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Roland Simpson, in white shirt, carrying Dwain Weston, both from Australia, leap off the KL Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2001. (ANDY WONG)
Roland Simpson, in white shirt, carrying Dwain Weston, both from Australia, leap off the KL Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2001. (ANDY WONG)

A history of wingsuit flight Add to ...

Early 11th century: Cleric Eilmer Malmesbury, also known as Elmer the Flying Monk, builds a set of wings and jumps from the west tower of Malmesbury Abbey. He is crippled for life.

1912: Franz Reichelt, also known as The Flying Tailor, leaps from the Eiffel Tower in a homemade wingsuit. To demonstrate his faith in his design, he foregoes a backup parachute. Mr. Reichelt plummets to his death in front of the assembled crowd.

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1937: Clem Sohn, also known as The Michigan Icarus, dies making a wingsuit jump at a French air show. Mr. Sohn wows the crowd with his bat-like flight, but crashes to earth when both his main and reserve parachutes fail.

1966: Two California skydivers jump from El Capitan, a 3,000-foot rock wall in Yosemite Park.

1978: American skydiver and film maker Carl Boenish becomes the "father of BASE jumping" after shooting footage of himself jumping off cliffs, bridges, radio antennas and office buildings. BASE is an acronym for the launch platforms jumpers can use: Buildings, Antenna, Span, Earth. Mr. Boenish is killed in a 1984 jump from Norway's Troll Wall.

1998: Patrick de Gayardon dies during a wingsuit jump in Hawaii when an experimental rigging modification prevents his parachute from opening. In the mid-1900's, Mr. De Gayardon became the best known (and reputedly the richest) skydiver in the world after he was videotaped riding a snowboard during freefall, popularizing the sport of skysurfing.

2003: Wingsuit flier Dwain Weston, age 30, dies after colliding with a Colorado bridge during a filmed stunt with fellow jumper Jeb Corliss. The plan called for one wingsuit jumper to fly over the bridge while the second jumper passed under it. Mr. Weston miscalculated his glide angle and clipped a steel railing at an estimated 160 kilometres per hour. The crash was caught on tape.

2006: French wingsuit jumper Loic Jean-Albert becomes a Youtube sensation when he posts helmet camera footage that shows him skimming past mountain walls. Mr. Jean-Albert generates intense public interest in the obscure sport of wingsuit jumping, and becomes known as The Flying Dude.

2008: Yves Rossy flies across the English Channel after jumping from a plane and deploying a rocket-powered, carbon fibre wing that resembles the marriage of a skydiving wingsuit and an airplane. Unlike most wingsuit flyers, Mr. Rossy is both a highly experienced skydiver and a veteran aircraft pilot.

2009: Mr. Rossy attempts a record-breaking 38-kilometre flight from Morocco to Spain on his Rocket Man wing. He makes a successful leap from the launch plane and deploys his folding wings, but he is forced to abort the flight after he flies into massive clouds. He deploys his parachute and lands safely in the ocean.

 

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