Jump. Fly. Land.
Jeb Corliss says if the birds can do it, so can he.
- By Carl Hoffman
- Air & Space magazine, November 2010
(Page 3 of 3)
Robert Pecnik, the wing suit maker, appreciates Corliss’ desire to use only a standard wing suit, but the endeavor itself makes him nervous. “The human body is not designed to fly,” he says. “It takes a stronger and stronger effort to succeed very little. Better wing suit technology will push us to a 1:4 glide ratio, maybe, but a wing suit has to be able to be folded up and put in an airplane, and there are safety issues with rigid extensions, and well, that is a hang glider, not a wing suit.” Corliss, he says, has plenty of courage and ideals. “But I fear it will not go as planned.”
Corliss is undeterred. He leaps from a chair, stretches his six-foot-three frame, and paces the room. “My job is risk evaluation,” he says. “I go to a building before a jump and my very first job is to figure out the risks, and it’s the only thing I think about. It’s about solving problems and combining skill and technology to do something that’s never been done before. The key to happiness is having dreams and fulfilling them, even if my dreams are your nightmares.” He brings up Otto Lilienthal, the 19th century German aviation pioneer who killed himself trying to fly one of his contraptions. As he lay dying, he said, “Small sacrifices have to be made.” Says Corliss, “I think that’s beautiful.”
Carl Hoffman is the author of The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World Via…Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes. Visit his blog at thelunaticexpress.com and follow him on Twitter @lunaticcarl.