23 December 2013

Intermediate and sports gliders

Recent discussions about wing choice with a pilot I have been helping have reminded me about the information that pilots have to unpick, before placing their order. The pilot in question has good core skills and thermal and XC experience. However a demanding job has limited his airtime, especially in the the last 12 months.
It is now widely recognised just how wide the EN B class is. At the top end there are some impressive gliders for sure, but looking at the descriptions of the EN B standard, it is clear that some gliders getting the grade B don't really fit.
U-Turn - Blacklight - EN B
Swing Mistral 7 - EN B
Niviuk Artik 3 - "Sport" and EN C
Thankfully the manufacturers are pretty good at describing their gliders' target markets and good dealers help match pilots to gliders. The DHV safety tests have explored EN B and EN A gliders further than the certification tests do and highlight the differences between gliders. I am always slightly wary of the drawing firm conclusions about a glider from simulated collapses, because there can be quite large differences between real life events and an EN specified collapse.
I am not criticising the two EN B gliders pictured. I flew them for reviews for Cross County Magazine and had wonderful XC flying on both; it is just that their behaviour in some circumstances has more in common with wonderful "sport" gliders like the Artik 3. I once heard a pilot saying: I am going to buy a **** because I want the extra safety of an EN B; I was tempted to say "what extra safety?" I am glad that there are intentions to realign EN B during the next revision of EN standards (in 2014).
So what did the pilot I mentioned at the start of this article decide? He is aiming for a mid EN B and has got a demo glider on order ready for when the latest Atlantic storm has moved away!


  1. Excellent informative article Pat, however, having flown them both, I certainly wouldn't put the U-Turn Blacklight and Swing Mistral 7 together. Both great gliders but each is suitable for a different level of pilot, as one is significantly more demanding to fly than the other. Whilst I would class the Swing Mistral 7 as being a high B (or B3), I would class the U-Turn Blacklight as more of a pseudo-B (or B4) i.e. a C in B clothing, rather like the new Gin Carrera (which is in another league). It's certainly interesting to see that there are current B wings which perform better than some current C wings (some Bs perform better than most Cs), and some C wings which in reality seem to be safer than some B wings.

  2. Thanks Carlo; interesting! That opens up another consideration: general workload of flying a glider. In the air I found the Blacklight calmer than the Mistral 7, but that doesn't mean that it is easier to deal with when things start to go wrong. I was thinking back to the Nova Xyon back in the mid 90's. It was a classic in its day; a delight to fly; excellent performance; handled the rough stuff well and was confidence inspiring for a wide range of pilots. It was however DHV 2/3 rated and on the rare occasions it went wrong pilots soon learnt why it got its rating!
    Just shows the importance of a pilot getting really good advice and being very honest with themselves when they buy a new glider.

  3. Hi Pat. Yes it's often interesting to hear different opinions about the same wings! I flew the U-Turn Blacklight and Swing Mistral 7 quite a bit in varied conditions within a few weeks of each other, so could draw quite a good comparison between them. I flew a Blacklight M (85-110kg) and a Mistral 7 M (85-105kg), both loaded at 100Kg all-up. How about you?

  4. Darn, I've just realised I made a typo: I flew them both at 102Kg all-up (not 100kg).

  5. I flew the Mistral 7 S (75-95kg) at 90kg and the Blacklight SM (75-100kg) also at 90kg. I flew both both extensively in good cross country conditions including some decent turbulence as well as smooth conditions.
    When you are providing gliders for demo flights, do you manage to get the client to fly the glider in thermic air (unless they are very low air time)? I think it can be quite tough for most pilots to evaluate a glider on just one flight, which is probably all they get.

  6. Re our customers testing our demo wings (of which we have an extensive range!) we certainly don't expect our customers to make a decision based on one short flight - although sometimes it is love at first flight! ;)

    The whole idea of testing gliders is for the pilot to get enough of a feel of the wing (or wings) to be able to make informed decision about which wing is best for them. We want our customers to be happy with the final decision they make, and assist them as much as we can to make the right choices. We frequently save pilots from making potentially costly wrong choices too!

    Every customer is different, and of course no one can control external factors like the weather, so we do understand that sometimes this can take longer than originally hoped to test fly a wing adequately. All we ask in this regard is that if a customer has one of our demos then they should make every reasonable effort to test fly it as soon as possible, with a view to making a decision.

    As well as offering our customers the use of our (very costly) demo wings, from an extensive range of what we consider to be the top manufacturers, we also offer them our valuable service and hard-earned expertise, and give them a lot of our time. In return for all of this we do of course expect our customers to commit to buying a wing from us.

    If a pilot is not willing to commit to buying a wing from us then to be honest we are not willing to give them our time and expertise for nothing! If all a pilot wants it the cheapest possible price, and they do not value good service, then we are most probably not the right people to come to.