When getting started in powered paragliding, most pilots choose a paraglider that qualifies as a "beginner" wing. However, new pilots may be concerned that they may quickly out grow a so-called beginner glider. However, most pilots wear out their entry level gliders before moving up to an intermediate glider. In fact, some pilots buy the same model for their second wing.
New pilots often struggle with intermediate gliders and progress more quickly with a beginner glider. This is because the most challenging aspect of powered paragliding is the launch, not the flying. Starting with an easy launching beginning glider enables you to quickly discover all the little nuances that make launching easier.
And don't worry about out growing your beginner glider. Though beginner gliders are more docile on the ground, the difference in the air is not noticable to newer pilots, at least not for the first year of flying.
For beginners, an intermediate glider can sometimes be a reasonable choice. It depends on a number of factors including...
• how much time you have for training
• quality of instruction
• your physical abilities
• your launch altitude
Intermediate gliders tend to be more sensitive and quick during ground handling. Though they are a joy for experienced pilots, these responsive gliders can veer off to one side or overshoot before a less experienced pilot can correct the situation. Know your limitations. If you want to make learning easy, start with a beginner glider.
If you start with an intermediate glider, plan to spend extra time on ground handling. It will be worth it. Ground handling is the key to enjoying paramotoring. The more you ground handle, the more you'll fly.
If you live at high altitude, it is sometimes recommended to start with an intermediate wing, especially if you are a heavy pilot. Intermediate paragliders have more lift which is important in the thinner air of high altitude launches. This issue must be examined on a case by case basis.
Remember that what ever wing you choose, you won't be stuck with it forever. Wings have limited lives, lasting around 500 hours. Sunlight is the primary factor. In a few years, when you're ready for a new wing, you'll have the opportunity to move up, or not.
For intermediate pilots choosing a new wing, this is a very exciting time. Every year, performance, handling and safety keep getting better.
However, this can also be a confusing time. Everyone has their own style and flying history, so when you ask other pilots for advice on which wing to buy, they tell you what THEY like.
The variety of intermediate glider types means that you can choose a glider that fits YOUR flying style. Whether you like long cross countries, wanging around the field, or just low and slow, there's a glider that's just right for you.
The advantages to intermediate gliders include:
• Faster top speed
• More responsive handling
• Easier light wind launches (except reflex wings)
• Improved efficiency for better range/duration
• Magical glider-like feel on landing
Regardless of your choice, stepping up to a new intermediate wing always seems to have the same effect. After your first flight, you'll land with a big smile on your face. It's a whole new sport again.
The demand for advanced gliders is small. Most experienced pilots are very happy with the performance of intermeidate gliders and don't feel the need to trade safety for a small increase in performance.
However, for some, an advanced glider can transform the sport to a whole new level of fun and excitement. In general, advanced gliders do everything that the intermediate gliders do, but they do it better.
Of course with the good characterists, there are trade offs. Advanced gliders are more challenging to launch, and can be too responsive for some pilots. No matter what you've heard, advanced gliders are not as safe as intermediate and beginner gliders. Period.
When you are ready for an advanced glider, you know it. If you're not sure, give us a call. We have experience flying all these gliders and we'll help you make the right decision.
Choosing the right size wing ensures proper glider performance and safety. A glider that is too big will be prone to collapses in turbulence. A wing that is too small means your take off run will be too long and your landings will be too fast.
The primary factor in determining your wing size is your in-flight weight. Manufacturer's weight ranges indicate the certified weight range. This means the glider's flight characteristics were tested at these weights by certification organizations like EN, DHV, AFNOR, and CEN. EN is the latest and greatest.
Typically, paramotor pilots should choose a wing that places them as close as possible to the upper end of the weight range for a responsive and safe wing. Unlike free flight, in paramotoring it is common to be 10% over the top of the range for beginner gliders and 15% over the top for intermediate gliders. The reasoning behind this is complex and it must be made clear that a glider is NOT certified outside its weight range. In general, paramotor pilots accept the extra risk in return for increased speed and improved handling because they typically fly in smooth conditions where the chances of a collapse are extremely small.
Launch altitude also effects your wing size. In Denver at 5000 feet, the air is thinner and your glider will have less lift than at sea level. It may be best to be at the middle of the weight range when flying at higher altitudes. Each case is different.
Climate effects glider size. In windy climates, be heavier on the wing. In light wind climates, avoid being too far over the top.
If you are physically challenged due to age or previous injuries, stay below the top of the weight range. A lighter wing loading will give you slower launches and landings.
Finally, if you are launching primarily on wheels, stay at or above the top of the weight range, assuming you have amble power. Because you are taking off and landing on wheels, higher landing and takeoff speeds are not an issue. At the higher wing loading, you'll enjoy additional responsiveness and speed.
With all these factors, choosing the right wing size can be complicated, especially when considering several glider models. Give Lite Touch a call. We help pilots choose the right size glider every single day.
Traditional or Reflex
Reflex wings have been around since the beginning. But only recently have they become practical and easy to fly.
Reflex wings are faster and more resistant to collapses at high speeds. Conversely, on a traditional paraglider, the faster you fly, the higher the risk of a collapse in turbulent air. The reflex wings actually get better at collapse resistance at higher speeds.
The disadvantage to the reflex wings is that they are more difficult to ground handle and steering can beless responsive, especially at faster trim settings. Reflex wings are typically also more expensive.
Some beginners learn on reflex wings. These wings will require a bit more effect to learn to launch. Once again, if you are willing to put in the time and effort, you will be rewarded.
Wings have limited lives. Sunlight, moisture, and abrasion degrade the wing material and lines. Older wings become porous or have improper line lengths due to shrinkage, issues which are invisible to a casual inspection.
Buying a used wing at half price is a bit like paying half price for a gallon container of milk that is half empty. You really aren't saving any money in the long run. And with a paraglider, it's worse because you are buying the last half of the wing's life. So you'll be flying the worst half AND not saving any money. If a wing is in poor condition or worn out, it will be frustrating to launch and could be dangerous.
If you can afford it, buy a new wing. You'll get the latest technology, you'll start with a fresh new wing, and you won't have to guess about the wing's history.
If you do buy a used wing, it is best to buy from a reputable source like a powered paragliding school. Have the wing inspected. Most wing dealers can suggest a reputable location. After you’ve purchased your wing, annual inspections will help insure performance and safety.
Rising Air is one of several qualified and reputable inspection and repair service centers. 208-554-2243. Ask for Bill. Rising Air is one of the few inspection services that does not sell wings. That means that there is no potential for conflict of interest if the happen to tell you that the used wing you are considering failed inspection.
Paragliding, Free Flight
Paragliding without the paramotor, known as "free flight" or simply "paragliding", is considered by many to be the icing on the cake. Which sport is better? That's a very personal question. The majority of pilots out there choose to do only one or the other. But there is absolutely no reason why you can't do both!!!
Paramotor pilots typically shy away from paragliding because of the additional dangers, or because they don't live near areas that offer opportunities to paraglide. Many paraglider pilots find the idea of paramotoring distasteful because of the noise, and others see motoring as a betrayal of the purity of free flight. Pilots who are fortunate to enjoy both find they wouldn't want to have to choose between them.
The sports can also be combined by soaring with the paramotor shut off. Motor gliding is a more advance skill but very rewarding. It's even possible to search for free flight sites with the paramotor.
The age old question is, "Can I get one wing for both?" The answer is definitely yes. Any wing can be used for both. However, reflex wings are less desirable for free flight. There are other subtle factors to consider when optimizing your wing choice for free flight alone or combining free flight with paramotoring. Consult with us or your instructor.