How to choose the right paraglider ➞ Tips to make the right choice
Nowadays, there are almost infinite models and brands to choose from, so finding the most suitable paraglider for you can be a real challenge. Today at Overfly Tenerife we want to explain how to choose the right paraglider. We will try to explain the whole process by considering several aspects that will probably affect your choice and will help you choose the paraglider of your dreams.
If you are interested in other topics related to paragliding, you must take a look at other posts of our blog. For example:
Now, let’s see how to choose the right paraglider!
How to choose the right paraglider
Now, we are going to explain how to choose the right paraglider for you. We are explaining which are the factors that you must bear in mind before buying a paraglider, such as your type of flying, the size, the handling and so on. So, are you ready? Then, off we go!
What type of flying do you practice?
How much time can you put aside to fly? This is the first question you must do yourself before choosing a paraglider. Is paragliding your lifestyle? Do you work flexi hours? Can you only fly at the weekends? Do you have a family life to juggle? Or maybe just one paragliding holiday a year?
Whether you are giving up work and travelling the world, then you may consider a low-end En B wing. If you also practice different sports like kite surfing or sailing then you may feel more comfortable using a similar wing.
If you are only getting occasional weekends out flying and the odd holiday, then take your time and get a good En A. Most modern En A gliders to provide all the performance that you need to fly in thermals. Moreover, they give a higher level of security when you go abroad and you could find yourself in taking off at the wrong time of day or in worst conditions than you thought!
Every new paraglider has been benefitted from the advances in new technology over the last 3 years. As a result, En A gliders are nowadays more agile and so much faster than they used to.
Size of the paraglider
There are different wings intended to be flown at different places and which are thought for weight ranges. Nevertheless, there is an easy rule just aimed to be at least in the middle or towards the top end of your glider weight wise. So the question is — how do I work my weight glider size?
We strongly recommend you to add yourself extra clothes apart from the reserve parachute, the reserve harness, and the helmet. That will give you an idea of the weight that you can apply to size later. Remember that some manufacturers vary greatly their sizes, so you better check it before buying it.
Lightweight paraglider options
These often shape up into two different styles —light and semi lightweight paragliders. All standard wings tend to weight around 6 kilos for a medium-size, while a semi lightweight will offer 1-2 kilos less, and a lightweight wing maybe 2.5 kilos less.
You must remember that these kinds of wings lose weight by a change of line type and thinner materials. The light glider needs some patience and respect as it will tear if it is pulled out of a bush — meanwhile, a full-fat wing won’t even notice that you are dragging it around.
Micro lines are great but they snarl up easily. Furthermore, they are really irritating when you get them caught in long crops or thistles.
Make the right choice of the risers
Are you getting a lightweight wing for the first time? Then, as a first glider, the id considers that you must go for slim risers as opposed the under light string option as they will play with your uncertainty when you go flying until you have got used to them.
Handling — the most important part when you are choosing a paraglider
In conclusion, lightweight paragliders are a great option in flight, due to they can offer nice handling, a light touch. Nevertheless, some can be a little more busy or chatty in thermic air as they pitch about a little more.
On the one hand, the best and most noticeable thing about flying a semi lightweight is that it is easier to launch them forward in light or nil winds. This is because there is less weight while you are sitting on the ground. But on the other hand, these types of paragliders prove to be a bit more undulating and unstable in stronger winds, since they seem to lift up a little easier.
If you don’t put the ground handling time into it when you buy one they will be a right chore when you want to go flying in soarable winds.
It is not necessary to say that with a well-chosen lightweight glider, a lightweight harness and a reserve parachute you can round your kit weight down to sub ten kilos. Sometimes getting a lighter weight harness can be enough to bring your kit weight down to nearer ten kilos if we don’t add the cons mentioned previously.
Getting the right advice about how to choose the right paraglider
You should be able to ask your instructor if he or she knows details about what you want to buy. They will probably do, so they can give you advice and make some suggestions, especially when it comes to the size of the paraglider.
In the same way, if you have trusted your safety, in other words, your own life to your instructors, you can also trust them when it comes to buying your paragliding equipment. As well as, they can help you to make the right choice about if you should buy a new paraglider or a second hand one.
