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What is Speed Flying?

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Tom Cruise speed flying down mountain

If you've recently watched the clip of Tom Cruise speed flying in Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning and found yourself captivated by the sport, you might be wondering how you can embark on your own speed flying adventure. Rest assured, there is a way to safely learn and participate in this growing sport. Let's dive into the world of speed flying and discover how anyone can experience the excitement while ensuring their safety.

Speed flying is an air sport that originated from paragliding, often referred to as an "advanced discipline" of the sport. It combines paragliding with parachute swooping, also known as canopy flying, allowing pilots to fly at high speeds down mountainsides, soaring close to the slope. In the early days, speed flying experienced a surge in popularity, attracting pilots seeking a faster and more exhilarating thrill. Today, aspiring speed flyers can learn to speed fly at various schools worldwide. The recommended path is to first acquire paragliding skills, which provide a solid foundation in the basics of flight and weather. Tom Cruise himself followed this route, learning to fly a paraglider in Morzine, a stunning location in the French Alps, before transitioning to speed flying and filming with a speed wing.

Early history of speed flying down mountain

Origins of Speed Flying

Speed flying originated in France during the late 1990s when paraglider pilots started experimenting with smaller and more agile wings. The goal was to achieve greater speed and maneuverability, enabling them to navigate steep terrain with ease. Over time, speed flying evolved into a separate discipline, gaining popularity across the globe. Francois Bon, owner of Level Wings, designed the first commercial speed wing.

Speed Flying vs Speed Riding

While speed flying and speed riding share similarities, they are distinct disciplines. Speed flying involves running down slopes(foot launching) with a small paraglider wing, emphasizing gliding and flying. Speed riding, on the other hand, places greater emphasis on skiing with the wing, choosing when to fly, allowing another dimension in freestyle skiing by adding the element of flying.

Speed riding in france with level wings

Notable Professionals in Speed Flying

Francois Bon winning 2009 France Speed Riding

The world of speed flying boasts a talented group of professionals who have pushed the limits of this daring sport. Francois Bon (center of photo) and the late Antoine Montant pushed the limits of speed flying in the early 2000s. Speed riding Aconcagua and the North Face of the Eiger earned Francois National Geographic “adventurer of the year" in 2008. Among the renowned speed flying pioneers is Valentin Delluc, a French Red Bull sponsored speed flyer famous for his awe-inspiring videos showcasing breathtaking aerial maneuvers. Other notable speed flying experts include Zip, Martin Schricke, and Jamie Lee. Tom Cruise is also a speed flyer and performed his own speed flying stunts in the movie Mission Impossible Dead Reckoning Part One.

Top Manufacturers

Several reputable manufacturers cater to the needs of speed flying enthusiasts. Level Wings, Ozone, and Swing are leading brands in the speed flying/paragliding industry and offer a range of wings designed specifically for speed flying or speed riding.

The Speed Flying Community

The speed flying community is a passionate and close-knit group of adventurers who share a common love for soaring through the skies. Enthusiasts often gather at speed flying meet ups, tours, and social media to connect, share experiences, and exchange valuable tips and tricks. These events foster a sense of camaraderie, enabling newcomers to immerse themselves in the culture and learn from seasoned veterans.

Speed Flying community photo

Gear Needed

Now, let's talk about the gear essential for speed flying. Speed wings range in large sizes for beginners to small for experts. The wings are highly maneuverable allowing pilots to easily adjust their speed, dive, and glide ratio. These wings can be carried in a backpack harness. These backpacks are lightweight and reversible to be used as a harness for speed flying.

When it comes to safety, one crucial piece of equipment that should never be overlooked is a helmet. While Tom Cruise may not wear one for filming purposes, all experienced speed wing pilots consider a helmet essential for protection during flights.

How to Learn to Speed Fly

If you're ready to embark on this exciting journey, learning to paraglide is the first step, which typically takes around 10 days, depending on your location. Within this timeframe, you'll progress from your first flight to becoming a qualified solo pilot. Once you've achieved this milestone, a world of possibilities opens up, including the realms of speed flying and speed riding.

Proper training, experience, gradual progression, mentorship, and adhering to safety protocols will ensure your well-being throughout your speed flying adventures.

So, if you're looking to experience the adrenaline rush and sense of adventure that speed flying offers, follow in the footsteps of Tom Cruise and begin your journey into this thrilling sport. With the right training and a commitment to safety, you too can take to the skies and embark on a speed flying adventure of your own. Register now and fly yourself free!

speed flyers kiting on Colorado mountain


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