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QuietStorm

First and "Nasty" Flat Spin on Super Mach 1 and Learning Experience

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I have been asked by Scott Campos; "Lou Diamond" to post my experience this past Sunday at the Eloy Easter Boogie regarding a flat spin on my back for training and learning purposes and add to the knowledge base that has been collected on this forum.

I'm not the first nor will I be the last to experience an uncontrollabel flat spin on the back There have been posts on this before. This is nothing new but might make an interesting read.

I am simply offering one more "account" to add to our growing knowledge base garnered from others experiences.

Fortunately a fellow wingsuiter flew above me because my spin was so ugly; like a car wreck you just had to slow down and stare. He wanted to make sure I was OK. Unfortunately we do not have video on this flat spin on my back. I'm glad we do have video documentation from a flat spin at the Moab boogie. By my fellow wingsuiter observations my flat spin was a bad one.

So I guess the best I can offer is an explanation of how it happened, what I felt/experienced, what went through my mind, and what I did.

I would like start off by saying that I gradually moved up from a Firebird, then into a Blade, then into a Super Mach1; my training and experience measured and progressive. Several hundred jumps on the Super Mach 1 before this flat spin happened. I have about 700 wingsuit jumps, 1015 jumps total; and this was my first time for a flat spin and a sense of being completely out of control, ever.....in skydiving.

By watching flat spin videos, knarly pictures of blood shot eyes, attending seminars, hearing vicious ugly stories of the flat spin and the potential results and dangerous; I always went well out of my way to try to avoid one; shying away from aerobatics due to the fear of instability and a potential back spin. Enough "warning" had been put into the back of my head to generate enough "survival fear?" to not go out looking for this situation due to the potential consequences. But at the same time...we all kind of want to have one so we know how to "deal".

HOW IT HAPPENED:

12 Way was exiting the Otter and I was near last out. In 2008 I was trained to "get the Flock Out" FAST, any hesitation in the door screws the guy behind you and strings out the flock. All the flocking the previous day was SMOKING with all legs pinned out with fast forward speed and long flight times which I liked. But it also meant that there was no time to mess around out the door, on the hill, as I had to start my dive fast. This "urgency" to GET THE FLOCK OUT did not escape me. It did not help that we did not get the starboard bench up and that two "fallers" spazzed out in the back and decided to go after us. So the approach to the door was not optimum. It was just difficult to get out clean with all the obstructions and that led to an asymetrical exit.

WHAT DID I PHYSICALLY FEEL / EXPERIENCE:

It all happened so freakishly fast straight out the door of the otter. There was no tumbling horizon line. All I could see was blue skies above me. I tried to "muscle" my way over face to earth but I felt like the suit had me under its control. The next thing I saw was the overhead clouds going into a circle and with each rotation picking up speed, each rotation just "seemed" to double in speed. I felt enourmous weight/tension/pressure building up in my extremeties of my head and arms. It felt like I was on the "recieving end" of centrifugal force. Exit was at 13,400; Neptune shows speed at 111mph at 12K and 93mph at 9K. It "sounded" like freefall. But what I vividly noticed was the amount of force that was being applied and the amplitude by how much it kept increasing with each rotation.

WHAT WENT ON IN MY HEAD LOGICALLY, PSYCHOLOGICALLY, AND EMOTIONALLY:

I most definately felt the "Fight or Flight" neuro-physical response hit me. At the time and in retrospect I'm still amazed at how fast our brains cna process so much...so quickly. I really don't think I felt "FEAR" at first but I wasn't exactly a happy camper in that moment.

By what I had read, watched on video, and had been taught my brain could definately tell me I was in a flat spin; by logic even though I had never experienced one.

I was able to consciously / emotionally recognize that if I did not correct my situation; the bloodshot eyes, blackout and possibly worse were heading my way....soon.

And that part is what "got to me some"; the knowledge of what bad stuff was heading my way soon that initiated the tinge of FEAR I elt; "knowing" what could be coming up next. I already knew I was totally out of control; that did not get to me.... its the knowledge that also gave a little fuel to the PANIC monster that was at my door and pounding it down hard trying to get into my head so to speak. Ignorance is bliss? Hmmmm.....

WHAT I DID:

The only thing I knew and was trained to do. BALL UP, pull in my knees to my chest, bring in my arms and shut down the wings/surfaces that were causing the problem. Damn it was hard to do!

