A Freaky Human Flying Squirrel Video

Our friend Annitra Morrison sent in this video the other day, and I’ve watched it at least a dozen times. It’s by professional BASE jumper, wingsuit flyer, and all around crazy person Jeb Corliss, whom you might remember from 2006, when he was arrested on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, restrained by the NYPD before he could BASE jump off of it. My question after watching this video is: how many physics calculations did Corliss and Co. do before he took the giant leap? And also, considering how close he comes (watch at the 1:19 mark, don’t worry you’ll get a few looks at it) was he correct?


Lucky or good?


Mildly lucky but mostly good preparation - knowing the weather conditions, the topography, the capabilities of yourself in the suit, having flown the route a few times so you know the lay of the land from the air etc. This is definitely not the first time he's flown this and I dare say he didn't get that close to the ground the first time.


Cool movie coming out about this:

Human Flight 3D



If you look at many other videos of Jeb Corliss, he's flown over that spot multiple times, often flying deeper through that canyon down below the ridge. But in none of those is he as close to the ridge saddle as he is in that widely distributed video. So I think his closeness is a function of successive flights over that exact route, familiarity with the particular route and weather/wind conditions, as well as some random variation which brought him impressively close to the ground. He's done thousands of skydives and hundreds of flights with that flight suit and there was at least one very prominent death by another flight suit expert, so probably a lot of thought, if not computation, goes into each flight.


The way that it's been explained to me, it that the suit provides a significant upward force which the pilot is constantly fighting. They know their trajectory and try to create a steeper flight, then when they want to pull up, all they do is relax. I've seen a lot closer then this guy... check this out! Happy Viewing, think this guy got out a pen and paper?


- V


I think that's what they call flying by the seat of your pants


Within limits, aeroplanes can trade height for speed and vice versa. I think he had significant control over his altitude at this point, and flew so low deliberately. He'd have dived (gaining speed) as he came up to that low clearance point, and with the surplus speed he had the ability to climb if he needed to. The balloons were marking his target altitude.
So no, I don't think he calculated it by dead reckoning and came within a fraction of a percent of being reckoned dead.


I doubt he did any calculations. It was experience and a 'feel' for the run that led him to take that flight.

Steve Bennett

My impression of Corliss based on a couple of other videos is he thinks long and hard about it, comes up with a nice safety margin, and then at the last minute lets the blood rush to his head and cuts it a lot closer than he plans. See his run down the Matterhorn for another instance.

Marissa Parent

That looks like so much fun!!! How far did you fly before you pulled the shoot?