Thrill-seekers looking for a challenge may soon have a new option - Wingboarding. The sport is similar to wakeboarding except for one thing - Instead of performing acrobatics on water, wingboarders will conduct heart-stopping maneuvers in the skies while being towed behind an airplane.
The extreme sport is the brainchild of Aaron Wypyszynski, the founder of Alabama-based Wyp Aviation. The engineer says the inspiration for the wingboard came from childhood memories of watching Disney's TaleSpin. In the animated television series, 12-year-old brown bear cub, Kit Cloudkicker, is often seen 'surfing' the skies while perched atop a curved metal device that is hooked to an airplane.
The rider begins by strapping on to the wingboard that is attached to an aircraft using foot bindings similar to those on a snowboard. The board is connected to the plane by a two-pronged rope. The lower line is attached to the wingboard while the upper goes to the top tow bar that the rider holds on to.
The takeoff is somewhat similar to that of the airplane that is towing it. The wheels at the bottom help the board and rider lift off as they are being pulled by the plane on the runway. Riders can land in a similar way. Those seeking more adventure can detach themselves from the board and parachute down to solid ground. The board itself is also equipped with a parachute to ensure a soft and gentle landing.
The wingboard's shape is designed to ensure maximum stability and easy steering. Leaning forward or back enables the rider to control the lift or height of the board, while leaning left or right determines the direction in which he/she is steering.
Sounds a little dangerous? It is! But Wypyszynski believes it can be perfectly safe with a few simple precautions. Riders will be required to wear parachutes regardless of their landing plan. If there is excess pressure on the cables, an automatic tow release will ensure that the rider does not get hurt or tangled up in the wires. In the case of danger or loss of control, the rider can release him/herself from the board and safely parachute back to earth.
While that sounds good, the ultimate proof will come when a human can fly aboard this fascinating contraption without getting hurt. Though Wypyszynski has been able to test a scaled prototype successfully, he has yet to build a full-sized model. But the engineer who has been developing the wingboard in his personal time is confident that the day when humans will be performing heart-stopping tricks while cloud-surfing is not far!