We hope that you have enjoyed this post about how to choose the right paraglider and that we have helped you (at least a bit) to make a good decision. If you need more information or if you are interested in our paragliding tandem flights, you can feel free to ask! Don’t hesitate to contact us any time through our web page or giving us a call at our phone number (+34) 648 228 518. Our team is waiting for you in the south of Tenerife!
We want to fly with you; we want to be your wings.
Which Paraglider? How to Choose a Wing
Wing reviews rave about this wing and that wing. The paragliding forum and Facebook is full of punters raving about their recent purchase. Your local dealer raves about his favourite brand. Pilots in your area tend to fly a certain brand and on it goes. How do you read between the lines? How do you make an informed choice? And when the information is either overwhelmingly positive, or worse, conflicting, which wing do you choose? And just what is it that you should be considering when it comes to choosing your ideal wing anyway?
In this article we’ll touch on all the factors you should consider. We’ll look behind the fluff, and get to what’s really important. Just how important is wing category? Where should you be on the weight range? We’ll explore the idea of “usable performance” versus quoted performance? We’ll also have a detailed look at the subject of “handling”, the different wing “flavours” on offer and the questions you should be asking before buying.
The right level of wing for you
There are two types of classification systems, namely the LTF (formally referred to as DHV) and the EN system. Broadly speaking an EN-A wing is similar to an LTF-A, and so on. Traditionally pilots learn on an EN-A, buy a EN-B and occasionally progress on to a EN-C and beyond. So which is safer and what are the main differences in handling and performance and which wing category should you be flying? First of all we’ll take a look at passive safety and dispel 3 of the more common misconceptions…
“My wing is tested so it’ll be ok”
Wings are tested mainly for passive recovery characteristics – that is how they behave or recover from very specifically defined collapses in benign still-air conditions with no pilot input. Although this is arguably the only quantitative way a wing can be tested, the limits of these testing procedures cannot be overstated.
- THEY DO NOT quantify a wing’s propensity to collapse in the first place;
- nor do they hint at how much active piloting a wing will require to avoid the collapse in the first place;
- nor do they tell you much about how a wing will recover in turbulent air;
- nor do they tell you how a wing will recover from more severe collapses (asymetrics are of a limited size during testing for example);
- nor do they tell you how likely or otherwise a wing is to cravat and so on and so on.
A wing’s rating is therefore only half the story. Later on in this article we’ll look at some other factors you should consider. For now, let’s look at another common misconception.
“My wing is bullet proof”
Although some lower-end wings (and higher-end wings even more so these days!!) are very solid and collapse resistant (and you might even liken some models to flying a truck(!?)), it’s still a piece of material. Putting it in the right (or wrong(!) place) can result in unrecoverable scenarios. Every now and then, having briefed clients for a particular site and the danger areas to avoid, someone will pipe up, “Oh, I’ll be ok: I’m only flying a “A” and it doesn’t collapse, or even if it does it pops out again immediately”. Whilst that might be true in most situations including mild turbulence, put any wing in the wrong place – strong turbulence such as rotor and it can crumple into little ball never to re-inflate. Remember that keeping safe is more about where you put your wing than which wing you choose to hang underneath. No wing is bullet proof!
“It’s an “EN-C”, but only for “Accelerated Asymmetrics” so it’s really a B until you use bar”
This (very false statement), or something similar, is something I hear disturbingly often. Pilots are often tempted into a higher wing category by this thinking more than any other factor save perhaps peer pressure. Please remember that the vast majority of higher end wings have very few higher end ratings. For example, to be a B, a wing only has to respond as a B in one testing configuration. It is then classified according to its highest rating. Likewise, most C’s score only a few Cs and often only one. YOUR WING IS NOT an EN-B if it scores a C in just one test. It’s an EN-C!! For example, the Ozone Enzo, Ozone’s highest certified wing scores only 3 Ds (depending on the size), but you’d better believe this is a wing reserved for very experienced pilots only! In fact it’s more of a competition wing than a typical EN-D glider. The passive recovery testing categories, although limited, give us the best “on-paper” idea of how a wing behaves. An EN-C is an EN-C. Kid yourself at your peril!
So how do you choose the right wing rating for you?
