Paraglider Review: 2009
Dudek Plasma 22
Reviews, 07-28-2009 | Ratings: 1 is bad, 10 is good | Para200
| About the Testing
See also: An Overview On
The Plasma 22 (flat size) is among a new breed in high performance reflex technology.
It mates an efficient, high aspect ratio
wing with a full reflex profile. Similar wings in this class are the
Paramania Fusion and Ozone Viper although the Viper has less
reflex but follows the same basic design paradigm.
Paragliders are inherently draggy due
to their lines—parasitic drag that goes up dramatically with speed.
Dudek has taken measures to reduce that drag so higher speed
does not require extreme power although, at the highest speeds, you'll
still need a lot of power.
I've never been a big fan of reflex wing handling, harder inflation and increased fuel consumption. With the
advent of the Plasma/Viper/Fusion, that has changed. In fact, I
really enjoyed flying this Plasma. It's now possible to go fast with
Top 80 power and superb handling. As you'll see in the efficiency
section, it still takes more power, but you're covering more ground.
The evening flights were done July 15 through Aug 4 on a Miniplane Top 80 (55 lbs
with fuel) at an inflight weight of 225 lbs. Altitude ranged from 1500
feet to 2000 feet MSL and temperature was about 78°F.
When trimmed slow, reflex wings are generally flown with brakes like
all gliders. But when trimmed fast, they're flown with special tip steering lines.
In the past, these were little more the stabilo lines, usually the outer
B line, with a ball attached. Any glider can be steered that
way if you can easily reach the tip lines but it's not terribly
effective. My past experience with
tip steering wasn't stellar. Not so here, this wing and its ilk
very effective tip steering that is a pleasure to use. Tip
steering lines cup the tip so some trailing edge is pulled down, making
them very effective, even more so at high speed—I was able to start a
spiral with just the tip lines.
When trimmed fast, the trailing edge is "reflexed" upwards and brakes don't work well.
Nor should they be used because doing so defeats the collapse resistance
of being reflexed.
Handling was tested in various configurations.
One of my favorite aspects is the wing's ability to dive when you want
to. Any wing can be made to turn flat (using opposite brake) but
being able to pull the wing over while also slowing a side down is quite beneficial.
This one excels in that regard. So does the Spice and any other glider
whose handling I really like a lot.
Brake pressures and tip steering pressures are quite light. In
precision-type competition flying, you'd probably have the trim set
between 3 and 5 (out of 11) then use full speedbar on straight segments and release it
on turns. Using speedbar this way allows coming out of a full-power turn
and pushing out to prevent climbing as you level off. That's a blast to do
but, be careful, the first time I whacked full speedbar when leveling
out, I almost hit the ground—the speed system is very effective!
Here are the raw data brake pressures:
At 5 inches of travel 2.1 pounds, at 10 inches of travel
3.9 pounds and this amount was putting the glider rapidly into a
spiral, an exciting proposition when flying with two hand on one brake
(to keep the scale oriented for better accuracy).
Brake travel at 5 pounds was 7 inches, travel at 8 pounds
was 9 inches. It too 4.8 pounds of pressure to get the wing to break
into an increasing spiral.
Inflation (5): The Plasma inflates nicely for a reflex but, in
general doesn't come up as easily as non-reflex models (Pluto, Eden). That
shortcoming is easily overcome, though, by simply holding the A's for
longer and a bit more aggressively. Once you have that technique down
you'll be as successful with a reflex glider as any other. Set the trims
to between 0 and 3 fast, start your runs with hands mostly back, get the
glider to billow, then immediately pull the A's, gather speed
while keeping up some "A" pressure and lift off. Being a small wing
helps since it doesn't oppose your pull as much, making it easier to get
With some practice I was able to do reverse inflations in winds under
2 mph. That's easier to do on a clutch machine since prop thrust doesn't oppose your efforts. Also, just before starting, I pointed the motor over the wing's center and ran it just
above idle to get some air moving. Not too much, mind you, lest the
blown air get beyond the wing before you can get turned around.
In strong wind you'll love this wing. There's less tendency to
overshoot and, even if it does, the leading edge is less inclined to
Kiting (4): Like all high aspect ratio wings, there are some
extra challenges when kiting. If it gets off to one side, you can't pull too
much brake since the tip stalls and falls back. Kiting is easier with
the trimmers neutral since brakes still work well.
The reflex effect is best seen while kiting. Let the trimmers out and
inflate vigorously so that it overflies
you some. Instead of front tucking, the trailing edge goes
up and the wing descends fully open. Of course you can cause a
frontal with enough provocation. You can also see that it
doesn't like the brakes when trimmed fast. They're not as effective and
can actually destabilize the wing slightly. The tip steering lines can
be used to kite with the trims full fast, a practice I highly recommend
you experiment with.
"Semi Reflex" wings don't exhibit this trimmed-fast
front-tuck resistance nearly as strongly.
Efficiency (7): The idea is that, when trimmed slowly, it's
essentially a regular paraglider as far as efficiency is concerned. And
that is largely true since you're going faster than most wings so the
power required vs speed is the same as any other high-aspect ratio wing.
You'll burn more fuel per hour but probably less fuel per mile. The same
ratio is true on small vs large wings.
