This wing is
quite different than the regular Apco Thrust which I have not yet reviewed.
Apco representative called it their answer to the rising reflex market.
I didn't note whether it was significantly reflexed but it did have a wide
trim range that is typical of such wings. The model I flew had no
certification sticker but their website claims AFNOR/CEN standard
certification. I didn't get to do a full test and will hopefully revisit
this wing when I get another chance.
It was tested near sea level at 230 pounds
in-flight weight using a Blackhawk Rhino 172. The published weight range
is 220 lbs to 364 lbs so I'm quite light on it. Size is 27.5 m² flat,
23.5 m² projected. My wing loading was 230 / 23.5 m² = 9.78.
Handling (4): Handling was decent,
especially if it's indeed got any significant reflex to it. Solid and
predictable, requiring about the same pressures as the 2004 reflex
gliders. Handling would have been better, crisper, on the small. I was
near the bottom of the Medium's weight range.
Inflation (4): Seemed easy enough even
with simulating light wind. I did not get to really compare inflation of
the three reflex gliders on this day. Since this is being billed as Apco's
response to the Reflex's, that would be telling. A side-by-side test in
the same conditions would be ideal and, if I get the opportunity, I'll do
that. Another test that would be telling was to see how easy if front
tucks when made to come too far overhead while kiting. Reflex wings are very
Efficiency (4): This seemed pretty
efficient overall for a motoring wing.
Speed (7): Being light made my speeds
be slower than for most pilots. Trim speed (hands up, no
speedbar) averaged 21.4 mph, trimmers out=24.3 mph. It was not tested with
a speed system since the borrowed motor didn't have one.
Construction (5): I absolutely love
the brake holders on this wing. They're magnetic but enclosed in the riser
so iron laced sand, like what's common on the west coast, doesn't fill
them in. It also comes with two loops on each riser so as to accommodate
either high hook-ins or low.
Certification & Safety (6): This
one had no sticker on it so it's probably not certified through the entire
trim range. With trim in, it's AFNOR/CEN Standard (about the same as DHV1)
so it should be quite predictable during upsets.
Overall (5): It's a good solid wing
that pilots who want to go fast with good safety will enjoy. It should be
pretty good for new pilots, too. If you're into the higher speed wings
this seems to be a good choice but make sure to get the small size or
you'll be disappointed by the speed.
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Differences between reflex paragliders and "regular" paragliders |
Origins & Understanding of Reflex Gliders
There are some basic differences between reflex
and "regular" paragliders that revolve around their airfoil shape (right)
and riser set. All wings with trimmers lift the wing's aft section but reflex wings do
it more and with a different profile.
Much of the difference is in that the A's and B's are extremely loaded in
reflex mode (trimmers fast) and so pulling down one A riser does very little.
The center of pressure is farther forward and they are difficult to collapse. In
fact, one reason why they had difficulty certifying the wings is that the test
pilots couldn't collapse them in certain configurations. Plus, the effort
increased airspeed making the collapses even more dramatic when they did
happen. But such a test isn't very realistic.
One telling experience I had was while kiting.
Being skeptical about the stability claims I took to kiting one on a brisk
spring morning with the factory test pilot present. Kiting with the trims in was
fairly standard and the glider behaved pretty normally but with less tendency to overfly me. Then he had me leave the brakes alone. The glider would
come forward and go beyond where I thought it would have tucked (frontal) but it
didn't. It just stayed there. Bizarre. Same with the trims out, it was
incredibly resistant to collapsing. Kiting was quite easy using just the tip
A darker side emerged when I went to kite with
the trimmers out using brakes. The wing collapsed almost immediately and was
very difficult to kite. I was told it wasn't designed to be used that way: with
trimmers out and on speedbar it's extremely stable but NOT with the brakes being
If a reflex wing is trimmed fast, unloads a bit, and you pull
a brake, it is far more likely to fold on the pulled side.
Most models recommend against using brakes while trimmed fast for
this vary reason. A few do allow it but, in my experience, even
these models are more subject to tip collapses if brakes are pulled
in this situation.
When trimmed fast, use the tip steering toggles! Of course
check the wing manual to see about your specific wing.
Another note is that most reflex wings do NOT allow the speedbar to
be used with the trims slow. That common practice on free-flight gliders makes reflex airfoils susceptible to large tip collapses, especially if
the brakes are used. Reflex designers logic that there's no reason to
use speedbar if you're trimmed slow. To them that's like hitting the
brakes and gas at the same time.
I've flown quite a few reflex models and they have all exhibited tip
collapses when flown this way. I was testing because of competition: I
wanted to use brakes for turning while flying courses down
low and wanted to find a balance between using medium fast trim,
speedbar and brakes. What I found out was that it's not a good idea!
Some competition pilots who fly reflex wings use the speedbar for height
control and wingtip steering for directional control. That, obviously,
will take some getting used to.
If you want to fly fast with the least likelihood of deflations,
reflex models are perfect. They're a bit harder to launch although that
has improved dramatically over the successive generations, are usually
more sluggish to control but offer the best speed range in our sport.
Overall, these wings serve their mission well provided the get respect and understanding.
Fly them how they're supposed to be flown and you'll do well. Experiment
with non-recommended control inputs and don't be surprised at the
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