A Guide to Wingsuit Flying Terminology

Brush up on proper terms, because you'll soon be talking about the four-cross Red Bull Aces event.
Red Bull Skydive Team in Wingsuits at Red Bull Air Race Croatia
The Red Bull Skydive Team in Rovinj, Croatia © Wolfgang Lienbacher/Red Bull Content Pool
By Trish Medalen

Red Bull Aces debuted in 2014 with an innovative, four-at-a-time, slalom racing format for wingsuits. That's right — a slalom wingsuit race in the sky. Skydivers with years of experience flying through the air collected their wingsuits and gathered in the skies above Northern California to test the concept, and it was a resounding success. Now, 40 pilots from 19 countries have assembled once again, this time with more refined wingsuits and the latest in GPS tracking technology for the second running of the Red Bull Aces event, and it's going to be nothing short of amazing.

Everyone will be talking about it when the videos come out, so impress your friends by brushing up on common wingsuit terminology below.

AIR GATES — Weighted pieces of fabric 112 feet (34 meters) long that hang from hovering helicopters at varying heights to create the unique aerial slalom course of Red Bull Aces.

BURBLED — What happens when a wingsuit pilot goes through the “dirty” air behind another competitor. Because the air is a wingsuit pilot’s support, it needs to be clean and undisturbed to keep the suit optimally pressurized. A competitor who gets burbled when someone else darts in front of him or her will fall a bit faster until hitting clean air again, with a telltale wiggle in the smoke trail.

COBRA — A move in which pilots use their speed to fly upward and kill forward momentum before pulling a parachute. Typically seen just after crossing the finish gate.

FOUR-CROSS — A race with heats of four people running a course head-to-head simultaneously. In 2014, Red Bull Aces introduced the first-ever four-cross format for wingsuits.

HALF-GAINER — A half-backflip exit from an aircraft. At Red Bull Aces 2014 the pilots did half-gainers out of the back of a Skyvan airplane before pointing themselves at the gates. One of the improvements to the 2015 event is that the pilots are jumping from the skids on each side of a helicopter so that they’re facing the course from the get-go and can fly straight at it without having to orient themselves.

INLETS — The parts of a wingsuit that allow air to flow in and pressurize the ribs.

ON THE SKIDS — Standing on the landing-gear rails of a helicopter once it’s in the air, ready to start a heat.

RAM AIR — The principle of using the airflow produced by a moving object for performance and power. When the wingsuit pilots jump and begin to build speed, air inlets built into their suits allow ribs sewn into the material to fill with air and pressurize, resulting in stability and rigidity that enables the athletes to fly 3 feet forward for every 1 foot they fall — and to slalom through the gates with precision.

RIBS — Pockets sewn into the wingsuit that inflate with the surrounding air during flight to make the suit rigid. The more rigid the suit, the better it performs.

SCORPION — Exiting an aircraft with the head low so that the back ends up arching and the feet nearly touch the back of the head. Definitely not an efficient way to get the holeshot in wingsuit four-cross.

SKIDS — The landing gear of a helicopter, which look like the runners of a sleigh. The civilian Bell Huey helicopter that drops the Red Bull Aces athletes has two skids — high and low — on its right and left sides, enabling a pair of pilots to jump from each side for the four-cross format.

SKIDS UP — Helicopter takeoff.

SLAMMER — An unusually hard parachute opening.

SPANKED — Had a slammer.

TAIL FLUTTER — When the part of the wingsuit between the legs doesn’t fully pressurize. The fabric ripples and the result is slower speed.

Stay tuned for photos and video from Red Bull Aces 2015.

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