It uses cascades, internal bracing and unsheathed top lines to
improve efficiency and it shows at the higher speeds. Although my Top 80
barely produced enough power to stay level trimmed fast with full
speedbar, I was rocketing fast. And on landing I had an enormous amount
It's not as efficient as a similar non-reflexed glider, even trimmed
slow, but since it starts with an efficient design to begin with, it's
Sink rate power-off 30 second altitude losses.
Trim full slow = 1500-1310 = 190 (380 fpm or 4.32 mph), 2nd run =
1530-1340 = 190 (380 fpm or 4.3 mph), glide ratio
Trim full fast = 1700-1480 = 220 (440 fpm or 5.00 mph).
Trim full fast + Speedbar = 1500-1040 = 460 (920 fpm or 10.5 mph), glide
ratio 4.0 to 1.
Note: I would welcome others to do these
same tests for verification. Be sure to include your all-up weight
(motor, fuel, accessories, you). These numbers seem high and,
although I did two tests to help establish consistency, they seem
high. To do the test, go to an altitude let off the power and hack a
stop watch. At 30 seconds, note the altitude. Subtract the two
altitudes and double to get feet per minute.
Speed (10): This is, by far, the fastest wing I've yet
measured but I'll also try to do speed tests on the smallest available
viper and fusion. The Plasma's speedbar is
really effective although it took full power on my Top 80 to
level or maybe descend a bit. But when coming out of steep turns, applying speedbar sucks up energy
nicely, converting banked body speed to level flying speed. That's perfect for Cloverleaf
turns if you're willing to get on the speedbar as you roll out. And it's
sufficiently collapse resistant that it handled flying through my own
(and other pilots) wake just fine.
Here are the GPS speed readings. The initial upwind/downwind test to
establishes wind speed so as to convert the remaining gps readings to
airspeed. MSL altitude was 1600 feet (smooth) through the test.
Trim full slow (-3 setting) = 25.5mph.
Trim neutral (0) - 27 mph.
Trim neutral (0) and full speedbar = 34 mph.
Trim full fast (11 setting) = 31 mph.
Trim full fast (11 setting) and full speedbar = 41mph.
Raw data: Test shows wind was 17mph which was used for determining
1. Exactly upwind, hdg 280, slow trim (-3 setting): 8 mph, downwind hdg
100, 41 mph. Wind speed=17mph, airspeed=26 mph.
2. Into wind run one. Trim full slow (-3)=7 mph, trim fast (11): 12 mph.
3. Into wind run two. Trim neutral (0)=9 mph, full speedbar=17 mph.
4. Into wind run three. Trim fast(11)=14 mph, full speedbar=24 mph.
Here's where the afterburners lit up. Trim at 0, speed 9 mph;
speedbar fully deployed, speed 17. That's a huge range! Remember, this
configuration is not recommended for doing in any turbulence. Instead,
go to trims full fast then push speedbar. With Trims fast (11 setting)
speed was 14 then, with full speedbar, it was flying 24 mph. Given the
average 8 mph headwind, that means an airspeed of 32
Construction (8): It's built well with strength in all the right
places and handles where you need them. When I got it the brakes were
routed through both pulleys and were way too long. My first flight
required full extension of my arms just to take off and I landed by
holding the brake lines well above the toggles. After re-tying the
brakes and re-routing them through just the high pulley it was fine.
Check this length before flying--only the highest hook-in machines will
want to route through both brake pulleys.
Trimmers are nicely done with numbers printed along their length.
As mentioned, you'll love the effective magnetic holders that can't
get clogged with debris. A minor downside was having loose tip toggles
foul up the works when they came off their keepers—it takes a moment to
Certification & Safety (6): It's
not certified nor would it make much difference in this class since
they're basically competition wings. Skilled sport pilots may like it if
they don't mind the fast launch and landings. We're flying so heavily
that it's probably not possible to certify but, if you did, it would
probably come out as AFNOR Competition, DHV 3, or EN D.
When trimmed fast and hands off, there is good passive safety in
terms of collapse resistance. But to get that you have to leave your
hands off the brakes and use wingtip steering which is quite effective.
Since I'm a fan of active flying, when the bumps bite, I prefer to trim
slow and keep my hands on the brakes. Plus, lets face it, if you do
take a collapse while flying at the speed of heat, unlikely though
it may be, it's gonna be ugly. Risk probability low, severity high. I
would only recommend this wing to PPG 3 level pilots.
Avoid being trimmed slow and using speedbar, a potentially nasty
combination. The practice is common on regular paragliders but not
recommended for reflex gliders. A few reflex wings do allow speedbar
while trimmed slow but include a recommendation to only do so in calm
air. That suggests it would best be avoided since there's never a
guarantee that calm air will remain so.
Warrantee: Please visit the Dudek Paragliders website.
Overall: If you wanna go fast with great handling, are able to do slider
landings at will, and don't mind adapting your launch technique a bit, then
you'll have a blast with this wing. If you aspire to competition and want
to be in the running, this is the perfect tool.
As an aside, I found
this wing essentially identical in handling to the Ozone Viper which, if
I can get my hands on, I'll do a full review of to get actual speeds,
sink rates and brake pressures. It's also similar to the Paramania
Fusion 23, another wing I liked and hope to do a full review on.
careful and enjoy.