How to Choose the Right Paraglider (Part One: Which Class?)

Here’s the latest First wing from Sup’air,
the EONA, featuring a friendly profile with nice wide cell openings for easy inflation.
We’ve assumed a 90kg total flying weight for our statistics. The step to the Progression class can be subtle,
but you can usually notice a slight increase in aspect ratio and slightly longer lines. Moving up to the XC class, you’ll notice the
lines are much longer and there are many more cells in the wing. The cell openings are much
narrower. This is for added performance. The step up to the Performance class ARTIK
4 leads to a big reduction in wing area, so the wing loading is higher and you should
go a bit faster. Aspect ratio and cell count have crept up, and there are fewer lines. Jumping to the Advanced class, you get over
3 and a half square metres less area than the A wing. But that’s not lifting surface
… it has over a metre more projected span, or lift-generating-leading-edge, and that’s
what counts. The risers are similar across all classes
with 3 main riser sets. Sheathed lines on the First and Progression
wings, unsheathed lines on the others. Split As for big-ears, and magnetic brake
keepers. We’re not all using perfect technique here
which helps to show the difference. The First wing pops up quickly and waits overhead. The Progression wing also tracks straight. The XC wing goes through a short stall phase where
it rotates, before accelerating to slightly ahead of the pilot. It requires a touch of
brake to control. The Performance wing is less forgiving and rotates and shoots more,
requiring more precise pilot reaction. The Advanced wing … oh dear. Phil’s pulled slightly
too hard and it’s tucked. That was his first attempt. You can learn a lot by the way a wing groundhandles.
The First wing responds quickly and keeps on flying. The Progression wing is effortless
to control. The XC wing is resilient and allows precise positioning. The Performance wing
is also easy but begins to yaw at the extremes. The narrow tips on the Advanced wing bend
and stall easily. Matching the wing to your skills means you
spend less time in the bushes and more flying. The short lines and big cells on the EONA
make it come up straight without much energy. The TEQUILA 4 will rise on its own with a
gentle pull on the risers. The layout on the IOTA is more important due to the smaller cell openings. Moving towards the wing helps reduce the acceleration of the ARTIK 4. The GTO 2 will shoot off skew unless your timing is spot on. Although this looks like a lot of brake, it’s
probably similar to flying into a sudden thermal on your normal landing approach. So it’s good
to know how forgiving the wing is. The XC wings are generally very tolerant, which gives
you room for error during toplanding and launching. Pay attention in the Performance Class, because
the stall usually arrives faster, with less warning. The Advanced gliders do not like
flying slowly; launch and landing are more critical. The class of wing makes a big difference to
your success on launch. Sites are not always as perfect as this, but you can make your
launch more forgiving by choosing an easier wing. Because pitching is limited, you can launch in gusty conditions without any fuss. XC wings require the finesse that
comes after 50 hours of flying. Only consider a Performance wing if you have over 100 hours of airtime and some SIV experience. For the Advanced glider we’d recommend a minimum of 200 thermic hours. Let’s fly! Although it’s tempting to try and compare performance, it’s pointless unless you’re at matched wing loadings in still air. What’s important here is that everyone in this shot is enjoying their flying at the same site, and differences are so small you have to strain to see them. The EONA is the most secure wing, it just
cruises along and doesn’t disturb the pilot. It gives an easy turn without any residual
energy to manage. For most pilots who just want to enjoy the scenery from aloft, the
EONA does a fantastic job. As a Progression class wing, the TEQUILA 4 is designed to have incredible passive safety – if it collapses it has a very mild reaction. It has too much freedom of movement and fast responses to be left in the hands of a beginner, but for a pilot wanting to leave the hill and go exploring, it’s a pleasure to fly and confidence building. The IOTA is not a beginner’s wing. The sleek
aerofoil is tensioned and efficient, but it surges more as it encounters updrafts and converts speed into height. I’ve got to say it looks absolutely superb. It’s designed for thermaling, with a responsive turn. The ARTIK 4 turns slightly wider at higher
speed and is best kept flat in light conditions. You can see the retained energy of the GTO
2. Useful, only if you can deal with it. Returning to the EONA, you can see how simple
it makes flying for the pilot. When you do big-ears to descend, the wing
is very stable on both the First and the Progression wings. The IOTA gives a bigger descent rate but is
still simple to manage. The ARTIK 4 is similar (slightly bigger tucks)
but my wingtip caught in the lines and needed more fiddling to clear. On the GTO 2, take care of the flapping tips!
Once settled, the manoeuvre is nice and stable. It’s time for me to tag Carlo, and let him
do some of the filming. The ARTIK 4 is a high-performance wing with
a forgiving nature. I was totally comfortable hanging off the side with a camera and letting
the wing sort itself out. It’s slightly faster than the lower classes, and is designed for
performance during cross country. You’ll get the best out of it when coring thermals for
hours, doing long glides from cloudbase and using the full range of the smooth speedbar. The GTO 2 moves all the time, it has a fluid grace. It was always slightly above us during our comparison: floating better, gliding further,
converting every little bump into lift. It’s more efficient at everything. Watch out though,
fluid grace can become ‘in your face’ in turbulence, so it’s stupid to climb onto one of these
unless you’ve mastered all the extreme manoeuvres and you’re basically living in the sky. For
the right pilots, the GTO 2 offers precise handling, full feedback and that wonderful
feeling of freedom.

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