At that point the spinning was fast and the presssure on my upper body was intense. I couldn't do it on my first attempt nor second, FEAR set in, and PANIC got half its foot in the door; I can honestly say this is when I started to get scared; and that's what it took to yank my arms and legs in.

I got into a ball but I could still tell I was spinning on my back but all the pressure on my arms , head, and upper body went away. THEN....I had a sense of calm; but I still had the rotation to deal with; but without my wings out stretched from the centrifugal force spinning me like a Frisbee.

So I tuned over onto my belly but the rotation left over made it difficult to symetrically get the wings out again. At that poing I can't remember what I thought....I just "DID" ; no thinking .....you just do and go by feel from what hundreds of jumps before had trained your brain to do.....fly birdie....just fly.

I flopped and flailed and must have resembled a duck that just got shot midflight but somehow got flat and level and then had to regain my bearing of where the DZ was and of course 180 degrees opposite my flight path.

In the course of the flat spin, recovery, flail, etc. my left bootie came off and my leg wing unzipped up to just above my left knee; creating more non-symetry.

So to compensate I just pointed my left leg out, locked up my knee and pointed my toe hard like in a good tracknig dive and raised up my right leg enought to "trim things out " so to speak.

I think all the recovery got resolved between 9K and 6K as my vertical speed at 9K was 93mph and at 6K was 80 mph. 6K is when I rembered trying to fly home with a "trimmed out leg wing" and deploying at 3,700 to make it back under canopy.

AFTERTHOUGHTS:

Arching as an RW student is taught to regain stability would not have worked; my body is the rigid frame; the wingsuit...the fabric wing. Arching would have just pushed my belly toward the sky and in comination with the wingsuit just made my body a spinning airfoil/wing; just like the fabric "soft fribee" I throw for my dog. I would have remained on my back ....and spinning.

I went on a friends 500th belly/hybrid dive a few weekends back; it felt so freaking wierd to not being in a wingsuit; its like I had not control surfaces, any "inputs" that I made belly flying or transitioning to sit did not affect my flight as dramatically as a wingsuit. It felt like I was swimming in air on that dive. What applies to belly skydiving in terms of stability recovery just does not apply to wingsuiting; they are two entirely seperate entities.

The Super Mach 1 is my THIRD wingsuit that I built up into. Listen,heed, and obey your instructors who urge you to start in a smaller suit and gradually progress. A suit way too big for you can be a monster to control if it gets out of control.

I kinda wish this had happened to me hundreds of wingsuit jumps ago.....on a smaller suit; and happened to me repeatedly on a smaller suit; to gain skills earlier on how to deal with this.

It was not fun; I'm glad I got this out of the way. I now have more confidence that I can survive this.

I am now INTRIGUED. I know that the "next level"of where I want to go next of controlled backflying, transitions, scary rolls, and bailing out the door on my back; is going to most likely get me unstable again until I figure it out through the trial and error of practice.

With this behind me...and I'm not as scared and worried about really getting out of my comfort zone as I used to; but I'm going to transition down to a smaller wing before knowingly putting myself into unstable flight. I will work on those skills first in a smaller suit.

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Good job getting out of that one...

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Listen,heed, and obey your instructors who urge you to start in a smaller suit and gradually progress.



Though good advice..I also hope more people see UPSIZING isnt always PROGRESS. Smaller suits enable you to fly more, do more, and also relly less on fabric to hold you up, and more on aquiring flying skills.

Some people need the additional fabric to stay up (related to weight/build) but for a lot of flyers, downsizing and flying something more tuned to their body size, wingload, and general flocking-range will result in a lot better flying a across the board as well.

In bigger suits, its quite easy to get into lazy legs, and end up flying the suit more like a camera-suit than a wingsuit. Low forward speed, yet low fallrates as well. So impossible to fly with for those 'flying' more modest wingsuit models.

Aerobatics, backflying, docking and dealing with sh*t is all so much easier in smaller suits. And for many people (myself included) those suits are all they'll ever need..even though the trend is to 'upgrade' all the time..

Even FS en RW jumpers dress for succes...hope we do the same..B|
Be safe..
JC
FlyLikeBrick
I'm an Athlete?

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Jarno:

You are correct on many accounts.