In my opinion about half the pilots flying ENC wings shouldn’t be. They move up for supposed higher performance, but with the reduced passive safety they leave themselves far more vulnerable than they’ll hopefully(!) ever realise. To move up from the EN-B category, pilots should be flying regularly, should be flying at least 70 hours per year and should have excellent wing handling and wing control skills.
Then and only then, (ie with excellent wing control skills), an EN-C might even be considered safer than an EN- B: its increased sensitivity, manoeuvrability, speed and glide could be considered safety features – IN THE RIGHT HANDS.
Here’s a few things to consider if you’re thinking of changing wing class:
1. Have a look at the manufacturers (not the dealers!) website. Who are they aiming their wing at? They have a reputation to look after and that involves not selling wings to pilots that aren’t yet ready. Plenty of pilots have flown 100km or more on a EN-A glider for example. Upgrading a wing rarely by itself results in bigger XC distances. Experience does.
2. Consider the Aspect Ratio. In the last 3 years the aspect ratio of some wings have been increasing in certain categories. Increased aspect ratios help a wing’s performance, but a high aspect ratio requires more “management” from the pilot. Compare aspect ratios to get an idea on handling. Higher aspect wings can get tangled up and even become unrecoverable. Remember, the EN tests are only tests of conformity. Collapses can be bigger (or different!) than the very narrowly defined situations prescribed by the EN tests.
3. Talk to an experienced pilot who can give you an honest opinion – remember this is probably not your flying “peers” and might not even be your local dealer. Consider the performance points in the rest of this article. Performance starts with where you are on the weight range.
Where to be on the weight range
Wings are sold in different sizes depending on the all-up weight (pilot plus wing harness and everything else) of the total assemblage. Since the recommended flying weights (to which the wings are subject to passive safety tests) usually overlap this can often leave pilots with a choice of where to be on the “weight-range”.
Being near the top of the weight range will mean that a wing is more highly “loaded”.
- The more highly loaded a given wing, the faster it will fly, and the more collapse resistant it will be.
- A higher loaded wing will also behave more dynamically, that is, it will respond to inputs more directly.
- Collapse recovery will also tend to be faster and more dynamic.
- The glide angle is little affected (assuming low porosity ie a wing in good condition) by a wing’s loading.
- A more highly loaded wing will also generally be easier to launch in strong conditions or higher winds, easier for YOU to collapse (ie big-ears and B-line, stalls in air or on the ground) and;
- Most importantly, the handling will feel more direct and responsive making highly loaded wings much more fun to fly.
So what of the disadvantages of flying “heavy”? First of all, collapses. Although less likely in the first place, if a highly loaded wing does collapse it will potentially turn more and dive more, for example. That is, everything is more dynamic. In my experience whilst it’s important to be aware of the potentially more dynamic nature of the collapse, the increased turn is only slightly more than a lightly loaded wing because the collapse opening is usually faster. Add to that, the fact that a highly loaded wing is less likely to collapse in the first place, then arguably flying heavy isn’t any more dangerous than flying light. Indeed in many ways it’s safer. The difference in speed between top of the weight range and bottom of the weight range is about 5km/h! This is a huge difference and a factor that highly favours being heavy on your wing.
The second perceived disadvantage to being heavy on a wing is to performance. The increased speed as a result of higher loading will lead to a slightly increased sink rate. However, since glide is not affected, when it comes to XC flying the slight increase in sink rate is of little consequence except in very light scratchy conditions. In normal or even light XC conditions (ie thermals of +1m/s or more) the increased speed and loading will improve your “speed to fly” making it easier to fly further particularly if there is likely to be any into-wind gliding or sink to fly through.
Being light on your wing is old-school thinking from 40 years ago when wings could barely soar let-alone fly XC. All in all, it’s worth being as close to the top of the weight range as possible. Given the choice between being light on your wing or heavy, I’d choose heavy every-time. Welcome to easier more dynamic flying, increased performance, less dragging on launch and more fun in the air.
No discussion on choosing a wing would be complete without discussing performance. What do we mean by performance? There are two important aspects to a wing’s performance that need to be discussed. These are speed and glide (angle). The sink rate of a wing is by definition a function of the other two (or vice-a versa if you like). Speed is useful to get places quickly and glide lets you arrive there higher (or just get there as opposed to not quite making it).
