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!