The Perfect Beginner Wing
Wanna Learn Powered Paragliding Safely? Get a wing that won't
After analyzing some student accidents, including one fatality, I've
changed the way I look at beginner wings. I don't do reviews of them
typically because I'm not very interested in flying them personally but
have noticed something about training: the wing can kill you.
Knowing what I know now, about student accidents and fatalities, I
wouldn't THINK about starting on anything but a bona fide "school" wing.
Even as beginners, many of us fancy ourselves as "good pilots" with
good instinct. The problem is that paragliding is unique in that
instinctive reactions are opposite to what we feel. I refer to the
left-right pendulum that bedevils new pilots and even some experienced
Instinctive reaction to
upset is opposite to what we feel. Relying on such
instinct during early training can be fatally wrong.
As the wing rolls right, where does your body go? Yup: left (see
below). So the new pilot feels his body go left and instinctively pulls
right brake--exactly the wrong input. He'll aggravate the bank and then,
as he starts to swing back the other way, will do it again, aggravating
matters even worse into a potentially catastrophic wingover. This is why
instructors must make sure their students are willing to go hands up
when commanded to because that may be the only input that stops them
from subconsciously making matters worse.
What to do?
The single best action a new pilot can do is start on a very
benign-handling wing. Resist the temptation to start on a hotter wing
known for better handling. That might be OK after your PPG2 rating but,
until then, your survival odds will be dramatically improved with a
benign wing. It should be easy to inflate only because that will improve
your success. Ideally it will come up easily in no wind and not tend to
front tuck. But more than anything it should have VERY forgiving
handling such that pulling a LOT of brake will not likely cause a spin
and will barely turn.
The Apco Prima and Axis Stardust are two examples I've flown that
exhibit great behaviors for a safe beginner wing. There are others, no
doubt, but I simply haven't tested them. The Power Atlas would be a good
choice if it inflated easier. It's not, don't go anywhere near this
wing! Of course, if you can launch a Power Atlas in no wind, you
can launch anything. These are sometimes called school
wings because they are so forgiving; even if you pull the wrong brake
they won't let you go too far. Of course the trade off is that you won't
won't turn much, either, so your training area must be plenty big.
So if you're thinking about training, besides finding a reputable,
USPPA certified school, see about training on a "school" wing that has
very benign handling. You may indeed have good reflexes but they won't
do you any good, and may even do you harm if you rely on them in this
situation. Insist on a very benign beginner wing, it may mean surviving