Gliders

From Hang Gliding Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

As you might expect, there are some gliders that are suited to Novice level pilots, and some that are only appropriate for more advanced pilots.

Contents

Novice/Intermediate vs. High Performance

A glider that is appropriate for a beginner will have some different flight characteristics than will a high performance glider. Novice/Intermediate gliders will be more forgiving of mistakes and are easier to turn than are high performance gliders. High performance gliders will have a higher glide ratio, that is, they will glide farther forward for each foot the glider descends, especially at higher speeds. They are harder to turn, harder to land, and more susceptible to unwanted yawing. They are also heavier, more expensive, and more effort to set up and break down.

Some new pilots look at the cool intermediate gliders next to the simpler novice gliders and are tempted to buy an intermediate glider as their first (and only) glider. They figure it will save money over the long run, since they are sure they will eventually want the intermediate anyway. They expect to learn on and grow into it.

Simple advice: DON'T!

Re-read the above comparison. Flight characteristics are such that an intermediate glider can overwhelm a novice pilot quickly. This can be a dangerous situation, and scare a budding pilot out of the sport.

Start with the novice glider that your instructor advises is suitable for you, either a single surface, or a 60% double surface. Further, when ready to move up to a double surface intermediate glider, keep that first glider instead of selling it. You will find it a joy to fly on light days, and a fun and easy glider for training hill brush up days.

New vs. Used

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Money - A new beginner wing will cost around $3300 US dollars, while good quality, airworthy used wings can be had for as little as $1000. The money saved on the purchase of a used wing could be put towards the purchase of a harness, parachute, or lessons.
  • Level of Commitment - If you can dedicate a lot of time to flying (several days a week), chances are you may 'out-grow' a beginner wing in a few months, leaving you with a desire for more performance. If you are not able to fly as often you may not want to risk damaging a shiny new wing with your lack of experience.
  • Time - It can take a month or more to get a brand new glider. If you are anxious to get flying right away, a used wing that is available immediately may be a better solution. If you are going to buy a Wills Wing Glider, check the inventory on their web site for availability dates.
  • Availability - You can get exactly the new glider that you want. With used gliders, since they are difficult to ship, your selection will be limited to those gliders in your local area.

If you do buy a used glider

  • You will want to get a professional "sail off" inspection, and will likely want to replace the flying wires. The inspection will cost around $200 US Dollars, and a set of flying wires should cost less than $100. In Germany, all hang gliders are required to replace their flying wires every two years, which is a good example for us as well. Buying a used glider means you don't know whether the wires have been pinched during assembly, so it's best to replace them.
  • Hang gliders use a sewn piece of webbing known as a hang loop to attach the pilot's harness to the glider. You may find the hang loop is either too long or too short. If so, do not improvise to get the right length! Instead measure the required length and order a new hang loop and backup loop. If the existing loops show any signs of wear, replace them.


Single vs. Double Surface

Hang gliders can be placed in three categories:

  • Single Surface
  • Double Surface
  • Rigid Wing

A single surface glider is one that essentially has one layer of fabric that covers the top surface of the airfoil, and uses battens or ribs to maintain the airfoil shape. These are the lightest of all gliders, the quickest to set up and break down, and the easiest to land. For this reason, almost all training is done on single surface gliders.

A double surface glider has one layer of fabric that covers the top surface of the airfoil, and a second one that covers the bottom surface, with battens or ribs that mantain an airfoil shape on the top and a flat surface on the bottom. While it is true that what we have defined as single surface gliders do have a small amount of double surface, for our purposes, if the bottom surface does not cover the cross bar (that long hinged tube that goes from wingtip to wingtip) and does not have bottom battens, then that glider is single surface.

Rigid wing gliders are the heaviest, most complex, and most expensive of the three types. They require advanced skills to fly, so we won't discuss them further here.

Which One for You?

While you will almost certainly fly a single surface glider for your early training, there are double surface gliders suitable for most Novice pilots. If you are going to fly a lot, have some natural aptitude, and are in good physical shape, you will probably be happiest with a double surface glider. It will have a superior glide ratio, which is useful for flying in higher winds and for getting from thermal to thermal. It will also be heavier, harder to turn, harder to land, and will take longer to set up and break down. If you are going to fly less frequently or occasionally have long breaks in between flying days, or have had to work a little harder than the average student, you will most likely want a single surface glider.

