FLYING like a bird over Newcastle Harbour is something most of us can only dream of.
Yet for Brad Patfield and his mate Daniel Downey, it’s a reality.
The thrill-seekers jumped from a plane with Skydive Maitland this week in wingsuits – the first time it is known to have been done over Newcastle – and filmed their descent on two cameras strapped to their heads.
Wingsuit divers wear a special jumpsuit that usually allows the diver more control and longer airtime than when skydiving.
On Sunday the pair jumped from 14,000 feet – the shot on the front page is taken from 12,500 feet – and stayed in the air for more than two minutes, compared to a skydive during which about 55 seconds of airtime was usual, Mr Patfield said.
The ‘‘freedom’’ he experiences when jumping has driven him to spend more than $33,000 on the sport, he said.
That is minus travel costs, but includes the cost of each jump at $45 a pop, and the cost of the suits which range from about $900 to $2000 new.
‘‘It’s just a great feeling and it’s something you do for yourself,’’ the 34-year-old from Belmont South said.
‘‘I jump probably about five times every weekend, so I get about 10 minutes of freefall and clock well over 250km/h. I race trucks and cars on the highway that are going 100km/h.
‘‘I’d rather spend it on that than alcohol every weekend where you wake up with a hangover and nothing to show for it.
‘‘I want to have the most amount of fun anyone has in Newcastle, and I can’t believe more people aren’t doing it. I think people are just afraid of the unknown.’’
It was the shape, design and size of the wings that apparently gave a wingsuit diver more control than a skydiver with a parachute, Mr Patfield said, and the bigger the wings, the more air time was possible.
‘‘Cells’’ and air vents built into the wings allowed the diver to alter their speed, while body movements assisted with direction, he said.
‘‘Wherever you look, that’s where you are going to go, like a bird, so you can close your wings for greater speed and the more you push your arm down the faster you are going to turn, and you can also use your legs, your feet, and your hips to get more speed,’’ he said.
Mr Patfield said he had been enthralled with base jumping and skydiving since a trip to Switzerland while working in Europe in 2001.
‘‘I was driving coaches at the time and visited a small town called Lauterbrunnen,’’ he said. ‘‘I saw some people parachuting and from that moment I knew it was all I wanted to do.
When he returned to the Hunter Mr Patfield notched up 89 jumps in six weeks.
He now has more than 500 skydives to his name and has moved further into the extreme.
‘‘Wingsuit diving is a lot more dangerous, on opening and exiting, and a lot of malfunctions can happen. It’s more professional than skydiving,’’ Mr Patfield said.
He is now planning a four-week trip to the United States with Mr Downey, with this week’s amazing flight being practice for an epic, whirlwind travel itinerary.
‘‘We’ve been training together for the past 10 weeks and we’re going just after Christmas,’’ Mr Patfield said.
‘‘We’ll be knocking out about 100 jumps while we’re over there.’’