Educational by Chapter of the Powered Paragliding Bible

I: First Flight

01 Training Process

02 Gearing Up

03 Handling the Wing

04 Prep For 1st Flight

05 The Flight

06 Flying With Wheels 

II: Spreading Wings

07 Weather Basics

08 The Law

09 Airspace   

10 Flying Anywhere

11 Controlled Airports

12 Setup & Mx

13 Flying Cross Country

14 Flying With Others

III: Mastery

15 Adv Ground Handling

16 Precision Flying

17 Challenging Sites

18 Advanced Maneuvers

19 Risk Management

20 Competition

21 Free Flight Transition

IV: Theory

22 Aerodynamics

23 Motor & Propeller

24 Weather & Wind

25 Roots: Our History

V: Choosing Gear

26 The Wing

27 The Motor Unit

28 Accessories

29 Home Building

VI: Getting the Most

30 Other Uses

31 Traveling With Gear

32 Photography

--- Not in book ---

33 Organizing Fly-Ins

34 Places To Fly

35 Preserving the Sport

36 Tandem

Going Fast

2012-01-16 by Michel Carnet

Former world champion paramotor pilot Michel Carnet shared some insights on reflex wings and speed that I thought was very well put and spot on. I've included it here, with permission.

Since 2003 when the original Action came out, we have been spoilt with fast bulletproof stable reflex profiles, in wings such as the ReAction, Synthesis and the Nucleon.

Some of the performance gain of the Hadron is due to a reduction of Reflex in the profile. The dilemma for manufacturers is to get more efficiency without compromising stability. I, for one, would not wish to see paramotoring competition go the way paragliding comps have gone, with lots of deflations and emergency parachute deployments.

At the moment, there are three ways to make a wing go fast:

  1. Big reflex wing, that needs full speed bar to achieve top speed, hence lots of reflex.
  2. Smaller reflex wing, that flies naturally fast on fast trims or part speed bar, therefore with less reflex.
  3. Small classic paraglider, no reflex and relying purely on high wing loading. The smaller wings tend to be nippier and naturally fast, so they are currently in fashion in slalom events. However, it is possible to make big reflex wings turn very fast in slaloms, although most of the mods used by factory pilots have not found their way into production models, as yet.

However, it is possible to make big reflex wings turn very fast in slaloms, although most of the mods used by factory pilots have not found their way into production models, as yet.

One advantage of higher wing loading is that for a given high speed, the L/D ratio (Lift over Drag) can be significantly better than on the same model with lower wing loading. So the extra power required to fly level on a smaller wing can be balanced with the better L/D ratio.

This effect can be seen in paragliding when ballasting has a very small effect on max speed but a significant effect on glide angle when gliding into a headwind.

It was very interesting to watch the Hadron compete against the Nucleon in some of the various Opens in 2011. In the Cloverleaf slaloms in the French and British Opens, Pascal Vall�e and David Muzellec were the best pilots with similar amazing fast times on their respective Hadron 22 and Nucleon 31.

The same thing happened in the Figure of Eight slalom that eventually got cancelled in the Belgian Open.

When it came to thermalling tasks in the French and Czech Opens, the bigger surface area of the Nucleon 31s made all the difference, showing the advantage in speed range of a large reflex wing that can be accelerated.

But with the influx of slalom only events in recent years such as the World Air Games, Parabatics, Slalomania, Icarobatics and FlyGames, some competition pilots have been forced to select more extreme equipment that favours slalom flying, with emphasis on high wing loading and powerful engines, with little consideration on reliability, economy, noise,
directional stability etc.

This is a significant departure from the all round equipment you need for traditional competitions such as the British Open or the World Championships, and even more from what most recreation pilots need in a wing.

Another reason for choosing high wing loading in some slalom competitions is that you may need your legs for grabbing gym balls, kicking small balls, catching hoops or even launching whilst the clock is ticking, thus making the use of speed bar difficult.

There is an old proverb that says: Pain is proportional to the square of the velocity of the crash! (ed: this is the law, too)

So flying low, fast and furious is great but it is important not to crash, or at least to be able to slow down a lot before a crash impact.

Michel Carnet

Michel Carnet nails the stick on full speedbar.

This article highlights the tradeoffs between standard and reflex gliders, and between larger and smaller reflex gliders.

Another consideration for reflex wings is that they become more susceptible to collapse when flown on full speedbar if the brakes are pulled--a condition they are not intended to be flown in. But competition tends to push it. There are ways to minimize the risk, including with control design, but those are not necessarily employed on production gliders offered to the public.

Pylon competitions all but require reflex speed but extreme care must be exercised!

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