For double surface gliders, there is one more feature you should know about: variable geometry, or VG. This refers to a pulley system that some double surfaced gliders are equipped with that allows the pilot to change the amount of tension on the sail while in flight. There are relatively few VG equipped double surface gliders that are appropriate for Novice pilots.

Different gliders are appropriate for different pilots. Here's one pilot's account of why he chose a double surface glider, and another pilot's reasoning behind his choice of a single surface glider.

Primary Single Surface Gliders

These are the type of glider that you will have used for your training. They are the simplest and most forgiving, and are appropriate first gliders for everyone.



Aeros Target

Very popular in Europe, and one of the few European gliders seen frequently in the United States.

Years built: 2000? - current

Manufacturer's page: Aeros Target

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
13 110-165 50-75
16 143-230 65-105
21 Tandem 185-420 85-190



Airborne Fun

Popular Australian built glider, used both as a trainer and a first purchase glider.

Years built: 2001 - current

Manufacturer's page: Airborne Fun

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
160 110-198 50-75
190 154-265 70-120
220 187-353 85-160



Finsterwalder Lightfex

The smaller single surface glider from Finsterwalder of Germany.

Years built: 1990 - current

Manufacturer's page: Lightfex

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
14 100-198 45-75



Finsterwalder Perfex

Midsize single surface glider from Germany. It features Finsterwalder's short pack technology.

Years built: 1990 - current

Manufacturer's page: Perfex

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
16 154-230 70-105



LaMouette Atlas

Older design still in use in some parts of the world.

Years built: 1979 - current

Manufacturer's page: none

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
14 110-165 50-75
16 143-210 65-95
18 198-310 90-140



Moyes Malibu

The latest and greatest single surface glider from Moyes of Australia. As of April 2010, the 166 square foot size has been flight tested and should now be available.

Years built: 2008 - current

Manufacturer's page: Malibu

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
166 130-175 60-80
188 140-220 65-100



North Wing Ezy

North Wing's take on a single surface glider.

Years built: 2000? - current

Manufacturer's page: North Wing Ezy

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
170 110-170 50-75
190 150-220 68-100

Seedwings Flugsport Funky

Modern, curved tip single surface glider with mylar leading edge and aerofoil uprights. Similar to the Icaro Relax which some call an "advanced" single surface. Manufactured by Austrian company Seedwings Flugsport GmbH commonly known as Seedwings Europe. Not to be mistaken for USA company Seedwings Inc.

Years built: 2006 - current

Manufacturer's page: Seedwings Flugsport Funky

Size Pilot Weight, kg
15.3 m2 55-85
17.3 m2 80-120

Wills Wing Falcon

In addition to being the most commonly used glider for training in the United States, the Falcon is also a very popular first purchase glider. The current version holds the world record for cross country distance on a single surface glider at 205 miles (330 km).

Years built: 1995 - current

Manufacturer's page: Wills Wing Falcon

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
140,145 110-140 50-64
170 140-170 64-77
195 170-220 77-100
225 185-440 * 84-200
Tandem 185-500 84-227


(*) The Falcon model line has gone through changes from the original Falcon, to the Falcon 2, to the Falcon 3. The figures above are adequate for a general idea of suitability, but a look at Wills Wing's Placard Specifications is in order if considering a specific glider. For instance, the Falcon 225 was rated for 185-440 pounds (meant to be tandem-capable), while the Falcon 2 225 was rated 185-300 pounds (meant for solo use). There is no Falcon 3 225 because the Falcon 3 195 is rated up to 275 pounds. The Falcon 3 Tandem is also approved for solo use by very large pilots.


Advanced Single Surface Glider

This is a somewhat higher performance glider than those in the primary single surface category, as it has a higher aspect ratio wing (wider from wingtip to wingtip) and a streamlined control frame. (the part the pilot holds) Most pilots would also find this a very agreeable first wing.



Icaro Relax

Icaro's replacement for their popular Mars.

Years built: 2007? - current

Manufacturer's page: Icaro Relax

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
14 100-165 45-75
16 135-200 60-90
18 175-265 80-120



North Wing Freedom

A recent design from North Wing, featuring curved wing tips

Years built: 2007 - current

Manufacturer's page: North Wing Freedom

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
150 100-180 45-80
170 135-215 60-100
190 175-255 80-115



Double Surface Gliders Appropriate for Novices, no VG

These gliders have approximately 60 percent of their bottom wing surface covered. These are appropriate first gliders for many, but not all, novice pilots. Ask your instructor if one of these would be a good wing for you.


