“High” EN-B gliders comparison for 2015

Everyone wants to fly the best paraglider. Last year I was lucky to try several gliders and as an experienced newbie in paragliding sport, my notes could benefit other pilots. The gliders: Advance Iota, Axis Comet 2, Gin Carrera+, Gradient Nevada and UP Summit XC3.

Disclaimer

I borrowed all wings for my personal curiosity and these kind of tests will be always subjective to a test pilot and weather conditions. Sorry to test only limited scope of current market, limited resources.

Introduction

If you like it short, all gliders are great! All of them available for more days helped me achieving a 100+ point flights. The enough performance is definetely in all of them, but there are different aspects you may be interested.

Impressions

Gradient Nevada (170 hours, all possible conditions)
A glider with the highest feedback

Nevada steps out with a high feedback. This will be appreciated by pilots desperately wanting to know every bubble hitting their wing, but this can be behind comfort level of some pilots.

The take off is easy. The wing turns without wraps well, but in a long thermals I wrapped unless wanted to shape arm muscles. Thanks to a high feedback I do not remember that anyone was faster in getting up, often it was opposite. The speed bar is soft but not as fluent. After hitting the full bar you feel (and see on vario) that Nevada drops few meters and after 2 seconds it flies up again. Then the flight on full speed is stable. Ears are stable and they open quickly by themselfs.

Nevada behaves differently with different loading. When on low/middle, in turbulences where other wings swings you, Nevada can gently collapse still holding the direction. When above 95 kg (from 100 kg) the wing feels much more solid and collapse resistant. For all 170 hours I was surprised by 3 frontstalls which did not introduce themselfs. During SIV, the wing is very easy and recover even faster then my previous low EN-B, which could be caused by higher age of the previous wing.

Lines are sheated except a high gallery. I ripped only one unsheated line during many starts from far from perfect take off places. After 170 hours wing is still in a superb condition making a lot of noise if touched.

Personally, Nevada is great all rounder. It is well balanced but high feedback could not be welcome by some pilots as wing “works” most of the time in the air. Often I released the bar for nothing. The wing dynamic and brake lenght is safe for a newbie pilot and still playful for the middle experienced pilot.

Nevada is a balanced wing. It has good performance and lower skill demand. It is a great choice if you want a sensitive wing or fly weak conditions often.

http://www.gradient.cx/en/Nevada

UP Summit XC3 (30 hours, various conditions)
Created for speed

Summit stands out with energy preservation and solid feeling on full speed. This combination can be dangerous for low skill pilots as making a high wingover too easy even for a newbie.

Summit starts easy. Turns without wraps are possible however I wrapped often for all medium to tight turns. Few times I was not able to climb as fast as other pilots but could be just lack of practice, when alone I had no problem to go up even in weak thermals thought it was fast. Speedbar resistance is medium, during more-days competition flying my legs were really tired.  I did not find any move to stabilize the ears as they are trying to reopen strongly all the time.

The flying full speed is a real joy. Solid feeling, in turbulences 50% bar release was enough to catch possible collapse and continue push 100% just second later. During competition I often flew along with EN-C gliders with no visible performance difference, EN-Ds are faster. Feedback is medium. The medium and strong thermals are well felt, the small bubbles you just know that they are somewhere nearby.

For the high aspect ratio wing, the single collapse I got after start on a lee side was easy. It was a bigger one, and with lean to healthy side and small brake I had no problem going straight and reopen. Wingtips often works forward and backward slightly without any visible impact to wing stability. I did not recognize any difference between 92 and 97 kg (from 98).

Lines are unsheated, single color and with higher tendency to knots when unpacking. I experienced 2 mailons was opened before the flight, never see it on different wing but could be cause by a previous “borrower”. I did not like the UP concertina, materials are fine but zipper from leading edge down makes air inflating the wing when packing.

Personally, I felt really great on Summit, it helped me winning national championship in EN-B, beating many pilots flying EN-C or EN-D gliders. I had much respect to the aspect ratio to try even fronstall even in very high altitude. This wing needs some experience to fly. The energy in spiral dive or wingover still scared me a bit so think twice if you want this. I tried Summit also a year ago and decided to Nevada – looking back in time it was a good decision. What I really hated was unstable small ears when sucking by a cloud. It should be probably impossible to do a helico on Summit because of impossible deepstall (wingtips go back in stall).

Summit is a very comfortable wing to flight on full speed even through turbulences. It is a great choice if you are medium+ skilled pilot looking for high performance wing in EN-B.

http://up-paragliders.com/en/products/paragliders/summit-xc3

Axis Comet 2 (20 hours)
The calm wing

Comet stands out with calmness. It will be appreciated by pilots preferring safe feeling even in turbulent air and solid performance. However it does not mean Comet cannot collapse!

