Source of the data
All the data in the chart is from an independent source that collects specs
on every glider ever made. You can visit the site yourself at Para2000.org.
These specs are accurate and unbiased.
Year wing was introduced
This is the year that the glider became available to the public. In the example to the left, the Ozone Viper 3 was introduced in 2014. This data
is important for two reasons. Over the years, paraglider technology has improved dramatically.
New materials and design techniques have increased wing performance
and safety. To compare apples to apples, it is important to compare gliders
designed no more than a few years apart.
Beware of old designs
Most importantly, a few older designs are still on the market
today, and although they are in new condition, they are not the
latest technology. These gliders have less performance and safety
than new designs. The Power Altas and the Silex are examples of
old technology still being sold. There are others.
Before buying a wing, check Para2000.org to
see the year the paraglider was introduced.
Manufacturer track record
In the upper left hand corner of the para2000 page, you will find a link to the manufacterer, in this case it's Ozone. Click on that link to see how many wings that manufacturer has released. The leader manufacturers have a long list of wings released over many years.
Aspect Ratio is the ratio of the wing span
divided by the cord of the wing. So if the wing span
is 30 feet and the cord is 6 feet, then the aspect ratio is 5.
Aspect Ratio effects glider performance and characteristics more
than any other factor. As aspect ratio increases, gliders become
more efficient, have a faster top speed, and can be more responsive
in flight and on the ground. The trade off is safety. As
aspect ratio increases, gliders become more prone to collapse in
turbulence, and recovery is not as smooth as with lower aspect
ratio gliders. Higher aspect ratio gliders also require a more
sensative touch on ground and in the air, making them more challenging
Aspect Ratio: Flat versus Projected
Flat Aspect ratio is measured when the wing is laying flat. Projected
aspect ratio is equivelent to the wing's shadow on the ground
when inflated. The relivance of flat versus projected aspect
ratio is subtle, and too long to cover here. We'll
go over this interesting relationship in more depth in a future
Number of Cells
As with aspect ratio, increasing the number of cells in a paraglider
can increase the efficiency and speed of a paraglider. And just
like aspect ratio, the trade off with more cells is a
greater tendency to collapse and a more complex recovery.
It is important to note that over the
years, improvements in technology have allowed us to increase both
aspect ratio and the number cells while actually decreasing the
likelyhood of a collapse and improving the recovery characteristics.
Newer designs are safer and perform better. That's why it is
important to compare wings designed around the same year.
Sink, Glide Ratio
The two most common indicators of glider efficiency are minimum sink rate and
glide ratio. Minimum sink is the glider's slowest rate of descent, with the
power off. Glide ratio is the gliders best glide angle with power off. For
example, a glide ratio of 8 means the glider will progress 800 feet forward
for every 100 feet it descends.
The glide ratios in the chart are
based on flying with a clean paraglider harness. Because paramotors have
a lot more drag, count on a PPG glide of around 15% less.
Efficient gliders have longer range, better endurance, and usually
more responsive handling in the air and on the ground. Efficient
gliders can be flown at higher wing loadings, increasing top speed
and stability in turbulence.
As stated above, efficiency is increased by increasing aspect
ratio and the number of cells. Looking at the chart, this trend
is clear. It also follows that efficient gliders are more prone
to collapse and have a more complicated recovery process.
The max speed refers to the maximum airspeed a glider can achieve. Flying at
max speed almost always involves engaging trimmers or the speed bar or
both. Trimmers and speed bar enable you to change the length of the risers
in flight, decreasing your angle of attack, thereby increasing your airspeed.
For many pilots, speed is not important. Low and slow is their preference,
and this is especially true for beginners. Faster gliders are typically
more desirable for pilots who like to fly long distances.
If speed is important to you, there are
a few things to consider. First of all, at higher speeds, reflex
gliders are safer, to a point. Without getting too technical,
the faster you fly a paraglider, the more likely it is that turbulence
could cause the glider to collapse. Reflex gliders resist collapse
at higher speeds by loading the front of the glider and with
a "tail" effect that
furthers stabilizes the front of the glider. However, if a reflex
glider does collapse, the recovery will be more dramatic, requiring
more altitude, more time, and more pilot input. All in all, reflex
gliders are the wave of the future. They are increasing in popularity
for new pilots as well as experienced pilots. However, some reflex wings are not as easy to launch as traditional paragliders, so beginners should keep that in mind because launching is the most challenging skill to learn in powered paragliding.
Another way to increase speed is to fly a smaller glider. Of course
the trade off is that take offs and landings will be faster. However,
if the wing is efficient, like wings with a higher aspect ratio, then the glider will have more lift enabling
the glider to slow down for easier take offs and landings.