One particular statistic intrigued me: seventy-two of the seventy-five batmen who jumped from planes for air shows from the 1930s to the 1960s were killed in their wings. Months earlier I hadn't even heard of such "birdmen," and now there were seventy-five of them, most of whom had died some kind of presumably spectacular death. Who were they? Why did they keep at it? Why didn't the rest of the world know about them?
Gayardon had invented the wingsuit and wowed the skydiving world with spectacular stunts, but after 500 flights he went the way of the batmen of the thirties and forties--a malfunction sent him to his death in a Hawaiian banana field just months after Pecnik and Kuosma had seen his photo. Undeterred, the pair based their wingsuits on what they had seen of Gayardon's getup, but neither Pecnik nor Kuosma was an engineer of any kind, and when they went to test their wings for the first time, they gave themselves a 50-percent chance of surviving. "It was just such a big jump into the unknown," says Kuosma. "We were doing something that we knew some people had done before . . . but they were all dead."
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