Performance is almost impossible to measure accurately. This is because paragliders fly so slowly, are so susceptible to even the smallest air flow changes and because totally still air is almost impossible to find (even on still days the air is usually sinking or rising slowly). It is much easier to measure the relative performance of a wing – that is by comparing its performance with another wing – swapping pilots and so on several times to obtain a statistically valid picture.
Whilst the performance differences between classes are very apparent, within a class (ie between brands) the differences are usually very small indeed. Also bear in mind that manufacturers performance claims should be treated with plenty of scepticism. For most pilots flying EN-B or even EN-C wings, assuming the wing is of a modern design and in good condition then performance shouldn’t even be considered. Any noticeable performance differences at this level of wing are most easily influenced by wing loading (where you are on the weight range) and perhaps even harness profile, than any other factor.
Where performance differences become more noticeable is where the speed bar is used. Indeed there is very little performance difference between an EN-B and an EN-C until the speed bar is used! On lower end wings, applying speed bar (particularly lots of it) will, in still air, greatly reduce your glide angle. The higher the wing rating then generally your speed bar will give lots of speed without reducing your sink rate too much. Unfortunately manufacturers rarely if ever publish glide angle on bar (and even if they did the difficulty in measuring it would leave the data open to doubt)
So given that published performance data is hardly worth bothering with, what do we mean by “usable performance”? Increased speed or increased glide is not worth having if a wing can’t turn or if a wing collapses all the time. There are three factors to consider when it comes to usable performance.
1) Thermalling: Given that, when it comes to XC flying, a significant amount of time is spent thermalling, one question you should ask is how easy it is to thermal with a wing? How does it turn? How does it “bite” into thermals? How easy is it to manage in thermals of different types?
2) On bar: If a wing cannot be flown on full bar in anything but the smoothest of conditions because of its propensity to collapse for example, then what use is the so called top-speed? How well does it deal with turbulence on bar? These days, modern high end wings tighten up when the speed bar is applied, making some of them less susceptible to collapse (despite the smaller angle of attack!) That said, they also provide less feedback, less “warning” of the impending collapse.
3) Thermic air: Similarly, when it comes to normal flying conditions, can you let the wing fly “hand’s-up” or does it always need reining in? Again the manufacturers claims are made even less significant if the wing needs so much managing that its claimed performance can only be reached in still air. Turbulence no matter how light will always reduce a wing’s glide, because none of them are (even close to) 100% efficient. How a wing performance changes with turbulence is even harder to measure!
So when it comes to performance, I would suggest you give it little attention at all, unless that is you have hundreds of hours and regularly fly big distances or fly in competitions. Consider instead the factors surrounding a wing’s usable performance and consider most importantly of all, how a wing handles:
How a wing handles
A high performing wing is of no use at all if it won’t turn, if it collapses all the time, behaves like a beast and leaves your nerves frayed. Flying is all about having fun and being safe. Indeed, having fun and being safe are also the two most important factors that will influence how you improve and develop as a pilot. So pick a wing whose “handling” you like.
When it comes to choosing a car for example, whilst you might prefer how a certain car drives, your friend might prefer another. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer. There’s room for taste. The same is true when it comes to choosing a wing. However, the challenge when it comes to choosing a wing is how to appreciate handling differences especially if you lack experience.
If you want to develop your skills as a wine taster, be critical, aware, and drink lots of it! And so it is when it comes to critiquing wings. As a starting point though, once you’ve more or less decided on which category to aim for, what are the handling characteristics that you should be considering? These might then lead you to at least start asking the right questions. Here’s a look at some wing characteristics worth considering:
Wing weight: lightness vs. heavy?
Some wings are heavier than others. This is not just a result of the type of cloth with which they are made but also how much internal construction there is and of course the amount of line used, risers and so on. Recently there has been a move to heavier construction in the leading edge, but thankfully the heavier cloths are now rarely used. A light wing will tend to be easier to launch and have a crisper more dynamic less “sluggish” feel to it than some of the weightier wings. So what about the very light weight wings. Wings less than 5kg tend to fall into two categories: the “travel” wings (4- 5 kg) and the “mountain” wings (less than 4kg). Be careful about going too light – durability might be compromised.
