In the new teaser trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tony Stark gifts Peter Parker with “the coolest thing” the young Parker has ever seen — yep, even cooler than the fact that he can crawl up walls. This “coolest thing” is a Spider-Man suit with a “minor upgrade”: web wings that make him less spider, more flying squirrel.
Spider-Man has web wings in some of the comics — a visual detail with zero purpose — and has yet to have wings in any iteration of the movies. We don’t know how web wings will help Spider-Man in “Homecoming” but the trailer makes it seem like they’ll give him a gliding, base jumping-like boost.
Webbed wings are a valuable asset, likely helping Spider-Man move faster. Swinging by webs is an efficient means to quickly get exactly where you want to go; Wired’s Rhett Alain calculated that a basic swing would help Spidey travel at 30 miles per hour, while a swing-and-jump would have him moving at 15.9 meters per second.
That’s because Spider-Man’s web wings take a cue from wingsuits modeled after flying squirrels. When a flying squirrel takes a leap it does more than just glide from point to point — after the initial ballistic dive, these squirrels continuously change velocity and force coefficients, enabling them to generate the lift needed to balance their body weight. Flying squirrels can usually glide between 10 to 30 miles per hour and to a maximum distance of 25 feet.
Humans have looked at how flying squirrels fly since the 1930s, with a modern update in the 1990s. A wingsuit — much like a flying squirrel — has flaps of fabric between the legs and between the arms and body. If a human in a wingsuit leaps of a peak they can get up to speeds in excess of 160 miles per hour in just a few minutes. With the right body positioning, the pilot can also achieve a 2:1 glide ratio — which is also the same ratio as that of a Northern Flying Squirrel. A glide ratio is the dividing distance between the horizontal distance traveled and the change in ratio.
Because Spider-Man’s suit was upgraded by the infamous billionaire inventor Tony Stark, we can assume that it will allow him to travel more efficiently that a regular wingsuit. Ideally, it will give him similar speeds — but with more control over the landing. If Parker’s glee is any indication of how the wings will help him move, it’s bound to be pretty damn cool.