Perhaps "progress" was not the right term I should have used but I know we have all seen the "lust" from fledgling wingsuiters for something bigger, badder, and faster judging questions and request for "am I ready" opinions you and many others respond to on this forum.

I'm 6' and usually my weight stays around the 200LB range; in 2008 I found the "wingloading" on my Blade wingsuit too heavy to fly in the flocks I was trying to participate in; I grew very frustrated with myself as I strained to stay up. Unless that flock was moving really fast forward speed to generate the lift I would gradually find myself sinking out. So I had to gradually keep moving up in wingsuite size until I had "Rightsized" my wingsuit for my body.

And I learned that weekend too!

Previously I would normally have to fly my SMI "dirty" somewhat in an arch, legs bent, wings all the way out. But the S-Fly boys from France where flying REALLY FAST and "pinned out"

What amazed me was that in the flock, my legs were totally pinned out, toes pointed, and leg wing fully extended, no "flap"; BUT I did not have to hardly use any wing at all; matter of fact I had most of it tucked up on my back and just the slightest presentation of wing generated a lot of "lift" and "pop" over and above where I needed to be. On approach, I had my wings completely folded in...and could stay on level; I found that interesting as previously I would find myself sinking below. I took everything I had just to "drive in" to the formation using my body.

Suffice to say with this style of flying I probably could have "dialed the wing down?" and put on my Blade and flown in these flocks with arms wings fully extended out.

But I opted to just stay in the same suit; my SM1 and learn a different performance charactaristic that I had never experienced before.

I also really enjoyed one flight in a S-Fly ProFly; but once again dedicated my weekend opportunity to flying with a group rather than taking off in another direction by myself with a new suit. I had always wanted to try out a MonoBody Wing and did pretty good with too on time, speed, and distance wise.

So I agree with you that its a good idea for folks to "RightSize" thier wingsuit and urge upcoming wingsuiters to take advantage of as many opportunities to fly different manufacturers of wingsuits with different wing surface area and find the right "fit for their body"; because "bigger is not always better or progress"

My wife who flies a Tony Intro quite well now would never need anything more than possibly a Blade, Wraptor, or Ghost. Putting her into a Stealth 2 or SuperMach would just border on the ridiculous and is most certainly not "progress" at all.

So your comments make good sense.

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Good account of the difficulty of getting out of a flat spin. A lot of people just assume it could never happen to them and that they would just "fly out of it". Having been there first hand on matt's spin, they are scary, and can get really bad really fast. Good job not dying.

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In 2008 I was trained to "get the Flock Out" FAST, any hesitation in the door screws the guy behind you and strings out the flock.



I know some are going to throw shit at me, but here it goes: I have been to many boogies where the WS loadmaster stresses this in the door: "tighten it up!!!"...then go..go..go..go, and the result is pretty often wingsuit kong-fu fighting, lots of guys tumbling. Also some of the last guys out are eager to get out really fast and push hard and even step on other peoples booties.. I say, those guys must move up the line maybe to the front. If you cant dive fast, then move up. I prefer that everyone gets a clean exit. If this makes the last guys exit 3-5 sec's later, so what...? Now everyone has a clean exit. We have at least 2 minuttes of worktime, so whats the rush

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I think a big reason for tumbling is not making a clean 'solo' exit, and people doing fetal position style duck/cover type actions, to avoid other people. Worry more about your own body position and flying, and less about others. Though foot-in-mouth type incidents will happen of course..

But agreeing with BirdyNamNam, I also like spacing exits more. Flying them, instead of diving. As long as everyone carves/flies out of the door, and doesnt fall/dive backward, half a second extra doesnt differ much.

The Red Bull AirForce guys show this nicely..they exit clean, slow..yet build faster that most people do on mass exodus type exits..

Though getting above a certain size, you do need to start tightening it up more and more to avoid people needing to close 3 miles of distanceB|.


Another good thing to do, is focus on some aerobatics on solo dives.
The practice in flying weird positions and recovery, is exactly what teaches you how to deal with the poop if you ever get into a really bad situations..
JC
FlyLikeBrick
I'm an Athlete?

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good job saving your life, man!
and thanks for posting and sharing the knowledge...