Some pilots like brake pressure that is light and others heavy. Heavy brake pressure can make a wing feel more reassuring, but can also be tiring if you spend a long time in the air. Heavy brake pressure is a particular feature that can be found more often in lower end wings, but is often also found in higher end wings. Some manufactures have heavier handling than others. Some have a direct feel where you feel very much “in touch” with your wing and others a more damped feel.
The higher end wings generally have shorter brake travel. Indeed there is a strong correlation between brake travel and rating which is also inherent in the rating systems. The shorter brake travel common in higher end wings means that corrections and piloting requires only small inputs which can be less tiring. It also means that is a wing is easier to stall either inadvertently (!) or on landing when you need to collapse a wing. The long brake travel common to EN-A wings can make them cumbersome and difficult to “kill” in stronger winds.
As well as length of travel, whilst most wings have very progressive “pressure” others can feel a little more “on” or “off”. Most pilots prefer a more progressive feel.
A very stable wing is very difficult to manoeuvre. A completely unstable wing would be a nightmare to try and keep in the air. The question then is how stable should your wing be? Stability in pitch usually means its more efficient and smoother to fly, but some instability will allow for more manoeuvrability and playfulness. Modern wings seem to be increasingly pitch stable.
Some lower-end wings, whilst stable on the pitch axis, can suffer from more roll instability. Controlling the roll of a wing is an advanced skill. It can be difficult for pilots to understand. It can render a wing more playful and “wangy”.
How a wing launches is also a factor to consider when making a purchase. Whereas most low end wings do not have a tendency to overshoot, some of the less pitch stable wings will require a more polished launch technique.
How a wing turns is surprisingly complicated. It is a function of its pitch, roll, yaw, and responsiveness to brake inputs. Although some wings tend to dive more on turning than others, none of them turn totally flat. If a wing tends to dive on turn, how it recovers (and climbs) on exiting a turn is the real question to ask. In the end, this is a complicated area of aerodynamics. There are different ways to turn different wings. Experiment safely. Enjoy and never stop learning.
In conclusion, if you want the best wing, pick one that’s not going to scare you. Be honest about your current level. Maybe the wing you currently own is just fine and your money would be better spent on some decent training? Don’t be tempted to think too much about performance. Instead focus on where you’ll be on the weight range and how the wing handles. By all means test fly 3 or 4 wings (not more or you’ll probably confuse yourself) or if you lack the experience and time consider the opinions of trusted pilots (more than those reviews!) All that’s left, is to choose a snazzy colour, make sure you’ve got swivel brakes (or whatever other little features you need!?) and enjoy! Best of luck and happy landings.
Originally published in Skywings 2011. Thoroughly updated for 2020
Toby Colombé (Tandem FAI O&R World Record holder)
Paragliders: Weight Ranges & Wing Loading
The best glider in the world is no use to you if it isn’t the correct size for your flying weight! In this third article of our Choose The Right Paraglider series, we look at paraglider weight ranges and the effect that wing loading has on performance, stability and handling, and how to decide what’s best for you.
First, join us in an investigation. Stuff everything into your glider backpack, exactly as you would walk up the hill, with your extra jacket and flying boots. Then stand on the scale! More than you thought, huh?
> Your all-up / total flying weight includes *everything* you carry up the hill—everything that goes up into the air—including the wing, and you!
Your flying equipment and all the extras usually adds 14-20kg to your clothed weight (depending on the weight of your kit and how much other stuff you carry).
What does it matter? Well, they say that by loading a given wing with more weight you will increase all flying speeds, increase stability and get more responsive handling. But is it really true?
The effect of weight on speed
Top speed is a safety factor. But, as we shall see, you cannot change this much with either ballast or downsizing, and within a given class the speeds are very similar.
We tested the effect of adding 20kg to a pilot’s flying weight on an EN D wing with a weight range of 85-105kg, flying directly upwind and downwind and averaging the GPS speeds achieved.
> Big Bad Ballast. Don’t try this at home, kids!
