The World Wingsuit League uses cutting edge timing, video and live-broadcast technology to bring viewers the most exciting coverage available of the world's most demanding race. The wingsuits themselves, however, are just as high-tech as the technology that chronicles their performance.
Wingsuits are wearable aircraft with multiple wings that generate lift and create horizontal movement. They can turn and dive but are not capable of sustained horizontal or climbing flight because they are powered by gravity instead of engines. (They can, however use special maneuvers to gain altitude for short periods of time.)
Wingsuits have three wings: one for each arm; one between the legs.
Each wing is made from two layers of low-porosity nylon that are sewn into a series of cells that run from the leading edge to the tail of each wing.
Each wing has one or more air scoops or inlets that allow air to enter and pressurize the wing cells. This is called "ram-air"inflation and the same technique is used to inflate the "square" parachutes and kite surfing kites. The pressurized wing creates a classic aerodynamic wing shape: curved upper surface and flat lower surface.
Lift is created when the air traveling over the longer upper surface must go faster to keep up with the shorter lower surface. The faster the airflow, the lower its pressure so the faster-moving air results in lower pressure above the wing and higher pressure below it, which causes the "bottom air" to "lift" the wing into the lower pressure area.
The first ram-air inflated wingsuits were developed in the mid-1990s by legendary French parachutist Patrick de Gayardon. His original wingsuits had a glide ratio of about 1.2:1, meaning the pilot could fly 1.2 feet horizontally for every one foot he descended. Through continuous research and development has now improved wingsuit designs to the point that the suits flown in WWL events can achieve level-flight glide ratios of 3.5:1 and the ability to go past 4.0:1 for short bursts and even climb briefly.
Like any other aircraft, wingsuits are built to exacting specifications with quality control on a par with a Swiss watch or Formula 1 racecar. Each suit takes many hours to build by highly-skilled craftsman using state-of-the-art computer design and modeling, laser measurement and cutting, and the best sewing machines in the world.