As one of the most experienced pilots in the world, Jarno McCordia is continually involved with things at the pointy end of wingsuit flight. Following on from providing details about the new wingsuit tunnel in Stockholm, he shares some information about a more personal project that aims to answer a question that continually bothers us as humans:
“What happens if we strap rockets to it?”
“In a way this project started back in 2005 when I first saw Finnish wingsuit pilot Visa Parviainen experimenting with the first set of small jet engines. I had been involved in helping him with some media stuff around 2010, and at that point it really sparked my interest. It had always been a secret longing, but at that point I really got inspired to try and turn it into a reality.”
“Every wingsuit pilot dreams of flying with unlimited range and power - to turn yourself into a true flying machine. Visa took that and turned it into a reality. He worked for years to develop the idea, logging longer and longer flights, aiming for level flight and then the ability to gain altitude.”
While Jarno concedes that other high-profile projects that utilise similar technology have helped to draw attention to his plans, it has taken a lot of work to get it up and running.
‘It took quite a few years, and many dozens of sponsor proposals to finally get the project of the ground. At the moment we are midway into construction on the fuel setup and engine mounts, our software engineer is almost done programming the custom onboard computer that will control and monitor the engines, and provide various safety features related to matching thrust and (automated) startup and shut down sequences.”
“Engine technology and wingsuit design have both come a long way since Visa's first flights over a decade ago, and it is going to be exciting to see how far we can take it. We have a team of aeronautics designers helping with the engine mounting and fuel setup, and experts in construction making the gear. Visa himself has been involved from the start, providing us with a great deal of knowhow and practical information - as well as showing us his setup and design ideas.”
Unlike the various rigid wing systems we have seen over the years, your plans appear to utilise fairly standard wingsuiting gear. What have you had to adapt?
This is one of the main goals for the project. I’ve surrounded myself with a lot of experts in various fields and we are trying to design a set of gear that can be added to any normal wingsuit/parachute system. I will be using a bigger canopy due to around ten kilos of added weight I will have on landing, but thanks to recent advancements in ultralight fabrics and canopy design it will fit into my normal rig.
So when can we all have one?
I am not sure that buying a jump ticket and getting on a plane with a tank of Jet A1 strapped to your back and engines blasting super heated exhaust at 600 mph will ever become standard, but for me this is a dream project and I'm trying to get as many knowledgeable and skilled people as possible involved to help it become reality. An important personal goal is to develop a system that is as safe and easy to use as possible, and I think approaching the design process from the point of view of that anyone should be able to use it is a good place to start from.”
How long until we can expect to see you in the sky?
“We do have a date we're aiming for in terms of the first flights, but we are keeping that off the record for now. It is crucial to let safety, finalised designs and a thorough testing process dictate when we a ready to go. My biggest wish for the whole project was to make it safe, accessible and of course as awesome as can be.”
Project manager & Pilot: Jarno Cordia
Made possible by: IGOFX, AMT Jets, Phoenix-Fly
Programming & Technical Setup: Martijn Decauter
Technical Realisation & Construction management: Jean-Louis Becker / NL Ballon
Aerodynamics Design, Tunnel Testing & Support: DNW Aero