Rob and his team are the best. They teach you to skydive in a safe and fun environment ... If you want to learn to skydive or build your skills, look no further, Skydive University is your place." - Bill Vance, SDU student since 2011
Bill Vance is a private pilot from Pennsylvania, and he makes the trip down to DeLand to train with us at Skydive University every couple of months. His most recent adventure has been in wingsuit training with Scotty Burns over at our FlyteSkool extension.
We sat down with Bill after a week of wingsuit training for a quick Q & A session to see how things went and hear about his experience to date with SDU...
When did you officially start with training with Skydive University?
“I started at the end of 2011, with Rob in the Tunnel AFF program, and have been working my way up from there ever since.”
Tell us about your progression through Skydive University, from the beginning...
“Well I learned everything from these guys… I started in tunnel AFF with Rob, started jumping and got my A-License. From there, I did a lot of 4-way jumps, formation jumps with Chromy to work on my technique. We also did a lot of tunnel work together. Chromy helped me out a lot with bellyflight, which is primarily what we were doing with the formation jumps."
What formation jumps have you participated in?
“Well, just fun jumps, four-ways and stuff, with Chromy most of the time. We did a twelve-way ‘Locals Load’ six or seven months ago that was a lot of fun. Really just a lot of bellyflight training with Chromy, and more tunnel time, too.”
What Bellyflight techniques have really stayed with you throughout your training?
“Just the basic stuff, really…Getting your head around after exit, staying tight to the person you’re turning towards. Making eye contact is huge, and controlling your center of gravity in turns. We do a lot of dirt diving, where we rehearse the jumps before we go up. Eye contact is really important."
Whats an unexpected piece of advice for doing formation jumps?
“I guess one that people don’t think about is not rushing to take a grip, that’s a big thing. You want to get stable before you take your grip, so you don’t mess up the rest of the formation. I learned that from Rob and Chromy.”
What have you done in between the 4-way jumps and your current wingsuit training?
“I did some sitfly jumps, freefall. I spent most of my time in the tunnel, honestly. Body control is a lot different in a wingsuit."
Did you start with tracking suits and move on to wingsuiting?
“I never used the actual tracking suit, no. I did a lot of tracking jumps with a bootie suit first, but I’ve only been wingsuiting a week."
Explain your different suits and their applications...
“I use a bootie suit for tracking jumps to practice my wingsuit skills, and I wore a Merlin suit for freefly and sitfly. Scotty let me borrow his Squirrel suit for all of my wingsuit training, and it’s a whole different animal than any of the others.”
What did you do right before you started wingsuit training?
“I spent most of my time practicing exits, because they’re more important when you have a bunch of initial lift from the suit. Maintaining stability throughout your body is really important, so that you don’t get turned around in the air.”
What goes into a stable exit in a wingsuit?
“You have to keep your arms and legs tight, and look up and watch the aircraft fly away before you open the wings. Usually it takes 3-4 seconds before you can fully extend... and actually start flying.”
How much longer is a wingsuit jump?
"A good wingsuit jump is at least twice as long, and if you’re really good at it you can get almost three times as much flight time. A typical jump is 40-60 seconds, so somebody like Scotty is looking at almost three minutes of flight time before they have to pull their chute.”
What do you like about wingsuiting?
“I’m a pilot, and I wanted to fly, but without a helicopter or a plane. With wingsuiting, you can fly, instead of just fall… your flying forward with your body, true flying. I did 10 jumps this week, with one really nice solo one out of a Skyvan... Because I’m new to it, I didn’t get to see the sights as much because it’s not muscle memory yet. I come down to DeLand because the plane’s bigger and we get up there faster. Jumping out of a Cessna that takes 20 minutes to get up to 10,000 feet sucks."
What are the differences in protocol between your regular suit, and a wing suit?
“You have to be more conscious of the plane’s airspeed, because if your going too fast, the suit will generate too much lift and you could hit the tail. Your body position has to be perfect—You’ve got to have your arms and legs in tight, and your back arched. When you deploy your chute, you have to remember the good body position."
What would be your top tips for other divers who are just getting into wingsuiting?
“Know the plane’s speed, and be careful on your exit. Keep your wings in until your stable and clear of the aircraft. You really have to make an effort to relax, and do your pull smoothly. The big thing with wingsuits is that any little movement can throw you all over the place.”
What's next for your skydiving training?
“I’ve been signed off to wingsuit solo by Scotty, and I fly back to Pennsylvania tomorrow. I really plan on just continuing to hone by technique until the next time I come down."
A big thanks to Bill for letting us profile his skydiving progression through his wingsuit training. Check out the rest of our website for more information on how you can progress in skydiving from Tunnel AFF and up––become a skydive instructor, or even rock a wingsuit.
Wingsuiting Coaching, Rating and Instruction at Skydive University...
We can help you train for your first wingsuit jump, whether you want to use a bootie suit or a tracking suit for your tracking practice. Once you’ve gotten clearance to fly solo, you can continue training with our resident expert over at FlyteSkool. Wingsuit training is an exciting field of skydiving that we’re stoked to offer coaching for—Call us at 1.800.891.5687 for more info.