Sunday

Is this the fastest flying woman on earth?

Watch this video
"Ever since I was a kid, I had a dream where -- if I ran fast enough on the ground -- I could lift off and start flying."
Ellen Brennan, 26 years old, wakes up. She opens her window to look out across the bustling pines of the Chamonix Valley, to the clustered snow-capped peaks of Mont Blanc.
For six years, Ellen has been throwing herself from mountaintops, with only a baggy synthetic suit to stop her from falling like a stone to a certain death.
She checks for clouds. Soon she'll set off for the "Aiguille du Midi" -- a jagged, vertical needle of granite, where she will face her hardest jump yet.
There, she will have just three seconds to speed to 100mph, twist right away from rocks and begin racing over the fearsome Alps below.
Or... "there is no option -- you have to start flying."

In 2006, a video surfaced on YouTube that gave the unsuspecting world its first glimpse of modern "wingsuit" fliers.
They called him "The Flying Dude," and the clip showed him leaping from a helicopter 1000ft above the Swiss skiing resort of Verbier.
While many before him had attempted to leap from airplanes and buildings with improvised wings, The Dude's suit was different..
Originally developed by French skydiver Patrick de Gayardon, it worked like a body-size paraglider: creating lift thanks to airfoil-shaped arm flaps.
First used to jump from airplanes, thrill-seeking wingsuit fliers had soon relocated to low-flying helicopters, sheer cliffs and mountaintops.
In the famed YouTube video, The Dude -- real name Loic Jean-Albert -- tumbles toward the jagged crest of the mountain, then begins to glide, and skirts along the snowy piste, just feet above startled skiiers' heads.
The aim of the game had become "proximity flying" -- dipping down to within just two or three meters off the ground, to feel a bird-like sensation of clipping tree tops and swooping through gorges.
In flight, average speeds top 160kph (100mph). 200kph (124mph) is possible.
At flying pace, the tiniest mistake or a gust of valley breeze can destabilize a wingsuit pilot.
Landing requires fliers to gain extra distance from the terrain below, before pulling a parachute to slow. It can be just as perilous as scorching feet from the rock face.
The sport can count only a small group of skilled skydivers and BASE jumpers among its participants, but almost all can list friends who have died.
Around one in ten of them will lose their lives wingsuiting, they say. One in twenty, conservatively.
Ellen's story
Ellen Brennan arrived in France in 2009, hoping to learn the language and, eventually, become a nurse in western Africa.
When she found Chamonix, she gave it all up.

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