Can This New Wingsuit Actually Gain Altitude?

Want to find out how a brand-new wingsuit design performs? Let the Red Bull Skydive Team try it out.
The Red Bull Skydive team tests new wingsuits
Marco Waltenspiel and the Red Bull Skydive Team © Wolfgang Lienbacher/Red Bull Content Pool
By Gunther Geist

Compared to most things that fly, wingsuits are decidely low-tech. No engines, no propellers, no instruments. They're pretty much just a wearable wing. But they can allow a pilot do some pretty cool things, like significantly extend the length of a freefall. There's even one that, technically (and arguably), might even be able to stop it for a moment.

For the best in the sport, there are only a few maneuvers that count as legendary. One of them is getting enough speed and lift to actually stop freefall. While some claim to have done it, it's never been ratified. But what the Red Bull Skydive Team members know is that these new suits let them come closer than ever. Watch the video below — and keep an eye on the action around 45 seconds in.

So what's happening here? According to wingsuit pilot and photographer Wolfgang Lienbacher, the pilots are testing a new suit that combines the features of high-speed, high-glide performance suits (which are usually bigger) with the maneuverability of acrobatic stunt suits (usually smaller).

What that increased maneuverability lets them do is come even closer to stall speed — essentially, swooping down fast then changing the angle of attack to create more lift. Although they don't come anywhere near a standstill (they retain forward motion), it's pretty cool to see the flyers effectively "stall" the wingsuit.

The flights took place during a training camp in Bovec, Slovenia, where the team jumped 25 times over the course of three days.

Were they definitely able to fly up? Nope — that's questionable territory. Previous claims were hotly disputed by the wingsuit community. Are they going to grab the proper instrumentation to document the flight and try it again? It sure sounds like it.

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