Date of Award


Access Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation


College of Aviation

Committee Chair

Dr. Ian R. McAndrew, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Dr. David C. Ison, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Dr. Haydee M. Curvas, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Dr. Nihad E. Daidzic, Ph.D.


This study examines the aerodynamic effects of the materials, textiles, and morphologies currently used in wingsuit design and construction. The experiment was a low-speed wind tunnel investigation using a rigid wing with an aspect ratio of 2, a NACA 4418 airfoil cross section and a smooth, polished painted surface as a baseline. The baseline wing was modified by covering the upper and lower surfaces with various textiles currently used in wingsuit construction. This study is the first step in continued research to design and build a wingsuit with superior glide performance compared to current designs. Surface textures and features on the lifting surfaces of wings are known to have significant aerodynamic consequences. This experiment compared the lift and drag of a representative low aspect ratio wing before and after covering the wing with the various fabrics and textiles used in current wingsuit design and arranged the various textiles and other wingsuit features, like zippers and seams, in morphologies currently used in wingsuit construction.

The data collected clearly shows current wingsuit materials and morphologies have a potentially large, usually undesirable effect on flight performance. All woven fabrics reduced aerodynamic efficiency as measured by CL/CD. Those treatments with the roughest surfaces greatly reduced lift and increased drag as much as 50% or more and reduced aerodynamic efficiency as much as 75%. Placement of zippers and seams are shown to be critical factors for both aerodynamic efficiency and stability. Current combinations of fabrics and morphologies were shown to be often mutually and additively detrimental to aerodynamic performance. Certain textiles showed possible utility in drag reduction. It was initially thought that the effects of the surface treatments on lift would be the major factor in wingsuit performance. While the effects on lift were significant, the large drag penalties due to woven and textured fabrics and textiles and the early separation of airflow at low angles of attack, appear to have had the greatest effect on the aerodynamic efficiency of a lifting surface with an airfoil cross section.