Novice to intermediate
Novice to intermediate
The latest intermetiate to sports wing
Sports to advanced pilots only
Selected wings for Powered Paragliding available from Xplorer Ultraflight
Before we list our recommended wings, first some very important background and info for you:
Keith Pickersgill, instructor/owner of Xplorer Ultraflight is constantly striving to identify those wings that make superb powered wings. Many different wings are test-flown whenever they become available. Over the years, many hundreds of models and sizes from many manufacturers have been test-flown under power for evaluation and consideration.
Lets be clear about one thing right up front... there simply is no "perfect powered wing". There are too many mutually-exclusive design criteria and many trade-offs are required to balance the different aspects of safety, performance, handling, ease of launch, cruise speed, max speed, stability and comfort.
Reading the published specifications is not the whole story, nor is the certification report any more useful... many highly desirable characteristics, as well as undesirable aspects cannot be measured and cannot be indicated on a simple spec sheet, nor will these appear in the certification report.
However, wing manufacturers are bound by the purely safety requirements imposed by the strict certification process. This is to ensure the wing meets certain MINIMUM safety standards for the benefit of the pilots who purchase these wings.
Several wings may have very similar or in fact identical certification reports, but may feel VERY different to the pilots, or may have very different performance characteristics... remember, the certification authorities are NOT measuring performance, they are measuring SAFETY!
However, some performance specs do creep into the reports, such as trimspeed and max speed achieved during the test-flights. Do not expect these to be accurately calibrated figures, nor are they always normalised to indicate sea-level equivalent figures. They are simply a record of what was measured during the test-flights, with that specific pilot's wing-loading, in that specific air (altitude, air pressure, temperature and humidity affect the figures), and on his specific instruments which are not specifically calibrated against a known benchmark. The point is, accept these figures with a pinch of salt (in many cases, a bucket of salt...)
Also bear in mind, it is natural to expect certain manufacturers to attempt to optimise those specific performance specs that can be measured and printed in brochures and on the Web, that many pilots look to in order to select a wing. If the market is currently looking for good speed, then the designers push the speed aspects in their designs (and maybe push the figures a bit in their "tests"). This may be done at the cost of other aspects of the wing's handling.
The bottom line, is that many different wings are virtually impossible to select between based on reading their publsihed specs or certification reports.
Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, in actually flying the wing in various conditions and getting to know each wing's character, its strong points and its weaker aspects. This should be done by an experienced PPG pilot, with thousands of flights under the belt, and with experience of many different wings. A novice or intermediate pilot may battle to differentiate the subtle differences.
The trick is to isolate those wings that offer something special. To identify those wings that will prove popular in the hands of the actual pilots. To seek and find those wings that will sell well due to their pilot-friendly characteristics.
Before we can do this, we need to identify which specific characteristics to seek out, but not at the cost of sacrificing general comfort, handling and ease of flying. Of course, safety is the first directive!
Keith Pickersgill has identified the following highly desirable characteristics in a wing for powered paragliding:
Finding such wings can be a tedious and confusing task.
- Firstly, Safety: How is the wing certified? Who is it aimed at? Beginners, intermediate or very skilled pilots?
Once safety has been established and clarified, we then move onto the single most important performance feature:
- Ground-handling and specifically launching character - it does not matter how well a wing flies if it is tricky to launch, especially in light to zero wind and specifically off level ground. Many pilots battle in zero or light winds, mostly because of incompatible wings. Its a great feeling to arrive at a field knowing you can launch first time, every time, no matter how light (or strong) the wind is. The choice of wing plays a major role in this aspect. It does not matter that a particular pilot (usually the local agent) appears to launch the wing effortlessly... you need to know how the AVERAGE pilot copes with the specific wing! Some wings offer almost unbelievable specs in one aspect or another (usually either top speed, stability or agility), but this almost always comes with the penalty of difficult or technical launching characteristics. So we discard all wings with tricky launching and present our shortlist to the following aspects:
- General comfort and predictability. You want a wing that just FEELS good. A wing that feels as if you already know it well. A wing that delivers what you expect without any nasty surprises. A wing you can fly with confidence, a wing that does not induce any level of apprehension nor trepidation, even in moderate turbulence (in severe turbulence, the pilot SHOULD feel some trepidation in order to handle the situation properly).
- Stability. Every wing will make the pilot bounce around in turbulence... there is no way to prevent a wing moving vertically up or down when the air has vertical components to it... however, a good wing will not require too active piloting. You should be able to relax in moderate turbulence, feel the bouncing around, but need not respond too actively. Even minor deflations in severe turbulence should require no pilot input, its just the wing's way of absorbing some of the turbulent energy. However, its nice if the wing talks to you and you actually understand what it is telling you through the feedback via your seat, risers and brakes. Its great when you can feel that big collapse about to happen and you instinctively react to prevent it or reduce its impact. If the wing speaks to you in a foreign tongue and you just cannot get to grips with the feedback it is giving you, or your natural response is not quite right, its probably due to the wing not being very pilot-friendly... OK, another few knocked off the list.