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By watching flat spin videos, knarly pictures of blood shot eyes, attending seminars, hearing vicious ugly stories of the flat spin and the potential results and dangerous; I always went well out of my way to try to avoid one; shying away from aerobatics due to the fear of instability and a potential back spin. Enough "warning" had been put into the back of my head to generate enough "survival fear?" to not go out looking for this situation due to the potential consequences.



correct me if I'm interpreting this the wrong way, since 700 ws jumps is whole lot...
are you saying in those 700 flights you didn't really do any aerobatics at all? specifically, do you backfly much? or, rather, did you use to backfly when you had a smaller suit?

It kinda see a pattern here... where someone will avoid learning how to fly on their back, do scary rolls, gravitrons and anything in that realm, for fear of flatspins... and then upsizing to the bigger suit, the lack of being used to dealing with these types of situations can make things worse really quickly.

should we be teaching people to be afraid of aerobatic maneuvers that may put one in a flatspin, or should there be more emphasis on instability training early on? (just like in AFF those barrel rolls and front/back flips are a necessary evil to help the student learn how to deal with going from a different position back into the stable one)

just some food for thought.

again, good job saving your life.

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The only thing I knew and was trained to do. BALL UP, pull in my knees to my chest, bring in my arms and shut down the wings/surfaces that were causing the problem. Damn it was hard to do!



It is hard to do. Has anyone else found that flailing can get you out of a spin and into a tumble which is easier to fly out of? My recovery procedures in order are fly it out, ball it up, flail and fly it out, or pull and pray ...
"That looks dangerous." Leopold Stotch

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The only thing I knew and was trained to do. BALL UP, pull in my knees to my chest, bring in my arms and shut down the wings/surfaces that were causing the problem. Damn it was hard to do!



It is hard to do. Has anyone else found that flailing can get you out of a spin and into a tumble which is easier to fly out of? My recovery procedures in order are fly it out, ball it up, flail and fly it out, or pull and pray ...



I found myself in many flat spins over the years of learning how to fly and do acrobatic maneuvers. I found that reacting quickly to a flat spin is key. The longer you take to realize that you are in a "out of control situation" and then react puts you behind the power curve.

I have found that reacting quickly, closing your arm and leg wings until the spin slows enough to dive out of the spin works well. The trick is actually closing the wings enough to slow the spin. I have seen many flat spin situation where the pilot says that they closed up their wings. However video evidence showed that what they actually did was close their wings 50% of the way.

If you do not feel yours knees together and have your arms tucked in towards your chest chances are the wings are still inflated and inhibiting your recovery.

Just my opinion/ what has worked well for me. In this situation I feel there are many ways to skin this cat. Hearing them all just allows for us to determine the course of action we will take when in that situation.

Glad you are OK John!

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I got into a ball but I could still tell I was spinning on my back but all the pressure on my arms , head, and upper body went away. THEN....I had a sense of calm



I had to laugh when I read this. If I remember my flat spin the most intense memory is that quietness when the spin starts slowing down.
To be honest: I loved that feeling. :)
For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

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To all; I really don't post here that often so I can't quite figure out how to cut and paste your comments/replies so I can address each one....Sorry; so here is my best attempt:

@SUPERGIRL:

Excellent Points; I understand there is dialogue in the wingsuit community in terms of developing a mutually agreeable student curriculum; and you bring up an awesome point of RECOVERY FROM INSTABILITY; just like we do for AFF students. Now it may be hard to "grab and turn " over somebody in a wingsuit like we can freefall students. We have no "wingsuit license requirements" But all of this brings up a a good idea of a "progress check point" of instability recovery.

I have tried to backfly SOME and barrel roll SOME in my smaller Firebird and Blade years ago; key word -SOME and not "keep trying and practicing till you have it perfect"; with limited funds and limited opportunities to fly in groups I just sort of concentrated on group flying, it was just "easier and more fun to do...than the harder homework. But all of this makes me take a step back in re-evalution of my overall learning. Kinda like going back and taking a class you squeeked by with a "C" but there is now something inside of you that wants to go back and earn the "A".

Was I "taught" to be afraid of aerobotic maneuvers? Definately NO! In retrospect should there be an emphasis on instability training; ABSOLUTELY! Any "fear" and "avoidence" was self generated in my own head. I have a lifelong history of being the fool to go walk where an angel fears to tread; so If I am already doing something I darn well know dangerous to begin with I tend to "shy away" from making things more dangerous than the really need to be.

