given fallrate a lot more effective and I can still keep some forward speed to GO somewhere off the peak of the climb instead of just nosing down into a coasting recovery. Still so much to learn... -B
My biggest suit is still an S-Bird, which was actually converted from a Super Mach I. It's much more than I need to put the fuciking caddy-wompus on most perpetrators. My Phantom2 is still my default tool of choice.
I believe it. My own S-bird is still my default all-purpose suit, good for 3:30-4 minutes at the outer limits. The only thing I -can't- beat with it is an Apache, (or Martijn in his Venom now that I think of it) and against most of them, I can at least put up a decent fight and keep up.
My former apprentice Vicente was here today. While waiting for his own megasuit all he's got is a T-Bird.
I have NEVER seen a T-bird flown this effectively. We got a bit more altitude than usual today (not tellin') and in high uppers we were flying all-out. I was giving up a lot of fallrate due to the maximum possible suit size discrepancy, but he had the forward speed jacked up so high I had the friggin' Apache up against its drag limits. Who'da thunk it, you can flock Tony's biggest and smallest models together at the same time and actually have both of them seriously workin' hard. Flying extremely fast and super flat, he got 4:05-ish, at breakoff I popped for time and stretched it a hair more to 4:17.
Flying with talented birds teaches me much. I learned that if I keep the forward speed jacked up THAT high and a fallrate in the 30s to 50s the damn thing climbs accidentally and with no effort at ALL. Totally different technique from the usual rock-back-and-punch it thing. All I did was flex a little to pop up over brother V and it showed on my alti as a solid -24mph climb. When he gets his own Rebel and we can both unleash the suits completely without ditching the other bird we expect an easy 4:30 from 13.5 and somewhere between 4:45-5:00 if we can get 14.5. Especially towards the bottom coasting and not caring about speed burnoff, its not unusual to be pushing around 30sec per thousand feet, even fatigued. Thats the miracle of the latest-gen stuff. I just logged 297 seconds flight in one jump and not only were my arms NOT burning, I wasn't even noticeably fatigued after. At all. My arms weren't even tired or sore. I could have flown like that indefinitely.
Chuck if you ever want a single-purpose cloudsurfing monster, I still recommend these things to all wingsuit masters advanced enough to handle em. The deployment and flying technique required is demanding and radical, but the payoff is so awesome that when I went back to my S-Bird after a couple months in the Apache I felt like my wings had been clipped. My formerly formidable and fondly named Sledgehammer S-bird suddenly felt like a GTI in comparison. I still keep it constantly on hand for the same stuff you keep your P2 for, and I'll borrow a P2 for any serious acro cause all the serious acro pilots seem to favor em. Way nimbler.
The S is ok for acro, but paired with a P2 its a mess, ranges too widely spaced. If I'm gonna do acro in an S, its gotta be paired with another S. Lately I've been learning to flock the megasuit just because I want to devlop skills to handle the thing well at all possible ranges.
A couple years ago I had to borrow a P2 for a vertical challenge because the S was too squirrelly held on a tight leash in a precise formation at a much higher fallrate than the usual range. If I'd known then the stuff I know how to do now, I wouldn't have had to.
Its like learning to fly all over again. Exhilarating.
I can't WAIT to see the suits 4 generations from now. Hell, I hope to have a hand in their development.
If you have to bend your legs AT ALL up front in a big suit, then your's wasting your time. I'd MUCH rather stick my legs out in a smaller suit and kick the shit out of the perpetrators in air mattresses. I'd like to jump a Rebel, Lurch, but only with people who can actually skydive.
Are you guys finished blowing sunshine up eachothers asses yet?
On a serious not lurch are you saying t-bird has faster fwd speed than apache? I mean if you were at your drag limit and the tbird was being flow for time ie 4min im guessing it could be flown to go alot faster fwd?
(This post was edited by imsparticus on Sep 9, 2012, 8:40 PM)
I dunno, are you finished being a dink on the forum yet?
*rolls eyes* I'm not saying one "is a faster suit" than the other, because I am so sick of hearing that lame-ass phrase and it makes no sense.
How many times does it need to be said, it's not the suit it's the pilot? What Vicente did was crank up his forward speed enough to challenge the megasuit where it is weakest and a T is strongest.
Its actually the closest you can get to putting the two suits on an even footing. Although I'm no longer practicing what I preach on this, I did for 8 previous seasons on smaller suits. Far more fun flying with birds in small suits who can use em to their limits. THATS fun!