Flying at 85kg: trim speed = 33.3km/h, full bar = 47.2km/h
Flying at 105kg: trim speed = 36.3km/h, full bar = 52.8km/h
Speeds also vary greatly depending on temperature, pressure and altitude. We have recorded 39km/h at trim and 59km/h on full bar many times, but the day of our tests was a ‘slow’ one – 15 degrees, 250m ASL, 1013hPa. As we are investigating relative changes it doesn’t matter.
Adding 20kg of ballast increased trim speed by 3km/h and top speed by 5.6km/h, or +10% speed for +20% weight. But 4kg is the practical limit of ballast – any more is cumbersome in your harness and upsets your balance. In these conditions, adding a big ballast bag of 4kg would increase trim speed by no more than 0.8km/h and top speed by no more than 1.3km/h or 3%.
> Simple speed test using GPS speeds.
(We’ve been generous here as it’s not entirely linear: as you add more weight you get less of a benefit in speed as the drag increases at the square of the change in velocity. On earlier tests on a tandem, adding 70kg (a passenger) increased trim speed by only 7km/h, not 10.5km/h).
If you think a 1km/h advantage is going to win you a competition, remember that there is a sink rate penalty when carrying ballast, which will slow you down as more thermaling will be needed. Being slightly behind but faster on glides might be a strategic advantage, but either way it’s an incredibly marginal benefit.
For most pilots, adding ballast is a waste of energy. It will not make a strong-wind day flyable and it makes your carry-up a nightmare.
What about moving down a size onto a smaller wing? This can increase your speed slightly more than 4kg of ballast, theoretically by +1.5km/h at trim and +2.5km/h flat out.
> What about moving down a size of wing?
Taking a 95kg pilot off (eg) a 27m wing (90-115kg) and putting him on a 25m (75-100kg) has the equivalent effect on wing loading of adding 7kg ballast.
It might seem that you are much higher up in the weight range, but wings are often designed with reduced wing loading as they get smaller. Small wings are usually less efficient than larger ones and the speed change is likely to be lower than expected, and the glide performance might be degraded too. We don’t recommend chasing top speed by downsizing. There are more important factors to consider.
Weight and safety
We’d recommend being well-loaded on your wing to reduce the frequency of collapses, increase control authority and increase flying speeds. A loaded wing becomes slightly more collapse-resistant, but it will have more energy if it does collapse and your height loss might be more severe. But as long as you’re within the quoted weight range, all collapses are roughly within the norms and you’ll be able to handle them regardless of your weight – if you’ve already chosen the right paraglider class. At full speed on bar the wing deformation is worse on a loaded wing due to the force of air striking the wing making it pucker. There is a limit to how fast these things can go!
> The safety of the wing is determined primarily by the wing design.
The safety of the wing is determined primarily by the wing design. What you can influence by changing the wing loading (within the certified weight range) will have little effect in comparison to the passive safety of the type of wing you choose.
Weight and performance
Optimum performance is found in a broad range. In the morning you need to be light; at peak thermal time you need to be heavy; then in the late afternoon light again for extended flying in weak conditions. So nobody is ever truly optimised.
There is a broad sweet spot for all wings, which is usually somewhere around 50-75% of the quoted weight range, although this varies depending on the manufacturer.
> Optimum performance is found in a broad range.
If you fly in strong conditions (wind, thermals, tricky launches) you’ll get a slight advantage by choosing a wing where you’ll be heavily loaded. If you fly in light conditions (soaring the coast, floating downwind on flatland XCs, easy launches) you’ll get a slight advantage by choosing a wing where you’re lightly loaded.
Weight and handling
An overloaded wing feels ‘hard’ and doesn’t turn well (banks too much, loses height, feels like it is ‘grinding’ around the turn). An underloaded wing feels wobbly, collapses more often in a soft, floppy kind of way and doesn’t turn that well either (sluggish handling, difficult to turn back in when thermals push you out).
> It’s best to choose a wing where you are well-placed in the weight range in the first place.
There is an optimum range or sweet spot for ‘best handling’, often around 50-80% of the certified weight range (this too varies from model to model, even size to size, and also depends on personal preference and other factors). If you’re outside of the weight range, the amount of ballast you’d need to carry before your wing handling changes significantly is impractical – and what you’ll feel most is the counterbalancing effect of a weight below your body, stabilising the harness and making turning less agile.