@ BIRDYNAMNAM AND JARNO:

Jarno excellent points! I have also participated in getting 23 wingsuiters out of on Otter FAST and WELL. Its not so much fast, as it is quick, deliberate, defined, presise , and smooth. Once you have a group that has flown together jump after jump and "clicked" so to speak; the teamwork aquires a sense of self timing.

But when you put throw new people together at a boogie what BIRDYNAMNAM does happen; been there done that.

Honestly; I put the pressure to get out fast completely on myself and not by anybody else. NOBODY "pushed on me" so to speak; I did it to myself.

I have learned that sometimes situations just present themselves and that I just have to "get it done and make it happen". The organizer and his group were flying FAST right off the door. I have been involved with so many post dive briefs with many people saying they need more of this or less of that; multiple times over. I didn't want to be that person or anybody the organizer needed to "manage". I just didn't want to complain, bitch, or moan about anything; I did not want to be the "cause" for somebody behind me not getting to thier slot. I just kept my mouth shut and did my best to do what I was expected to do by the organizer.

@HJUMPER:

You filmed Matt's MOAB flat spin correct? If so the value of this for training has been awesome.

What I wanted to do in my original post is basically describe the FEELINGS, EMOTIONS, AND THOUGHT PROCESS; of what might be going through somebody's mind in a situation like this. I wanted to describe the EXPERIENCE.

Hopefully flyers can take my account, the MOAB wingsuit flat spin video, COMBINE THE TWO, AND thus increase thier knowledge and confidence to go forward knowing that it is a survivable situation to be met with caution and deliberate actions and not fear.

IN SUMMARY:

This "event" was very motivating and exciting for me; I had backed off wingsuiting for a while to pursue other things and now this backspin recovery really has shown me that there are new and challenging things to learn. Give me a challenge...I'll great it with joy.

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First off, John, kudos to you for starting this thread - it has been a good one. Most of what you said in your last post I totally agree with, but wanted to touch base on one thing...

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I have learned that sometimes situations just present themselves and that I just have to "get it done and make it happen". The organizer and his group were flying FAST right off the door. I have been involved with so many post dive briefs with many people saying they need more of this or less of that; multiple times over. I didn't want to be that person or anybody the organizer needed to "manage". I just didn't want to complain, bitch, or moan about anything; I did not want to be the "cause" for somebody behind me not getting to thier slot. I just kept my mouth shut and did my best to do what I was expected to do by the organizer.



You are totally right that sometimes "you just have to get there" regardless of what happens between standing in the airplane "tightening it up" and pulling "smartly" into your slot. I also totally understand the desire to "just get along", however I would like to point out that it is incumbent upon each of us to provide at least some feedback to the organizers - if nobody mentions that the fall rate was too slow or too fast, or the forward speed was not quite right, the organizers have no way to know whether adjustments are appropriate or not.

While I never presume that I am "in the right", if I struggle during a jump, I feel that I should offer to the organizers my view of what that jump was like. If I am one of several people with similar comments, then the organizers know that there is an opportunity for improvement. If I am the only one commenting in a particular direction, then I will have to "just suck it up" on the next jump, and make it work.

I believe that I am contributing to the overall good by providing appropriate feedback when the jumps are happening at the edge of my flying envelope. And I hope that others are willing to speak up at least a few times during a boogie to help get the rates "tuned in" to the group's abilities. It helps to know the relative abilities and flying styles of the people you are flocking with - if you are the only "fat guy" (been there, done that!), then yea, your gonna have to work to not fall out, but if there are a bunch of "gravitationally enhanced" flyers, then you may not be the only one struggling, and sharing your view may help your fellow flockers when the organizers understand what is happening "in the trenches".

Just my 2 cents worth...

Rick

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I have tried to backfly SOME and barrel roll SOME in my smaller Firebird and Blade years ago; key word -SOME and not "keep trying and practicing till you have it perfect"; with limited funds and limited opportunities to fly in groups I just sort of concentrated on group flying, it was just "easier and more fun to do...than the harder homework.



Learning to fly will make it easier to flock and dock. I believe that learning to do acrobatics and back-fly has made it much easier for me to recover from instability before it becomes a tumble or spin ...
"That looks dangerous." Leopold Stotch

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