Airborne Sting 2

Airborne of Australia built this novice-intermediate double surface glider. Unlike most of the other gliders in this section, the Sting 2's bottom surface covers 70 percent of the total area of the glider.

Years built: 2000? - 2005?

Manufacturer's page: None

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
118 80-112 35-50
140 90-145 40-65
154 112-178 50-80
175 156-278 70-125



Airwave Calypso

Late 80's glider from Airwave.

Years built: 1987 - ?

Manufacturer's page: None

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
15 125-210 60-95



Airwave/Pacific Airwave Pulse

One of the all time favorites of beginner pilots who want a double surface glider.

Years built: 1992 - 1995

Manufacturer's page: None

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
9 80-145 36-65
10 130-185 60-85
11 185-235 60-105



Airwave/Pacific Airwave Vision Mark IV

Predecessor the the Pulse, and still a popular first glider.

Years built: 1988 - 1992

Manufacturer's page: None

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
170 115-190 52-88
190 154-260 70-120



Avian Rio

The United Kingdom's Avian builds this novice-intermediate glider.

Years built: 1999-2011. Replaced with the Rio2 which has a VG.

Manufacturer's page: Avian Rio

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
15 114-190 51-85



Moyes Sonic

Novice-intermediate double surface glider from Moyes of Australia.

Years built: 1998-current

Manufacturer's page: Moyes Sonic

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
165 100-200 44-90
190 140-220 63-99



Moyes XT145

Smaller version of the Sonic, for lighter pilots.

Years built: 1999-current

Manufacturer's page: Moyes XT145

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
145 80-180 35-81



North Wing Illusion

North Wing's successor to the Pulse. There are not a lot of these around, but parts are readily available from North Wing.

Years built: 2000? - 2005?

Manufacturer's page: None

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
10M 130-200 60-90
11M 154-260 70-120



Wills Wing Eagle

Wills Wing's take on a novice-intermediate double surface glider.

Years built: 2000 - 2006

Manufacturer's page: None

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
145 130-200 60-90
164 150-250 68-113
180 175-275 80-125

Double Surface Gliders Appropriate for Novices, VG Equipped

These gliders are very similar in form to the double surface gliders listed above, but are equipped with variable geometry (VG). The VG gives these gliders the extra capability of a superior glide ratio when the VG is tightened, but good maneuverability and the same relaxed landing characteristics as those gliders without VG. Many new pilots would be happy for many years with one of the gliders in this group. Again, ask your instructor if this style of glider is right for you.



Airborne Sting 2 XC

The "XC" version of the Sting is equipped with variable geometry. Please note that the Sting 2 is being replaced by the Sting 3, and as of April 2010, only the 175 size is still in production. The current consensus is that the Sting 3 is a step up in performance from the Sting 2, and may not be suitable for novice pilots. Also, unlike the other gliders in this list which have a bottom surface that covers 60 percent of the glider's total area, the Sting's bottom surface covers 70 percent.

Years built: 2000? - current

Manufacturer's page: Airborne Sting 2

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
154 112-178 50-80
175 156-278 70-125



Moyes Sonic

The 190 square foot size of the Sonic is available with variable geometry

Years built: 1998-current

Manufacturer's page: Moyes Sonic

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
190 140-220 63-99



North Wing Horizon

The latest update on the extremely popular Mark IV-Pulse glider series, now made by North Wing.

Years built: 2005? - current

Manufacturer's page: North Wing Horizon

Size Pilot Weight, lbs Pilot Weight, kg
160 110-220 50-100
180 140-260 63-118

Seedwings Flugsport Space

Modern, curved tip double surface glider with mylar leading edge and aerofoil uprights. Equipped with VG. Very easy handling. DHV rated almost like a training glider but with 80% double surface and VG. Manufactured by Austrian company Seedwings Flugsport GmbH commonly known as Seedwings Europe. Not to be mistaken for USA company Seedwings Inc.

Years built: 2007 - current

Manufacturer's page: Seedwings Flugsport Space

Size Pilot Weight, kg
14.0 m2 55-85
15.8 m2 75-115

Personal tools