Wingsuits and the Pioneers Who Flew in Them, Fell in Them, and Perfected Them
Author: Michael Abrams
The Wright Brothers were wimps. Or so you might think after reading this account of their unsung but even more daring rivals—the men and women who strapped wings to their backs and took to the sky. If only for a few seconds. People have been dying to fly, quite literally, since the dawn of history. They’ve made wings of feather and bone, leather and wood, canvas and taffeta, and thrown themselves off the highest places they could find. Theirs is the world’s first and still most dangerous extreme sport, and its full history has never been told. Birdmen, Batmen, and Skyflyers is a thrilling, hilarious, and often touching chronicle of these obsessive inventors and eccentric daredevils. It traces the story of winged flight from its doomed early pioneers to their glorious high-tech descendants, who’ve at last conquered gravity (sometimes, anyway). Michael Abrams gives us a brilliant bird’s-eye view of what it’s like to fly with wings. And then, inevitably, to fall. In the Immortal Words of Great Birdmen... “Someday I think that everyone will have wings and be able to soar from the housetops. But there must be a lot more experimenting before that can happen.” —Clem Sohn, the world’s first batman, who plummeted to his death at the Paris Air Show in 1937 “The trouble was that he went only halfway up the radio tower. If he had gone clear to the top it would have been different.” —Amadeo Catao Lopes in 1946, explaining the broken legs of the man who tried his wings “One day, a jump will be the last. The jump of death. But that idea does not hold me back.” —Rudolf Richard Boehlen, who died of jump-related injuries in 1953 “It turned out that almost everyone from the thirties and forties had died. That just made me want to do it more.” —Garth Taggart, stunt jumper for The Gypsy Moths, filmed in 1968 “You have to be the first one. The second one is the first loser.” —Felix Baumgartner, who in 2003 became the first birdman to cross the English Channel From the Hardcover edition.
PEN / ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing (2015 LONGLIST) “[P]erversely entertaining... In a truly intoxicating read that was hard to put down, Matt Higgins has managed to make real a world about as far removed from daily life as it gets.” --Daily Beast "Matt Higgins cracks open this astonishingly dangerous sport and captures the spectacular adrenaline surges it delivers."--The Wall Street Journal "[R]iveting... a must-read. A highflying, electrifying story." --Kirkus (STARRED) A heart-stopping narrative of risk and courage, Bird Dream tells the story of the remarkable men and women who pioneered the latest advances in aerial exploration—from skydiving to BASE jumping to wingsuit flying—and made history with their daring. By the end of the twentieth century BASE jumping was the most dangerous of all the extreme sports, with thrill-seeking jumpers parachuting from bridges, mountains, radio towers, and even skyscrapers. Despite numerous fatalities and legal skirmishes, BASE jumpers like Jeb Corliss of California thought they had discovered the ultimate rush. But all this changed for Corliss in 1999, when, high in the mountains of northern Italy, he and other jumpers watched in wonder as a stranger—wearing a cunning new jumpsuit featuring “wings” between the arms and legs—leaped from a ledge and then actually flew from the vertiginous cliffs. Drawing on intimate access to Corliss and other top pilots from around the globe,Bird Dream tracks the evolution of the wingsuit movement through the larger than life characters who, in an age of viral video, forced the sport onto the world stage. Their exploits—which entranced millions of fans along the way—defied imagination. They were flying; not like the Wright brothers, but the way we do in our dreams. Some dared to dream of going further yet, to a day when a wingsuit pilot might fly, and land, all without a parachute. A growing number of wingsuit pilots began plotting ways in which a human being might leap from the sky and land. A half dozen groups around the world were dedicated to this quest for a “wingsuit landing,” conjuring the pursuit of nations that once inspired the race to first summit Everest. Given his fame as a stuntman, the brash, publicity-hungry Corliss remained the popular favorite to claim the first landing. Yet Bird Dream also tracks the path of another man, Gary Connery—a forty-two-year-old Englishman—who was quietly plotting to beat Corliss at his own game. Accompanied by an international cast of wingsuit devotees—including a Finnish magician, a parachute tester from Brazil, an Australian computer programmer, a gruff hang-gliding champion-turned-aeronautical engineer, a French skydiving champion, and a South African costume designer—Corliss and Connery raced to leap into the unknown, a contest that would lead to triumph for one and nearly cost the other his life. Based on five years of firsthand reporting and original interviews, Bird Dream is the work of journalist Matt Higgins, who traveled the world alongside these extraordinary men and women as they jumped and flew in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Offering a behind-the-scenes take on some of the most spectacular and disastrous events of the wingsuit movement, Higgins’s Bird Dream is a riveting, adrenaline-fueled adventure at the very edge of human experience. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Mimicking nature – from science fiction to engineering reality Humans have always looked to nature’s inventions as a source of inspiration. The observation of flying birds and insects leads to innovations in aeronautics. Collision avoidance sensors mimic the whiskers of rodents. Optimization algorithms are based on survival of the fittest, the seed-picking process of pigeons, or the behavior of ant colonies. In recent years these efforts have become more intensive, with researchers seeking rules, concepts, and principles of biology to inspire new possibilities in materials, mechanisms, algorithms, and fabrication processes. A review of the current state of the art, Biomimetics: Nature Based Innovation documents key biological solutions that provide a model for innovations in engineering and science. Leading experts address a wide range of topics, including: Artificial senses and organs Mimicry at the cell–materials interface Multiscale modeling of plant cell wall architecture and tissue mechanics The making of biomimetic composites Electroactive polymer (EAP) actuators as artificial muscles EAP-based refreshable braille displays Biomimetic optics from the angles of biology and plants Biomimicry of flying birds, insects, and marine biology Applications of biomimetics in manufacturing, products, and medicine Robotics, including the development of human-like robots Biologically inspired design as a tool for interdisciplinary education The biomimetic process in artistic creation The final chapter outlines the challenges to biomimetic-related innovation and offers a vision for the future. A follow-up to Biomimetics: Biologically Inspired Technologies (2005), this comprehensive reference methodically surveys the latest advances in this rapidly emerging field. It features an abundance of illustrations, including a 32-page full-color insert, and provides extensive references for engineers and scientists interested in delving deeper into the study of biomimetics.