British daredevil aims to break four records for wingsuit flying

SALISBURY, England (Reuters) - A British wingsuit pilot has soaring ambitions to break four world records by sky diving from 42,000 feet.

The high-intensity sport of wingsuit flying involves jumping from a height using a special suit with ‘wings’ fitted between the limbs to generate extra lift and allow the wearer to glide through the air.

Fraser Corsan, a 42-year-old former aerospace safety engineer, will carry out two wingsuit jumps as he attempts to break the records for the highest altitude jumped in a wingsuit, as well as the longest time and furthest distance flown.

“About the same speed as a Bugatti Veyron or a Ferrari F50, about 250 miles per hour,” Corsan told Reuters, speaking about the first of the challenges he will undertake - becoming the fastest man in the world unaided by machinery.

Japan’s Shinichi Ito set the record for the fastest horizontal speed reached in a wingsuit - 363 kilometres per hour (225.56 miles per hour) - in California in 2011.

One of Corsan’s jumps, which will take place in the U.S. and Canada, will involve him leaping from a height of around 42,000 feet (12,800 metres) from a hot air balloon - shattering the existing record of 37,000ft.

“Commercial aircraft will actually be below us when I exit because they go up to 37,000 ft; we’re going another 5,000 ft higher than them. So around 12,000 feet higher than Mt. Everest,” he said.

The equipment used for the feat is highly specialised. Corsan wears a high-performance suit designed to enhance his aerodynamics, and equipped with inlets to inflate the wings in flight.

In addition to gear that is built for speed, Corsan will be equipped with heated gloves, several layers of thin thermal clothing and a balaclava to contend with freezing temperatures of between minus 50 and minus 70 degrees centigrade, before factoring in wind-chill.

Corsan’s record attempts, dubbed Project Cirrus, will raise money for the SSAFA - the Armed Forces Charity, a British charity that helps veterans.

After completing his final practice jump last week, Corsan took one of the servicemen aided by the charity for his first tandem sky dive.

“I’ve done some crazy stuff in my life and (there’s) been some hairy moments in my life but nothing comes close to that,” Lance Corporal Rory Mackenzie of the British army, who lost a leg in an attack in Iraq in 2007, told Reuters after his jump.

Corsan’s record attempts are scheduled to take place on May 22 and May 29, subject to weather conditions and air space clearance.

Reporting by Matthew Stock, writing by Mark Hanrahan, editing by Pritha Sarkar