One of the things I haven’t seen people talking about are Sam’s wings. For a portion of the scenes he’s flying in, you can see he’s controlling the wings manually with his hands. They’re basically an extension of his arms; if he wants to gain altitude, he basically flaps his arms to get it.
It’s more than that, though. The wings enable him to move with a very high degree of maneuverability, most likely by translating his subtle body language into movement. And Sam is good enough at it to be able to avoid anti-aircraft artillery fire and to dodge between aircraft at high speed.
But later, when he’s using both hands to fire guns, how is he controlling his wings? While the helicarriers are taking off, Sam is using both hands to fire machine guns. And while doing that, he flies down the the flight deck close enough to kick a guy in the chest, hover, turn around, and fire again. How is he doing that without manually controlling his wings?
That’s some really advanced tech, and that also means that Sam has had a lot of physical training. He’s unconsciously aware, like Natasha, like Steve, of his body and the rules of physics, which allow him to use a mechanical apparatus that allows him to fly exactly like a bird of prey does.
Seriously, rewatch the movie, and pay attention to Sam when he’s flying. He has to have the three-dimensional awareness of a pilot, the timing of a sharpshooter, and the physicality and body awareness of a gymnast. If you thought he was amazing before, you really had no idea how amazing he is.
This is great meta!
As for how he’s controlling them when he’s shooting; my theory has always been that the wing pack mechanism is made to read the signals from his contracting back muscles, for example when he needs to go left he tenses the left trapezius or when he needs to go in a roll he changes the angle of his shoulder. It throws off his accuracy a little, but his mobility is much more important in this case, especially if you bear in mind that while he is efficiently combat trained that isn’t his primary function as a paramedic. For this, his back muscles need to be very defined and he has more control and awareness of them than the average human.
Which makes this sequence all the more impressive, because it’s been years and he’s lost some of that definition, the mechanism against his back doesn’t feel like a second skin anymore, but something heavy and chafing and disobedient. And yet, he manages to operate them anyway. The sheer amount of training that would have to be endured to operate these, the falls and the scrapes. I bet by the end of training the Falcons all felt scraped raw.
But in any case; my headcanon is that the wings themselves aren’t actually the most important part of his suit, because anyone with the right materials and some knowledge of engineering could put them together and in fact, this mechanism is the most valuable part. Knowing that they’re a product of Stark industries, I can’t help but wonder if the mechanism for control isn’t similar to what Tony uses to control the Iron man suit.