All in all, you must make an effort to choose a wing where you are well-placed in the weight range in the first place. If you’re outside the weight range altogether the wing will still fly. The manufacturer didn’t try to certify it at this weight because it is not an optimal loading to fly the wing at, and would probably result in a higher certification class (eg an EN B becoming an EN C). At this extreme point of low or high wing loading you will likely begin to notice a handling change.
Every designer has their own idea of the perfect wing loading, which changes depending on their objective for the wing. If they want their target group of pilots to be impressed with the climb rate they make it larger; if they want it to get a reputation as nimble and fast they make it smaller. As the aspect ratio of the wing increases, so does the ideal wing loading because the wing is more efficient. This makes it hard to know what your ideal wing loading should be.
> It can be hard to know what your ideal wing loading should be.
Manufacturers usually offer 20kg weight ranges, but the design/ manufacture/ testing/ refining/ certification process makes larger weight ranges and smaller overlaps more economical. And you might like a wing design but be in an uncomfortable place in the overlap between sizes.
As explained above, we don’t recommend ballast. We recommend getting the right wing. Be prepared to look at other brands to achieve this. This article is intended to guide pilots to choose the right wing at any time from any manufacturer’s range, which is why we’ve avoided using any model names.
When choosing your next paraglider, narrow it down to those that put you in the right place in the weight range to start with, and identify the ones that give you a wing loading that suits your flying environment. If you’re lucky you can get a trial flight on your size so you can feel the handling at its best.
Weight ranges explained
Some pilots may be confused by manufacturer’s quoted weight ranges, and these can sometimes be misleading. In short, almost all paragliders have an officially certified weight range (CWR) that accords with their certification. The glider has been tested at the extremes of this range and found to have acceptable characteristics for the EN/LTF certification level.
> In light conditions you’ll get a slight advantage by choosing a wing where you’re lightly loaded. But in strong conditions the advantage is with a pilot flying in the upper end of the weight range.
Some paraglider manufacturers also state a recommended weight range (RWR) within the boundaries of the CWR. This means the manufacturer knows the wing flies at its best within the recommended range, even if the certificated range is wider.
Some manufacturers also state an extended weight range (EWR), often certificated at a higher rating. For example a wing may be certificated at EN/LTF A wing within its CWR (and thus its RWR too), but be an EN/LTF B or C at the limits of the EWR.
Weight ranges tend to be narrower the smaller the wing. A 22m wing may have a CWR of 50-70kg (a 20kg range), while the 31m size of the same wing may have a CWR of 100-130kg (a 30kg range). In this case the recommended weight range (RWR) will also increase with glider size.
Weight ranges tend to be narrower as the performance (and certification class) of the wing rises. An EN/LTF A wing could have a tolerant CWR of 75-100kg, while an EN/LTF D wing may have a much narrower CWR of 85-97kg.
Some paragliders with EN/LTF certification are also certified at higher weights for paramotoring (DGAC certification). These are self-certified by the manufacturer; such testing as is involved does not include recoveries from extreme flight conditions, or tests repeated at various trimmer settings. The BHPA doesn’t regard a DGAC declaration as an acceptable independent verification of a wing’s safety.
Finally, some manufacturers have a tendency to get their wings certified for the largest possible range of weights to maximise the potential market. In reality their wings only fly well within a much smaller optimum weight range. A pilot can end up with a wing that is very much the wrong size for them despite being within the official certified weight range.
How to decide
When choosing your next paraglider, narrow it down to those that put you in the right place in the weight range to start with and identify the ones that give you a wing loading that suits your flying environment. If you’re lucky, you can get a trial flight on your size so you can feel the handling at its best.
> Nancy at Flybubble on the perfect size wing, giving ideal wing loading!
We hope this article and accompanying video (see below) help shed light on paraglider weight ranges and wing loading.
Flybubble offers a comprehensive range of wings. We’d be happy to help you make the right choice.
How to Choose the Right Paraglider Part Three: Weight Ranges video
We take a closer look at weight ranges in our related article Paraglider weight ranges: the numbers.
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