A revelation occurred while I was in Laragne – my wing (an Ozone Delta 2 – Large) is not penetrating or reacting as fast as I remember from last year. A quick hop on the scales and voila – I somehow managed to lose 10 kg since the last time I checked back in February.
Weight versus wing size: a constant battle of trade offs.
The layman would respond to such an occurrence with congratulations. In the flying world, a loss (or gain) of this magnitude can have serious implications. In the worst case a pilot may no longer be within the certified weight range for the wing, meaning anything from a disqualification in competition to undefined behavior when departing normal flight. In my case the loss means I am no longer flying at the top end of the weight range for the wing. This means that while my glide ratio is still the same in calm air, it can drop significantly in anything beyond a mild headwind. It also means a loss of responsiveness, which is both bad and good. Bad in that initiating turns will take more effort and will be slower but good with any turn initiated by a collapse suffering from a similar dampening. And while the impact of any individual collapse will be lessened, the frequency will go up as the pilot approaches the bottom end of the weight range.
The options: carry an extra 10 kgs of ballast (basically a few large hydration bladders filled with water) or downsize the wing.
Gin wings have been somewhat of a snuffalopogus here on Canadian Pacific Coast. The distributor for the longest time was US based and charging upwards of 20% over competing brands being sold by our local dealers. Combine this with a Canadian dollar trading at or below par for the last few years and there has been little incentive to give the brand a second look. A Gin wing in these parts is a rare sight indeed.
The only constant – change.
Then within the last year a local pilot partnered up and secured distribution rights for Canada. With these rights, they have been able to provide wings to the local dealer at a price point making them competitive to the locally established brands.
Open your mind (to new possibilities).
I contacted our local dealer to give a medium Carrera a roll in the ethereal hay.
Getting a sense of things.
Two immediate impressions: fast and responsive.
The wing does come up dynamically during launch, requiring some input either via the brakes to settle in place (in light winds) or the C risers (in stronger conditions). After pull up and turn to run, I feel the harness pressure start to go slack, meaning the wing was surging ahead of me. My typical response with the Delta 2 is to pour on the gas and get ahead of it. The Carrera would have no part of this technique and wants brake input to settle it back in place. Once out and away from launch, it is time to give this vixen a quick shake down run.
I instinctively take my half wrap grip with the toggles, causing the brake line ‘balls’ to settle into the upper palm of my hand with my thumb and index finger settling on top in contact with the brake line. I am not sure if this is the best position to use yet, but it is what I am accustomed to.
Catching the edge of the house thermal right off launch with the left wing tip, the pod picks up a slight yawing oscillation. Once the yaw was settled, I begin a progressive bank into the thermal and get an immediate sense of the wings agility. Whereas the Delta 2 will tend to resist the initial turn in until some speed has built up, the Carrera simply carves in with little hesitation. This results in an immediate ‘whoa nelly’ application of outside brake. Turning on a dime in sharp, narrow cores will not be a problem with this wing but extra care will be needed on weaker days. Realizing that a smoother, subtler brake application will be needed with this wing – I ease up on the inside brake and centre on the core within a pair of turns. By the end of the second turn, the lack of roll dampening becomes increasingly obvious. What I mean by lack of dampening is that with the Delta 2 I get a sense of riding on the sea, the wing reacts to the air by moving around in a relatively unified manner – much like bobbing on the ocean on a light wind day. The roll movements in the Impress 3 are soft and smooth for the most part (there have been notable exceptions mind you, almost all involving Pemberton in some sort of lee). Contrast this with the Carrera where the roll movements are sharper and more independent. I get a sense that the two halves of the wing tend to fly less unified than with the Delta 2.
This increasing roll activity means increased workload, but it also means more feedback. Still getting comfortable with this new dimension of input, I work my way from the house thermal northwards to a ridge leading to the clear cut just above and behind launch. Climbing here is one of the fastest ways to peak the mountain, but the climbs tend to be more disorganized as they break off from a sudden flattening of slope at the clear cut edge. Searching doesn’t take long as the wing actually yaws right about 45 degrees and pitches forward slightly, taking me through a slight amount of sink and right into a thermal. The Delta 2 tends to slide diagonally under these circumstances, requiring my subsequent input to turn and align it with the thermal proper. In the thermal and still deciphering the roll, I find myself quickly drawn into the core.
Climbing above launch, I push back south towards the house thermal. Once again the wing yaws, pitches forward ever so slightly and is drawn into the thermal. Thermal autopilot?
Fast forward to the afternoon, the inversion is well established and the winds picking up on launch. Not too strong … yet. It is under these conditions that I find my major gripe with the wing – the C risers. The short distance between C and B risers means that keeping a wall built and the wing C stalled with the tail on the ground is much more difficult than with the Delta 2. Then there is the matter of spilt C’s. If the outer risers are not taken, the tips will repeatedly try to fly and nose over into the centre of the wing. A new owner not accustomed with this configuration (and the split but not split A’s) can expect to put some time in kiting under strong conditions to dial in their launch technique. An SIV is a must as well to get a sense of far one can push the stall/spin point. While the Delta 2 was surprisingly forgiving when I first tried stalling and spinning it, I am not one to immediately assume that the same holds true with other similar performance wings such as the Carrera (even with a common brake pressure).
Taking the wing out in the rattier, wind torn thermals I get my first collapse with it – the typical outside tip during the first turn trying to map a climb in less than stellar conditions. The tip snaps back into place on its own with no further drama. I would not have taken this collapse under the Delta 2, highlighting the extra workload one can expect.
Approaching the landing field and the valley wind is in full swing. The ease with which the wing noses its way upwind is noticeable with far fewer of the slight pitch backs I would normally see on the Delta 2 under gusty conditions. Landing is similar to the Delta 2 with a nice smooth progressive flare – it will take a few tries of progressively lower 90 degree hooks to final to see how quickly the wing will plane out (a common technique of mine with tighter LZs).
To sum it up.
For the pilot who is moving up from what is considered an EN A or low end B, please realize that the EN test rating does not reflect the workload this wing will require before departing normal flight. Gin has described this wing as ‘Performance’ and a true successor to the EN C Tribe. Simply put, if you are not yet willing to jump on an EN C you might want to consider other options right now such as the Atlas, Rush, and/or Chilli.
But if the pilot is looking to upgrade and is already demoing wings classed as EN C (Delta/Alpina, Cayenne, Artik, Maverick, Sigma, etc), give this wing a try. It has quite a bit to offer an experienced pilot and would in theory allow them to compete in EN B class. Best of both worlds?