Netheravon airfield was suddenly thrust onto the world stage last week.
This tiny airfield, one of the oldest in the UK, once home to squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps, was host to the first World Cup of Wingsuit Performance Flying. Yes, you read that right, a World Cup event! Having launched a bid to host this spectacle only some nine months ago, it is huge credit to the Army Parachute Association’s Secretary, Jackie Harper to lead a team to pull off such a success.
Wearing a ‘wingsuit’ greatly increases the body’s surface area and allows parachutists to steer their freefall and perform a series of set tasks. Through a vertical window of 1000m the different tasks include ground speed (reaching at over 300Km/h), Endurance and Distance where the winning competitor travelled 4.5km horizontal distance before dropping out of the 1000m. Such high speed manoeuvring some 3500m up is hardly a spectator sport from the ground but now has become a spectacular sight with airborne video and all enabled by GPS devices and clever software that allows accurate records and graphic displays of everything about a competitor’s flight.
Team Army, along with the Army Sport Control Board helped to sponsor the APA in staging the event and the 10-man british squad. 57 competitors from 18 countries took part, including Russia, Brazil, Israel, the USA and Canada and what a tremendous brotherhood of like minded daredevils. This is parachuting with attitude!
Covered with national press and TV it was surely a surreal experience to witness a sport with its instant worldwide appeal through simultaneous streaming of results through social media. From the outset, with an opening ceremony including displays by the Red Devils, well over 100,000 ‘followers’ were tracking the stats!
With raising of flags, national anthems and closing speeches by the World Airsports Federation and others, it was reminiscent of an Olympic presentation – albeit in the corner of a airfield hangar on Salisbury Plain! It also marked the last event for Maj Gen Christopher Elliott to take the stage as he now steps down from being the Director of the Army Sport Control Board
Main & lower image – by Richard Schneider from Los Angeles via Wikimedia Commons.
Top right image – Your roving reporter Tim Wakefield assumes the position.
Centre left image – Brig Paul Cain Chairman of the Army Parachute Association prepares for flight – he finished a very creditable 26th overall.
Centre right image – An Australian competitor takes a pose for the folks back home.