2013 Dudek Snake 16 (Flat)
11/20/2013 flown ~ 11/05/2013 | Para200
| About the Testing
Dudek has been producing top competition
wings for a number of years. The Snake is aimed squarely at the Slalom
set which may seem like a tiny group, but the performance
will appeal to skilled pilots of many stripes. I'm interested in this
class of wings for both Slalom competition and, even more importantly,
aerial filming. You'll see why later.
Like all these competition rides, it is
most certainly not for beginners for several reasons, especially if the
speedbar is used. Number one, it is a full-on reflex wing meaning use of
main brakes should be avoided when accelerated due to higher collapse
risk. Number two is extreme responsiveness -- something that even
experienced pilots must build up to gradually. That is true of any small
glider, though. Being heaviliy loaded changes handling dramatically.
My flight was on a nearly calm, 70°F
morning near seal level at a clip in weight of 205 pounds using a Top 80
powered Miniplane. It was smooth up high where I did the speed test but
bumpy down low, mostly by the end of the flight -- about level 2 to 3 on
the Bump Scale.
Handling (- trim in, - trim out):
There are several aspects that set this wing aside. It's not breaking
new ground -- these features have been used in other wings -- but
they're very, very well implemented in this one. Look at the diagram at
right to understand its steering. It's brilliantly simple and extremely
I had tried "2D" steering before and was
disappointed. In fact, it seemed kinda gimmicky but, on the Snake, it
works brilliantly. The idea is simple. Pull brakes DOWN like you
normally do, up to about 6 inches, and you'll engage only the tips which
works whether fully accelerated or not. Keep pulling and you'll also
start to engage the main brakes. Pushing OUTWARD only engages ONLY the
main brakes (no tips). You combine these actions as necessary depending
on your mission. Using more main brakes withOUT the tips allows slower
flight with less tendency to stall since stalls commonly start at the
One desirable aspect is that pulling brakes
down is what we do normally. So on this wing, just pulling down a bit
will first engage only the tips. If you do so while fully reflexed--no
problem. On other reflex wings you must use balls, tip lines, or
something other than main brakes and, if you do so while fully
accelerated, the consequence could be a severe collapse. From a human
factors perspective the Snake's setup is more forgiving. Of COURSE it
can still be done wrong, and will be done wrong, and will bite just as
hard. It's just a skosh less likely on the Snake.
One cool thing that I didn't expect to like
was Ryan Shaw's unusual brake toggles. Finger Brakes, as shown at left,
are tiny toggles intended only for one finger. It turns out that they
work really well and are surprisingly comfortable. He says he'll be
selling them on his Paradrenalin
site. This is the first time I've seen anything like it.
A note about handling. Skilled pilots will
learn to wield whatever they fly, regardless of its steering method,
skillfully. I've filmed top end pilots playing their tip somewhat
complicated steering lines like a virtuoso. Don't get too hung up over
it. I do like it, obviously, but this isn't what really sets the Snake
Also, I flew a 16. Take any wing, shrink it
down to that size, and you'll have extremely crisp handling. It gets
divey wihch is really cool as long as you know it's gonna happen. An
unsuspecting pilot who grabs a handful of brakes down low will be
looking straight down with no way out. Be very, very careful at higher
wing loadings. I find that wing loading (all up weight / wing area) is
one of the most important numbers for anticipating how a wing will
A lot of handling will depend on your
mission. I don't do acro so, if that's your goal, talk to someone who
has done it. I suspect that this might not be a good acro starter wing
if you also want to do it more than once.
Inflation: All these modern small
wings inflate so easy that it's hardly worth commenting on. That's not
where you'll likely struggle -- it's the run. You've got to generate
more speed so, in calm winds, hope for some smooth runway and a clear
Risers: It uses a three riser system
with long trimmers typical of reflex and normal speedbar travel. Using Paap
Kolar's speedbar/trim interconnect, pushing out the speedbar lets up the
trimmers for even more speed. I've flown this "PK" system first on a GTR
and have been told it's been used on other wings, too. The intent is to
put your speed range in the speedbar, a trait sought after by pylon
racers and video pilots who want speed without fiddling with trimmers.
The system is wonderfully implemented and has the greatest speed range
of anything I've flown: 13 mph. That's an impressive achievement and, in
my opinion, the single biggest advantage of this wing in competition.
Efficiency: It is highly, highly
efficient, especially at speed. The best evidence was that I was able to
go full speed while holding altitude. Of course I was at full power but,
on other fast wings, at even lower speeds, I've descended slowly. That
makes it's enormous speed advantage more usable. You can come out of a
steep, level, full power turn, get on the speedbar while rolling out and
Speed: Sh*t hot--the fastest wing I've
yet flown (admittedly, by only about a half mph). But more importantly,
it has an enormous speed range using speedbar alone. I was
amazed. And on full bar the handling is intuitive and crisp.
Raw data: (raw speed
numbers added 12/25/2013 - I found my speed sheet)
Wind run - 14, 43. Difference = 29, Div 2 = 14.5 windspeed.
Speed range no brakes, PK system engaged. Trim slow = 28.5 mph, speedbar
to rings = 21 mph
Speedbar from none to rings 14 - 21, from none to full 15 - 28 mph.
The resultant speeds are 28.5 mph slow trim and 42.5 mph fast trim. That's an ENORMOUS
range, better than any wing I've tried. Since I had the PK system hooked
up I didn't bother testing the slow/fast trim setting because I left it
set for maximum speed range. The benefit of this is that you don't
need to fiddle with trims to achieve the maximum speed range. That's
awesome for both slalom and filming.
Wings and the Effect of Weight on Speed & Power Required.
Construction: Seemed well built with
lines as thin as possible without being unsheathed. I tire of untangling
that super thin unsheathed spaghetti. Covered magnets worked well enough
and won't clog with iron sand.
Certification & Safety: Like all
these competition rides, they are not certified beyond load testing.
Overall: I'm a big fan of
evidence-based understanding which is why I go through the boring speed
tests. But these small wings are just plain fun, mostly because they're
so reactive. You can enjoy the 3D aspect of our sport so much more. And
while this one doesn't introduce anything COMPLETELY new, it offers
refinement that sets a new standard and a useful speed range that is a
If you are comfortable doing foot drags
tracing a line in at least light turbulence, and consistently land doing
a slider, you should be up to this.
Enjoy but be oh so very careful!
1. The Snake's super simple "2D" steering.
2. This was a larger version of the wing I reviewed.
Photo by Tim Kaiser.