The basic choice
There are now many brands on the market, offering a wide range of models in various sizes. Recently, new types of wings have been introduced to satisfy specialist niches that have emerged within our sport such as speed flying, speed riding and hike and fly. The choice is impressive, and choosing the right wing can be rather daunting. We hope this guide helps.
What type of pilot am I?
First of all, you need to decide which type of flying you will be doing the most and at what level you are flying at right now. You should be completely realistic about your capabilities and experience. If you are a leisure pilot flying less than fifty hours a year, then choose a wing with high levels of passive safety such as from the Mojo or Buzz series. This type of wing will have the stability and ease of handling to keep you confident and safe, even if you have occasional time away from the sport. Do not fall into the trap of dismissing this category as ‘low-level’ – these are amongst the most agile paragliders available and they have enough performance for huge XC flights and serious acro manoeuvres. Many long-time pilots say that they’re getting their best-ever flights on this type of wing after unhappy experiences with hotter wings. There is never a need to fly a wing in a higher category if you do not fly very regularly, even if you have been flying for years.
If you are lucky enough to fly most weeks during the year, and can stay current, then you can consider an intermediate wing such as from the Rush series. If you are a committed pilot with several years of experience, then you might choose a wing from the Delta series. You should not even consider these wings unless you have experience with SIV and know how to handle turbulent conditions. Flying a wing above your skill level is detrimental to your pleasure and progression. The reality is that most experienced pilots would have more fun and better overall performance flying a wing from a level below what they normally would choose.
Only if you are very confident, highly trained, and extremely experienced should you consider a rating higher than intermediate. Remember, this is a flying machine you are about to purchase; your safety depends on this decision!
Confidence is often overlooked, yet it is the most important factor in glider choice. If you feel good on a glider, you will fly better than on one that makes you anxious. If you lose confidence and get scared in a bad situation or rough air, you also lose the ability to make good calculated decisions because adrenaline and fear will cloud your judgement just when you need it to be the most clear. On the other hand, if you really enjoy your wing and feel comfortable under it, then your discomfort threshold will be much higher and thus you have a better chance of making the right decisions all the time.
When choosing a wing, ignore style or fashion – it does not matter what your friends are flying. Just because they have stepped up a category does not mean it is the correct choice for them or for you. Do not be influenced by top speed and performance figures, it can be a recipe for disaster. Do not be a slave to certification test reports – some crazy folk add up the results of the EN test report and the glider with the best result is the one to buy. This is a very misleading way to choose a wing, and in most cases the test results are barely even worth looking at. Instead, choose a wing based on word of mouth and the manufacturer’s recommendations, they are far more relevant than any test report.
Make an honest assessment of your capabilities and go for a wing that will give you the most confidence in the air.
Once you have narrowed down the field to three or four models, take a test flight with them, preferably on the same site on the same day. This will give you the best information and will allow you to make a realistic comparison. Don’t listen to the sales pitch or think about the great offer the salesman will give you. Think about how each glider feels: did it take off well? Did it feel twitchy and nervous or was it smooth and comfortable? Were you confident and comfortable every minute you were on it?
The one with the most yeses is probably the one for you. It does not matter if your friends are buying a different model at a cheaper price because at the end of the day it is you that has to fly the glider, not them. When you think about it, you are spending a lot of money. If the glider that really felt the best is a couple of hundred Euros more, then you would be a fool not to buy it just because of price.
To calculate your weight, you can get an estimate by taking your naked weight and adding 20kg. This will give you your approximate ‘in-flight’ weight. Knowing this, you can select the size of glider that puts you closest to the ideal weight range. If you fall on the border of two sizes, then analyse what type of flying you do and choose accordingly. For example, if you expect to be flying in fairly strong winds quite often, then a little more wing loading could be a good thing to give you more speed, so the smaller size would be better. On the other hand, if you are a lower airtime pilot and fly frequently in weaker conditions, the bigger size might be a better choice as it will give you a slightly better sink rate, helping you to climb well and land easier. However, if you often fly in strong thermal conditions, you may feel more comfortable on the smaller wing. Don’t get too worried about this: you will be safe on either of the sizes, so simply buy the one that feels the best to you. In general, we recommend most pilots to choose a size that puts them in the upper half of the weight range, as this is where Ozone wings perform best.
Every pilot desires something a little different; remember that fashion or fad is not important. Your comfort and confidence in the air is all that matters.
At the end of the day it does not matter who was highest or who flew the furthest. What matters is that you go home having had a great flight, with a big smile on your face and a head full of beautiful views and a fantastic feeling inside, because that is what our flying is all about.