Australian Chris Geiler proved himself to be one of the best of the best in the world of wingsuit flying on 19 November 2016, as he clinched sixth place in the Red Bull Aces wingsuit four-cross championship.
In the race created to find the planet’s top overall wingsuit pilot, 40 athletes from 18 countries jumped in four-person heats from a helicopter at 2,440/8,000ft above the desert in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, slaloming head-to-head through four race gates suspended mid-air.
Although Geiler came to Phoenix as a Wild Card and had to work his way into the race day bracket through a Qualification round, he was one to watch from the start. The Australian had claimed a world title in a very different discipline, the individual, non-slalom format of the FAI World Championships of Performance Wingsuit Flying, less than two weeks previously.
“I’ve always wanted to do Red Bull Aces. It’s such a crazy-exciting format. Getting to carve around helicopters in the sky with your friends – it doesn’t get any better than that!” Geiler said. “The big difference about this format is that the racecourse can be different from heat to heat, and also you’re interacting with other pilots – which can create situations like burbles [unstable air]. So there are a lot of unknown factors.”
The wingsuit world had been eagerly anticipating this highlight of the competitive calendar, with the greatest in the sport training specifically for Red Bull Aces year-round. Wearing cutting-edge wingsuits specially developed for the blinding speed, aggressive turns and steep dives of the unique format, the pilots pushed to the limit, with the tightest heats in the history of the race delivering frequent lead changes and photo finishes.
Advanced technology GPS enabled the ground-based judging panel to determine results in real time, even with pilots approaching 260kmh/160mph. The USA’s Noah Bahnson, Will Kitto and Andy Farrington took first, second and third, respectively, with Chile’s Sebastian Alvarez in fourth.