2016 AirDesign UFO 16

03-17-2016 | Ratings: 1 is bad, 10 is good | Para200 Specs | About the Testing

Air Design is a long time maker of paragliders, mostly for free flying (like most). The UFO is their first foray into hike-and-fly single surface gliders and they have done a nice job but I got to try it out on a motor thanks to Marco Bowles. It's a well-behaved glider that just about fits in your pocket. It doesn't have great glide performance, as you would expect, but it's almost surprisingly fun to fly. Just be ready for landing which is a bit different. More on that in handling.

My flight was during mildly thermic conditions in late morning. I flew it on Miniplane Top 80 in 80 degree air near sea level with enough wind for a reverse which, for a single surface glider, doesn't take much!

Handling: Responsiveness was really well balanced. It was nimble and brake pressures were about what you'd expect. I really liked the handling. You'll want to land with power for most landings and practice power-off landings in calm air since, if you get into sink just before touchdown, you'll like having some thrust. I did some power off landings just to try finessing the touchdown, and using the swing helped, but I never got to do the little slide means you got to level out completely at touchdown.

Inflation: It just doesn't get easier than this. Double surface gliders made of lightweight fabric come close but not quite. It's really easy to kite. REALLY easy! In strong winds, though, it'll probably be a handful because of the drag.

Risers: Itsy bitsy teensy weeny little risers connect thin lines to the bantam weight wing. I wish I had the glider here in my little riser studio.

Efficiency: It glides pretty good, maybe 80% as good as other beginner wings. The difference is that, when you flare, the wing keeps sinking probably 50% more than the normal amount. So landings will be a bit firm. I even tried slowing the wing down to take advantage of the pendular swing but it had minimal effect. It worked but only slightly.

It also didn't require that much power as evident by not taxing my Miniplane.

Speed: I didn't do a speed test but expect it to be on the slower end of similar sized beginner gliders.

Small Wings and the Effect of Weight on Speed & Power Required.

Construction: It seemed well built, almost surprisingly so given the attention to shedding weight.

Certification & Safety: Placard, para2000.

Overall: This is got to be tops among the hike-and-fly soaring crowd. Welcome side effects are SUPER easy inflation and the consumption of very little space. If you don't mind babying the more fragile material, it's a fun little ride.


It took barely any airflow at all to keep it effortlessly overhead. It's like a jellyfish in water but with good control response.




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