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Project Cirrus World Record attempt for SSAFA

When Fujitsu heard that Fraser Corsan was undertaking a quadruple-world-record-busting bid on behalf of the British Armed Forces – Soldiers Sailors Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA), we knew we wanted to be part of it. The four world records, after all–highest altitude jumped in a wingsuit, longest time flown in a wingsuit, highest speed flown in a wingsuit and furthest distance flown in a wingsuit–represent the steepest challenge we’ve ever seen a wingsuit athlete undertake. Luckily, Fraser Corsan is up to the monumental task.

To manage the brutal cold–minus 50 to minus 70 degrees Centigrade–Fraser will be wearing five low-density, high-insulating merino wool layers and Stormchaser gloves from Outdoor Research, which will deliver battery-powered heat to Fraser’s hands for the duration of the event.

Fraser Corsan started flying wingsuits back in 2001. At the time, he was one of the 15 athletes around the world to be flying one.

“At the time,” Fraser remembers, “People were looking at it and thinking: this is wacky and a bit scary. But it was the first time we actually truly felt like we were flying. I was hooked–really–and I haven’t stopped since.”

“I went to 30,000 feet back in 2005 [with Andy Ford, setting a record 5:05 minute freefall].  That was pretty cool.” He grins. “But I always wanted to get higher. Now I am, and for a great cause.”

Fraser’s day job was test evaluation for the military in the UK–with a specialization, naturally, in aviation safety. “I used to look after the Typhoon Eurofighter fast jet; I was lead for all UK safety for the aircraft,” he explains, “Then, I did the safety for the BBMF historic aircraft flight of the Royal Air Force–including [Supermarine] Spitfires [a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used in WWII] and [Hawker] Hurricanes [a British single-seat fighter aircraft of the 1930s-1940s].”

With such a super-cool day job, it’s no wonder that Fraser’s concept of what’s possible is a little more forward-thinking than the average Joe. “I’ve done half marathons and marathons for charities I care about before,” Fraser says, “But I decided that I wanted to give more back. Much more. I had an idea to do a jump which catches people’s imagination and really pushes the limits–and when I started approaching people about it, it became apparent that it was going to happen.”

“I always wanted to do something in skydiving that did some realgood for the world,” Fraser says. “I immediately thought of SSAFA, which I’ve supported before. It’s the oldest charity in the UK for the armed forces and they regularly change people’s lives for the better. But they go about it very quietly–they are very humble about what they do–and therefore, they’re not terribly well-known on the streets, so to speak. People over here understand other charities, but the work SSAFA do is not as visible to the public. But I’m passionate to help raise SSAFA’s profile–as well as lots of financial support–for their great work. This jump is the means.”

In May of 2017, Fraser and his team are going to break four wingsuit world records and raise as much as possible for the organization–strong support indeed.

As you might imagine, there’s a bunch of technology involved in the feat of jumping a wingsuit from about 8,000 feet above normal commercial cruising altitude.

“From the outside,” Fraser grins, “This stunt looks crazy. But what’s really important for people to understand is that this is a really long, really incremental journey. It is not a case of waking up one day and saying, okay, let’s go do this. It’s a massive team effort, and we’ve studied every single scenario and every bit of kit.”

The packing list reads like a gearhead fantasy novel. First of all: Fraser’s wingsuit itself sports an optimized wing profile with a leading edge built of high-density foam. Blades confer additional stability at high speed, and plenty of rigid inlets support full, decisive pressurization. His container system, Sunpath’s Aurora, is wingsuit-specific, and will increase his flight performance by 2 or 3%. On a normal wingsuit jump, that wouldn’t count for much–but when you’re flying over 20 miles and 40,000 feet, it makes quite a noticeable difference. Fraser’s canopy is an ATAIR WinX, designed specifically for wingsuit flying.

“At the end, when my arms are hanging out of their sockets,” Fraser laughs, “It means that I can be happy that the deployment is going to be very clean. I won’t be fighting line twists.”

