DHV investigation of current beginner/intermediate gliders

Steve Purdie's picture


Their summary:

The test series conducted here clearly supports the general suspicions regarding LTF and EN testing: the norms are at best a coarse sieve – large discrepancies are quickly found, but smaller ones may find their way through. We haven't found any really dangerous gliders in the A and B classes, but it is somewhat frightening to see gliders tested to be as safe as possible, that still require 60m of height to recover from a massive collapse. In doing so they pitch forward alarmingly, rotate through almost 360° and have sink velocities of over 20 m/s. This is not the kind of glider that belongs in the hands of a beginner. Accident investigations clearly show what beginner and low-airtime pilots tend to do in the event of a collapse – nothing! They are usually much too frightened and inexperienced to calmly and coordinately react in the heat of the moment. What they need in such a moment, irrespective of the piloting errors they may have made beforehand, is a particularly friendly glider with moderate reactions. This is often promised for the LTF-A class, but these promises are not always kept.

The performance gliders in the high-end B class are marketed, quite correctly, as cross-country machines. They belong in the hands of experienced pilots and are definitely not for “Sunday” flyers. The thin line between “just OK” and “clearly over-demanding” regarding what pilot skills are required to recover from instability provide a lot of food-for-thought. A slightly steeper folding angle on an asymmetric collapse, a bit more of the span on a frontal collapse or a little more sink in a spiral can change a moderate glider into one that's hard to recognise again. Between “typical behavior for its class”, and cravats, dives or stable spirals lies very little margin for error in some cases. Gliders in this segment are only for pilots capable of active flying, able to recognise the onset of instability and react immediately to prevent collapsing.

The general impression we were left with is that more intensive testing is required, and not just two norm flight tests for certification. To provide realistic judgments on glider characteristics, a test program with several collapses, stalls and dives is necessary. Only then can we determine the entire testing results bandwidth and inform pilots appropriately.

We often hear of the evil surprises that some gliders provide in extreme situations, such as the fatal crash last season of a school pilot after an asymmetric collapse, cravat and spiral dive into rocks. Or the pilot with 20 years experience who moved up to a high-end B glider and dies after not being able to exit from a spiral dive.

To simply write off these incidents as “pilot error, bad luck” does not do them justice. Paragliders are built for pilots, and pilots do make mistakes. In glider classes for beginners and low-airtime pilots passive safety characteristics must have utmost priority. And there we still have plenty of room for improvement.

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Tim King Sky Paragliding's picture

Just lately I have been

Just lately I have been enjoying and relishing flying on my Sky Anakis2 'low end' high performing enB glider. I think 95% of our members need nothing more than a glider of this ilk to enjoy blating around the sky's with safety and performance that just leaves you with a smile. There is a lot to be said for 'low end' enB's. Imagine how the report would read doing the same tests with the enC category??!!

Sky Paragliding UK
Distributors of quality paragliding equipment & overseas paragliding courses

Rob Chisholm's picture


Steve put this in S-wings good examples for other pilots to learn about what is what.

ScottD's picture

there is a common sense solution to this issue...

fly a hang glider...

seems so sensible to me to fly a machine that once rigged is only going to be de-rigged at ones choosing AFTER one has landed...

my flying and photos are here... http://www.stovolando.co.uk

Carole Sherrington's picture

Religion and Politics

should never be discussed in public. And I reckon paraglider flying characteristics qualify as both...............

"We should all have our heads examined"
"That's rule number four!"