Paraglider Review: 2009 Dudek Plasma 22

Reviews, 07-28-2009 | Ratings: 1 is bad, 10 is good | Para200 Specs | About the Testing

See also: An Overview On reflex wings

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.

Handling (8): 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 (Viper/Fusion) have 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 moving.

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 tuck under.

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 of energy.

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 close.

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 barely stay 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 or other 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 airspeeds.
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 sort out.

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.

Be careful and enjoy.

1. The Plasma 22 has an above average setup for a reflex glider. As with other reflex models, it has a very long trimmer range.

2. Tip steering and brake toggles have strong magnets that won't get iron dust in them. California beach flyers will appreciate this. Here I'm kiting with the tip toggles.

3. Clearly marked numbers make it easier to choose trimmer settings and follow recommendations in the manual.

4. Side view of 2009 Plasma 22.


Glide Ratio

The motor adds a bunch of parasite drag so glide ratios in real life will be much less than advertised. That's not a reflection of bad advertising rather is a show of motor/frame/prop drag. Parasite drag increases dramatically with speed so the bad glide ratio at full speed isn't surprising.

Our testing can be used to find actual glide ratios in each speed configuration. And it's not pretty! Margin of error is about 10%.

Trimmed slow: 25.5 mph forward, 4.32 mph down, glide = 5.9.

Trimmed fast: 31 mph forward, 5.00 mph down, glide = 6.2

Trimmed fast with full speedbar: 41 mph forward, 10.5 mph down, glide = 3.90

© 2016 Jeff Goin & Tim Kaiser   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!