13 January 2014

A new way forward for competition gliders

Many fine minds have been working away to try and untangle competition gliders from the EN Certification system. It makes sense: safety does not appear to have improved by making the best pilots in the world fly EN D gliders and there have been a whole raft of unintended consequences. The latest proposals from CIVL have a lot to commend them but are fraught with compromises demanded by bodies such as the EHPA (a body which represents the nation associations in Europe, such as the BHPA); the testing houses; the manufacturers; the Paragliding World Cup and the competitors themselves.
Some progressive thinking has brought in a range of good ideas such as:

  • Flight tests based on but adapted from the EN tests: irrelevant maneuvers dropped, pilot intervention allowed after 2 seconds, test flights done by the testing houses or by manufacturers overseen and analysed by the testing houses;, flight tests done in a pod harness.
  • Top speed limited to 65km/h
  • Fairly relaxed technical limits on aspect ratio
  • Some reduction in testing costs by requiring flights tests at the top end of the weight range only
It doesn't go far enough to help small pilots (or possibly very large ones). An earlier idea required flight tests on sizes around "medium" and other sizes scaled from there but not independently flight tested. This would have had the effect of making unusual sizes less expensive to produce, and so making it possible for more manufacturers to justify making out-lying sizes. However there has been a sufficient swell of opinion to require flight tests on all sizes. For example, currently and for the last 2 years, only Niviuk has catered for small pilots flying competition EN D gliders and I don't see much in the proposal which will help this to change. I am also personally unconvinced that the rules on lines will help give us line sets which last something like the life of the glider. Pity.
There have been a lot of cooks working on this broth, but at least it is a plausible way forward out of the uncertainty and negative consequences.
So should the CIVL proposal be accepted? Maybe a few tweaks are possible but even if not, I personally think that it should be embraced by us all and we move forward together.


  1. > So should the CIVL proposal be accepted? Maybe a few tweaks are possible but even if not, I personally think that it should be embraced by us all and we move forward together.

    You really think we should all embrace the continued exclusion of women and small pilots until at least 2017?

  2. I hope the weight ranges are tweaked for sure and I would like the 23g line specification; I would be a lot happier. If these improvements don't make it into the final version, I would still accept it. I hope that at least one manufacturer will make a suitably small glider as Niviuk have been doing. Admittedly not competitive against the bigger sizes and not available early enough but still a nice glider to compete on. The alternative might be at least another year of the status-quo and that is worse.
    I know I would seem to be settling for too little, but it is time to make a step forward and CCC proposal is that.

  3. To me, this proposal seems to be an entrenchment of the status quo for at least another three years, which is anything but a step forward. In what way is the CCC proposal better than the status quo?

  4. Flight tests more appropriate for the type of glider; CC gliders potentially less compromised by the trimming needed to get through EN D; removes comp gliders from EN D; allowing potentially a greater speed range; better conformity of speed systems.
    I never said it was ideal though. Thanks for commenting Tom!