When Fraser deploys–and, in fact, for every moment of his flight through a 25-mile-long, five-mile-wide corridor of class-A airspace–his team will know exactly where he is. He’ll be wearing a transmitting system which will transmit his live data feed back to the aircraft. From there, it’ll be relayed down to his ground crew (who will be looking at the live links, because the event will be live-streamed. On top of that, he’ll be sporting a GPS system which connects him directly to another team on the ground. That team will track Fraser in real time to find him when he lands.

To manage the brutal cold–minus 50 to minus 70 degrees Centigrade–Fraser will be wearing five low-density, high-insulating merino wool layers and Stormchaser gloves from Outdoor Research, which will deliver battery-powered heat to Fraser’s hands for the duration of the event.

“I went into the last jump at 30,000 feet with really good Gore-tex gloves,” Fraser recalls, “And I had to physically look out and check that my hands were still working. I could see them, but I couldn’t feel them beyond the wrist. It worked out–muscle memory takes over, and you do what you have to do–but we knew we needed to optimize that aspect.”

Fraser’s four world record attempts will push Fraser’s body, mind and the technology to the limit in the most hostile environment above the earth. Here is what he’s attempting:

Highest Altitude Jumped in a Wingsuit

With a previous world record of 37,265ft, Fraser’s target is to jump from an altitude of over 40,000ft to break the world record, higher than the cruising altitude of a commercial airline.

Jumping at this altitude is no small task. As well as the wingsuit logistics, directions and wind speeds to take into consideration, the lack of oxygen means Fraser needs a personal oxygen system that can operate at -50°C to -70°C and provide the correct O2 pressure and saturation to stay alive.

Longest Time Flown in a Wingsuit

Fraser’s target is to fly for 10 minutes, beating the previous Guinness record of 9 minutes 6 seconds and the FAI (Federation Aeronautique Internationale) record of 8 minutes and 28 seconds. With wind speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, he will need to stabilise within a matter of seconds to maintain an optimum position enabling the best glide and time in flight.

Flying at high speed for extended duration in extreme cold whilst breathing pressurized Oxygen for such a long period demonstrates why physical strength and stamina is so paramount to the success of this challenge.

Highest Speed Flown in a Wingsuit

The current record is 234mph. To reach Fraser’s target of 250mph, his wingsuit has been designed for optimum performance by Phoenix-Fly who are renowned for producing cutting edge high performance wingsuits. To break the record the right wind conditions will be necessary since without a tail wind as present for the previous record it will be near impossible to break. If wind conditions are not suitable the first jump will target the Altitude, Time and Distance records.

Fraser and the team are working hard to ensure everything is ready for the jump.

Part of this preparation includes planning in precise detail how Fraser will exit the balloon at 40,000 feet.  At this high altitude any physical exertion is exhausting, so climbing over the side of the balloon basket is a non-starter. The team have devised an ingenious solution to this challenge, albeit not something most of us would want to consider!

The team at Skydance have also been double checking and preparing the equipment they’ll be using for the flight.  Technology plays an important part in modern balloon flight, helping to communicate with the ground team and navigate.  At a more basic level, it’s vital to keep the equipment warm in extreme cold – the team expect temperatures as low as -60 degrees at the altitude they will be going.

The importance of technology to track and measure performance has been a constant theme throughout all of Fraser’s training and preparation.

Data took on a whole new importance, however, when on closer examination of the GPS logs we discovered that Fraser had indeed broken the World Record for wingsuit speed!

We are absolutely delighted to confirm that subject to ratification by Guinness, Fraser Corsan has broken the World Record for greatest peak speed flown in a wingsuit, recording a staggering 249 mph. (400 KMH)

This makes him the fastest man in the world without the use of machinery.  The record is subject to ratification and is being submitted by the official FAI observer to Guiness World Records for final approval.

So – following the disappointment of having to return from Canada without making a jump, this has been really exciting news for Fraser and the whole team.

Many congratulations Fraser!

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