- Peculiar habits... some wings behave in a rather peculiar way in certain instances. One particularly annoying characteristic, is "Adverse Roll" when the wing is accelerated. Such wings, when flown at or near to their maximum speed, do not respond predictably to steering input. For example, if you wish to turn slightly to the Left, you naturally pull some Left brake. However, such wings that suffer from Adverse Roll, will first turn somewhat to the Right instead and will keep steering to the Right if you do not take immediate action. You need to pull MUCH more Left brake before the wing starts steering to the Left. This can be dangerous (as when flying in formation), it can be confusing to the pilot, and becomes downright annoying even when you learn to expect it. What causes this? In order to get some extra speed, some wings dump the entire trailing edge to reduce the effective working surface area, increasing the apparent wing-loading, thereby gaining a bit of extra speed. When you pull one brake, it acts as a "flaperon", increasing the lift on that side, lifting that side of the wing, making the wing bank and steer in the WRONG DIRECTION! Another disadvantage of such an arrangement, is the drastic loss of lift when accelerated, requiring a HUGE amount of extra thrust to maintain level flight, forcing these pilots to fly with much larger paramotors. There are better ways to gain speed without all these penalties.
- Brake Pessure. A wing with very high brake pressure will quickly tire you, especially if the wing tends to turn under the influence of Torque-effect and needs constant brake pressure on one side. Even with a motor that has no noticible torque-effect, basic manoeuvering of the wing will be tiresome if the brake pressure is high. The ideal is light brake pressure initially for basic manoeuvering, progressively increasing in pressure with increasing input, and finally very high pressure as you approach the stall point. This gives you easy turning with good stall warning.
- Speedbar pressure. Because powered wings are often flown for extended periods at accelerated speeds, you want light speedbar pressure, otherwise your legs will quickly tire and force you to rest your legs all too frequently. If you are forced to use your speedbar to penetrate into strong wind, you might get blown backwards when forced to rest your legs.
- Trimtabs are an absolute must on a powered wing. For (un-powered) paragliding, trimtabs are no longer desireable in favour of speedbar, however for paramotor flying, you want BOTH trimtabs AND speedbar. Trimtabs allow you to launch MUCH easier in zero wind by lengthening the rear risers slightly to facilitate easier pull-up and to get the wing to position directly overhead, not hanging back. When launching in stronger winds, trimming for maximum speed helps prevent being dragged around the takeoff field. In flight, trimtabs may be used assymetrically to overcome torque-effect. On long flights, trimtabs offer a very convenient set-and-forget means of flying at accelerated speed. Used in conjunction with the speedbar, you gain an extra speed edge in smooth air (not wise to fly at max speed in rough air).
Once all the above criteria have been used to narrow a shortlist of potential wings, only then should we look at published paper specifications if we need to further narrow down a final choice from the few remaining wings:
- Speed Range... not only maximum speed, but the entire range of speed. If a wing appears fast, find out what its minimum takeoff speed is. Can you easily run that fast in zero wind? Can the wing also be safely flown slowly if you want?
- Weight range. How wide is the range? Remember that at sea level, you may safely fly a wing under power approx 35kg over the paragliding maximum weight limit. At higher altitudes, this is reduced somewhat. If the wing is power-certified, it will likely be certified for power at a much higher weight than its soaring certification.
- Weight of the wing itself. A lighter wing will tend to pullup easier especially in light winds, and be easier to launch.
- Certified for winching? If the wing behaves well under winch or tow, it is likely to have similar good behaviour under power.
Allow us to recommend our personal selection of wings which we have found to be ideal for powered paragliding and have selected to represent and sell in South Africa:
Recommended wings: (Click on the wing name for info)
- APCO Thrust HP
Novice to intermediate. AFNOR Standard Certified. An ideal entry-level wing with some really nice features.
Novice to intermediate. Certified DHV 1/2. An outstanding entry level wing, a great joy to fly with the most forgiving launching characteristics.
The latest intermetiate to sports wing, offering higher performance for the advanced intermediate pilot. An ideal second wing.
Sports to advanced pilots only. AFNOR Performance rated, delivering 60kph+ speeds, dynamic agility and one of the most enjoyable wings for the experienced pilot.
Please read our page on wing size selection for powered paragliding at www.xplorer.co.za/articles/wingsize.htm
Any inquiries, contact Keith Pickersgill, email [email protected]
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