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Wing List Comparison Buyer's Guide  
Wing Comparison
 
paragliders  

What does it all mean...

The chart below is revealing. The more you look, the more you'll understand the advantages of new wing design and trade offs between beginner and advanced wings.

In this article, you will learn about factors that effect wing performance. This knowledge will help you choose a wing today, and lend perspective on how you may transition to different wings in the future.

Paraglider Edel Atlas Muse 4 Viper 3
Year Introduced
1997 2014 2014
Aspect ratio flat 4.7 5.16 5.98
Number of Cells
35 46 62
Weight Range (kg)
90 - 110 85 - 110 95 - 115
Flat Area (square meters)
30.2 28.0 26.0
Max Speed (kph)
44 46 62
Glide Ratio (Lift/Drag)
7 9 10 {estimate)
Experience Required
Begin/Interm Begin/Interm Advanced
Certification
DHV 1-2 EN A None

Note that the Viper 3 is smaller than the Edel Power Atlas, yet the Viper carries a heavier load, flies faster and uses less power. How is this possible? It's the result of 17 years of technology development applied by leading manufacturers, like Ozone.

para2000

paragliders

paraglider

paraglider whale shark

 

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
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 for beginners.

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 article.

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.

Minimum 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.

Max Speed
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.

 

 

 

class flight characteristics pilot skills required
EN A Paragliders with maximum passive safety and extremely forgiving flying characteristics. Gliders with good resistance to departures from normal flight. Designed for all pilots including pilots under all levels of training.
EN B Paragliders with good passive safety and forgiving flying characteristics. Gliders with some resistance to departures from normal flight. Designed for all pilots including pilots under all levels of training.
EN C Paragliders with moderate passive safety and with potentially dynamic reactions to turbulence and pilot errors. Recovery to normal flight may require precise pilot input. Designed for pilots familiar with recovery techniques, who fly “actively” and regularly, and understand the implications of flying a glider with reduced passive safety.
EN D Paragliders with demanding flying characteristics and potentially violent reactions to turbulence and pilot errors. Recovery to normal flight requires precise pilot input. Designed for pilots well practised in recovery techniques, who fly very actively, have significant experience of flying in turbulent conditions, and who accept the implications of flying such a wing.

powered parachute

 

Certification
The certification process measures the paraglider's ability to avoid and recover from abnormal flight modes such as a collapse, spin and stall. It also measures aspects of construction strength and quality through destructive load testing.

EN Certification at para-test.com is the newest and most accepted independent certification organization. You'll find many test reports for many of the newest paragliders. Older wings were certified by DHV, DULV, and AFNOR, but you will not see these certifications on newer wings. It's mostly EN.

Some gliders have no certification. Beginners in general should avoid these gliders. However there is an exception to this no uncertified wings for beginners rule. The current certification process for traditional paragliders is not applicable to the new reflex wing technology. Beginner wings like the Ozone Spyder are not certified but can still make excellent first wings for some student pilots. Again, ask your instructor about each wing to see if it's appropriate for you.

Old Technology
Now with your new knowledge of glider design, compare the 1997 Edel Power Atlas with the 2014 Muse 4. The Atlas needs over 30 square meters to carry the same load as the 28 meter Muse 4. Compare glide ratio, which is a measure of efficiency. The Muse 4 uses 30% less power. More importantly, launching and flight characteristics are far superior on the Muse 4 than the Atlas.

You can get an Atlas cheap because there are so many unfortunate students trying to get rid of them on Ebay. When seasoned pilots come across a wing they don't like, the compare it to the "Power Mattress".

Paraglider Edel Atlas Muse 4 Viper 3
Year Introduced
1997 2014 2014
Aspect ratio flat 4.7 5.16 5.98
Number of Cells
35 46 62
Weight Range (kg)
90 - 110 85 - 110 95 - 115
Flat Area (square meters)
30.2 28.0 26.0
Max Speed (kph)
44 46 62
Glide Ratio (Lift/Drag)
7 9 10 - estimate
Experience Required
Begin/Interm Begin/Interm Advanced
Certification
DHV 1-2 EN A None

New Technology
With the latest crop of new gliders, it's really hard to go wrong. Follow the guidelines in this article and the Wing Buyer's Guide.

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