BIRDMAN® International, ltd. was established 1999 by Finnish adventurer & skydiver Jari Kuosma. Birdman® was the first company ever to produce wingsuits for skydivers, as well as launch an training program for experienced skydivers to establish wingsuit flying as a sport we have it today.
THE GREAT IMPOSSIBLE
Prior to 1999 wingsuit flying was virtually non-existent, illegal and considered almost a certain death if one was crazy enough to attempt it. Man`s greatest dream has always been the ability to defeat gravity and fly; ever since the ancient times every known culture has had legends and stories about men who fancied to fly. However, few had actually survived their aerial escapades.
Fast forward to modern times. Man became air bound for the first time in the late 18th century, and almost right away a peculiar branch of aviators emerged: those, who wanted to jump out of their high-flying vessels. Some had the motivation to save their lives when something went awry, but many did it for the fall itself. Nevertheless, the plummeting people had great difficulties controlling themselves during the freefall, often resulting in death or serious injury.
To overcome this problem, some of them sought help from a natural source – birds. And those heavenly champions of flight certainly had something we do not. Wings.
ERA OF BIRDMEN
Many brave men built their own wings from canvas, wood, metal, bamboo, even feathers in order to fly. In the 20th century, those men were called the birdmen, and they flew – most of them to their death.
After decades of ill-fated winged men, a French skydiving guru Patrick DeGayardon entered the picture. His started using his self-made wingsuit in the mid-90´s – now widely considered the predecessor of all the modern wingsuits.
Patrick’s genius ram-air design was effective as well as relatively safe, and he made numerous stunts and commercials with it before his fatal accident on a flight in Hawaii in April 1998. Patrick’s flying spirit did not die with him though, and it was destined to be BIRDMAN® who carried his spirit and made his prediction of the future true.
WINGS FOR EVERYONE
And the start was not easy. After building a working wingsuit and figuring out how to fly it became the tough part: they had to test them. With the grim fates of past birdmen tucked away in the remote corner of his mind, Kuosma – ever the optimist – gave himself a 50% chance of success. But jump and flight after another, the suit worked perfectly. It was a success.
In 1998 Kuosma did a cut-away from his former life, quit his career job and sold all his property in order to dedicate his life and finance the BIRDMAN® project, to make wingsuit flying a sport world-wide. So together with his team and one employee, Robert, he instigated, financed, designed, tested and manufactured the first bunch of wingsuits ever made for commercial use, 72 in total, in a small factory in Slovenia. After running out of money he smuggled the suits to EU hoping to make some sales and to be able to see the next day.
That was the start of an experience filled journey.
The biggest obstacle, however, was to convince other people that wingsuit flying can indeed be done right and safely – and you didn’t need to be a skygod to do it. Some countries took a strict approach to wingsuit-flying, and Kuosma was not welcome to number of drop zones at all. Skydivers were tagged with a requirement of 500 jumps before being allowed to fly a wingsuit. Other aerial space restrictions were also introduced to limit the sport. Some places even banned the word itself, the infamnous "wingsuit", was now for sure at everyones lips!
But there was no stopping. Today we have sky-brothers and -sisters flying wingsuits in every continent and country in the world.
Wingsuit flying has changed the entire sport among skydivers and wingsuit flying has been featured ever since in every imaginenable main-steam and small, print and internet media, hundreds of documentaries have been made and books written.
Wingsuit flying videos in YouTUBE alone has attracted hundred's of millions of views and dozens of Hollywood movies featuring wingsuits throughout the world have catchd the eye of maybe billions.