25 September 2012

Glider Testing and Certification

The paragliding world does not stand still for long. There has been some great work this year by the DHV in doing in-depth safety checks on a range of EN B and EN A gliders. At the other end of the spectrum the working group of PMA (Paraglider Manufacturers' Association) seems to be making some headway towards a new definition of competition gliders.

It is widely recognised that the current EN classes are very broad. Within the EN B class this manifests itself in the form of gliders having quite different target markets. The "low end" B gliders are usually seen as suitable for beginners who are showing reasonable aptitude during their training. The "high end" B gliders are far more sporty and dynamic in their behaviour/reactions and are definitely not for the beginner! The DHV's work explored the gliders in greater depth than the EN tests in order to differentiate between the high and low EN Bs and EN As It makes interesting reading and can be found here on the DHV website. The first series of tests are here.

The EN D category has also seen an unofficial division into the recreational/classic EN Ds and the competition EN Ds. Even though they are all in the same EN class, Peaks, Mantras, Omegas etc are suitable for a far wider range of pilot than the Enzos and the Icepeaks. In effect  the EN D category has become devalued as a useful description of gliders' level of demand and security.

When the EN tests are next revised (due spring 2013), don't be surprised to see some further tightening of the requirements in each of the classes. Until then, when we buy a glider, we need be clear about it's character. Buying from a reputable manufacturer who clearly describes the target pilot for each of their gliders must surely be very wise.

Separate from this is a possible new definition of competition gliders outside of the EN system. This would seem the best way forward, particularly since limiting competitions to EN certified gliders does not appear to have helped safety. The responsibility of defining the criteria for the competition class seems to be resting with the PMA. I have just returned from Coupe Icare at St Hilaire and heard that the PMA has made considerable progress and aim for there to be a new competition class in place for 2014. This is encouraging news indeed, although I personally believe that agreement within the PMA agreement does not come easily!
The latest from the FAI on the subject can be found here.

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