Comet start is different. Making a beginners mistake – overshooting followed by a fronstall – is almost impossible because Comet slows down before going above the head. However this behaviour complicated my launches in weak wind. Comet has long brakes and without wraps it is not possible to do even medium turn. On the other side, spiral or fullstall also which could be a benefit for low experience pilots. I turned tight thermals with 2 wraps. Few times I was not able to go up along with other pilots but this could be lack of experience with the wing. As the glider is not as sensitive, the weak thermals was more difficult to find core but I felt very comfortable in any medium – strong conditions. Speedbar is medium resistance, slightly longer then in other wings. During competition I flew faster then other wings, but I always messed start so best pilots were far away. Ears are stable and self reopening.

Lines are sheated except high gallery. Axis concertina zipper is from leading edge to the bottom.

I had one asymetric collapse on a full speed and was slightly surprised with a sudden agile behaviour, leaning+brake helped quickly. I had one frontstall on full speed and no problem catching the overshoot despite long brakes, surprisingly conditions felt rather weak to me. I did not felt any difference between 91 and 96 kg (of 105 kg).

Personally, Comet is the wing behind my experience level but I am sure it is a great choice for all newbies wanting to move quickly to a better performance wing. The long brakes and calmness will make it tolerant to many small mistakes and performance on speedbar is not lacking behind more prestigious gliders.

Comet is a very tolerant wing. It is a great choice for pilots searching performance but lacking experience.

http://www.axispara.cz/en/products/195-axis-comet-2.html

Advance Iota (1,5 hours, weak-medium conditions)
The agile beast

Despite lower aspect ratio, Iota is very agile and has an amazing feeling in thermals.

Start is easy, seems little faster then other wings. It has very short brakes and even short turns are very easy to achieve. Wing is very agile and combination with short brakes are dangerous for low experienced pilots, as getting high wingover or spiral dive is very fast. But experienced pilots can simply fall in love with this. I did not wrap. The feedback is different, it feels like one rib goes down while others are solid. I liked it. Speedbar is short, medium resistant, unfortunately I had no comparison as other pilots were just enjoying the air on trim speed. Wing feels very solid on both trim and full speed even in thermals or turbulences. Ears are stable and usually they need a slight impuls to reopen. Optimal.

I tried to get a collapse by flying full speed through thermals, but evening conditions were too weak. No issues with manual asymetric collapse but manual frontstall (on trim) got more behind than on Nevada and I did not find enough bravery/reason to do it again.

Material feels different, lighter and more packable. It looks less durable but cannot evaluate with short experience. Iota has unsheated lines with little sheated part on bottom for colors. Iota has magnets for brake handles attachment and everywhere is visible attention to detail.

Personally, I love Iota’s handling. It turns quickly and do lose minimum height during any maneuver. I regret that the experience were short but for sure this glider is too sharp for beginners. Jumping to Iota from calm Comet could influence my feelings of sharpness – consider it.

High agility and short brakes make Iota excellent wing for playful and experienced pilots who prefer certified passive safety.

http://www.advance.ch/en/iota/

Gin Carrera Plus (1,5 hours, too weak, then turbulent and windy conditions, then soaring with few thermals)
Feel the power

Carrera starts easily when well prepared. The ears have tendency for a small cravat and stabilo needs to be used more often then with other gliders, brakes are often not working. Interesting that ears goes to the air first, well visible in weak conditions. The brakes are medium and wing does not feel very aggressive until you hit them hard. Speed is soft.

I got “lucky” to try few asymetric collapses thanks to weather and all of them were almost unoticable. (Un)fortunately no frontstall.

Gin has an excellent attention to detail. The magnets are so great I played with them all waiting time. They seem to have a perfect balance of strenght required to dettach and hold. Lines are surprisingly sheated except high gallery. The brake handles are aggresive and without gloves it was unpleasant after few minutes. I loved Gin concertina, easy to pack, light, protecting wing against zipper, zipper towards leading edge.

For me surprisingly, Carrera is not a wild animal, which for some reason I expected. Collapses were really gentle and in rather strong turbulences the wing felt very solid. I had a small issue applying the enough brake to turn the way I wanted. Often I braked too much or too little, but for sure time for practice was short. When I hit just enough brake, the turn was amazingly efficient and most of time I had a feeling that Carrera wants to fly up more then others. I flew some time with Trango XC2 with no visible difference in performance, but no comparison on speed.

As tested conditions were not optimal I can only state it definetely does a great job for competitions pilots prefering to stay in EN-B category and high ambitious pilots.

http://gingliders.com/home/carrera-plus/

Summary

The main difference is in feedback intensity and behaviour in thermalling. Some gliders turn after short input while others needs long arm. Some tells you everything and some just important stuff. If it flies 1 km/h more or less, I did not feel any difference.

Which wing is the best? Answer is very easy: It depends on pilot skills and its expectations. All of these gliders are quite different and any pilot searching EN-B can find the right mate.

Thinking about purchasing some of these gliders? Borrow it for a test flight! It gives you much more information then reading internet comparisons 😉

Thanks to all people who allowed me trying any of these great gliders!

2 thoughts on ““High” EN-B gliders comparison for 2015”

  1. Great article, many thanks for sharing. It certainly helped me a lot when I was deciding about my first EN-B glider. I have chosen Nevada at the and I am very happy 🙂

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