I had plenty of surplus wing and the ability to climb away from the T with ease, but at a forward speed that high, eventually the only really relevant factor in catching a suit ahead of you becomes profile drag. How thick the Apache's wing is starts to become very relevant and eventually even a dominant limitation. Vicente got his angle so perfect he hit the T-Bird's true "horizontal terminal velocity" where there is no way to go any faster without either diving or minimizing wing to do it.
The dynamics were fascinating. At a forward speed that high the T-bird's relative lack of fabric starts to become an asset instead of a liability. I could keep up with him easily enough, but try to pull even with him took some doing. I'm 15-20 lb lighter than he is, and with a much bigger suit and far more drag to match. Do the math. Eventually, if we both just plain stood on our heads, he'd outrun me.
I had to either get narrower to squirt a few more mph out of it, or dive maybe 10 feet below his level to get the added speed to pull even, alongside. Interestingly once I had done so, stationkeeping was easy. I drew up alongside a few feet down, and I then had enough surplus power to popup over him with loads of power to spare and without falling back or losing ground. At that speed the slightest twitch of the Apache will catapult you away from any other suit with a radical fallrate reduction or outright reversal.
Anyway to answer directly, he was flying for time the most effective way, far more than slow cupping. He was at the Tbird's absolute forward speed limit. Horizontal terminal beyond which he can go no faster either, without diving or sacrificing fallrate, and he elected to keep his wings pinned out as maxed as they could get. Looks similar to typical FF time cupping but much steeper and twice the forward speed. It feels like a dive but it isn't. Starts out that way till the dynamic lift kicks in bigtime above around 70-90mph forward, after that, you can sustain mid-30's all day with half the usual amount of wing and the suit rather head-low in attitude.
I was at my drag limit, and so was he. when most of the airflow is truly head-on and the wingload becomes a minor side effect, the ultimate forward terminal of both suits, and the drag they present to linear airflow aren't all that far apart.
I had enough wing to spare to be able to use it to go a little faster than THAT, but I had to do one or another "ninja trick" to do so. Simply trying to stick my tail out further was not possible. Both tails were out all the way, pinned and flat, and a much steeper AOA than typical hangin' out cruising. Vicente looked like a textbook model of "How to get the most out of your suit." We were flying for time, by flying for speed.
Well Sparty, perhaps you didn't understand what I said, or perhaps I wasn't clear in my description. Now, maybe its just me, but I seem to sense a slightly snide, mocking tone in your responses, a certain strong hint of contempt that I don't know what I'm talking about. You do that a lot. What's it for? Is it actually good for something, does it make you a better pilot?
Ask a silly question get a silly answer i guess. Even sillyer still is repremanding someone for providing an answer to a question. And in response to your question last i checked australia was on planet earth but being form the usa you probably arnt aware of that or anything outside of your little bubble.
(This post was edited by imsparticus on Sep 11, 2012, 6:13 PM)
But you didn't in fact answer the question. See, we have a problem. Guys like Chuck Blue seldom stop by here anymore because of guys like you doing their best to make the forum an unpleasant place. Which is a damn shame. I don't know if you know who Mr. Blue is, suffice to say he's somewhere beyond mere legend, one of the founding members of the community, among the oldest of us, and had been teaching wingsuit flying for years already when I got started myself. If he ever has much to say in here, you might wanna listen to him.
You seem to sort of specialize in being snide and nasty in the forum, clearly its nothing personal since you just turned it on one of my respected associates in the sport as well, so you must have some sort of purpose. Are you trying to establish a reputation as a guy so badass he can get off personally trying to smack down the ranking members of the community? How's that workin' out for ya? Is it getting you much respect yet?
In case you were unaware by the way, Matt Hoover is one of the most well-known professional wingsuit photographers in the industry. Got his start about the same time I did, and I've lost count of the number of times I've run into him at one major event or another. The guy you just tried to mock about "little bubble" gets around even more than I do, his "little bubble" includes many, maybe even most of the relevant wingsuit events for the last decade.
I think the next big step coud be more skills. Seeing people put the same dedicated training into the various subdiciplines, as is happening in VRW and FS.
Doing 200 to 500 jumps training for one specific thing to do it perfect, and focussing less on new gizmos and gear to compensate...
Anyway back on topic, I think your spot on, whilst design changes are likley to be incremental we are scratching the surface in terms of flight skills and control. Unlike getting in a tunnel and generating hundreds if hours for other disciplines its very hard to do this with wingsuits so we will just have to commit to those exploratory jumps.