Last updated on March 17th, 2019 at 11:38 am
When you're ready to choose a wing, you'll discover that there's a massive selection on the market. Not all of these are suited to beginners, so it's important to know exactly what you're looking for. There's a lot to consider, and lots of beginner mistakes to avoid, so this paramotor wing guide will help make your choice much easier.
This wing guide is aimed at pilots that have completed their paramotor training, and have already taken their first flights.
Choosing a wing rating and paramotor wing certification
When choosing a wing it's important to take ratings into consideration. There are various rating systems which are used to determine the flight characteristics, safety, and pilot skills required to fly the wing safely.
Different manufacturers use different systems, with different principles or procedures. So lets look at some of the systems you'll find in your search for a wing.
EN PARAGLIDER CERTIFICATION
The EN paraglider certification (link to reports) classifies gliders as ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ or ‘D’. These classes are issued in terms of the glider’s ‘flight characteristics’, and the ‘pilot skills’ required to fly the machine safely. Pilots can then read the flight characteristics and pilot skills descriptors, and decide which of the four categories best matches their current skill level.
These tests are not best suited for paramotor wings, and have really been designed for paragliders. Some paramotor wing manufacturers continue to use the EN 926-2 rating system, some have developed other classifications that we'll get to later.
On leaving the factory, some paragliders are equipped with a trimmer tape lock. The gliders risers have a plastic buckle blocking trimmer use, as such, the paraglider confirms to EN standards. Remember, the paraglider was not certified in any other configuration than fully closed trims!
Flight characteristics - Paragliders with the maximum level of passive-safety. EN-A Certified Paragliders are extremely forgiving, and show exceptional resistance to deviation from normal flight.
Pilot skills - EN-A Certified Paragliders are designed for all pilots, and suitable for any level of training. These are great for pilots with less than 1 year of flight experience. Or for those who fly less than twice a month, or less than twenty five hours per year.
Flight characteristics - EN-B Certified Paragliders display good passive-safety, and forgiving flight characteristics. The glider must have some resistance to deviation from normal flight.
Pilot skills - EN-B Certified Paragliders are designed for all pilots, and are suitable for any level of training. There are a wide range of gliders on the market fitting this category.
Some wings in this category are actually closer to “EN-A” gliders. The rest are for pilots that have more than thirty hours flying experience in various conditions. At least 10 of these hours should have been in thermic conditions.
EN-B Certified Paragliders are commonly flown by pilots with “ratings” or “certifications,” and are suitable for those who fly no less than 50 hours per year.
Flight characteristics -EN-C Certified Paragliders have moderate levels of passive safety. They have the potential to display dynamic reactions to turbulence or pilot error. Precise pilot input may be required to recover the wing to normal flying during turbulence.
Pilot skills - These gliders are designed to be flown by pilots familiar with recovery techniques, and those that regularly fly actively. The pilot must fully understand the implications of flying a glider with reduced passive safety.
EN-C gliders are for pilots that have an advanced rating or certification, and have logged several hundred flight hours in all conditions, including regular flying in thermic conditions. Pilots should have completed SIV courses, are flying ten or more hours per month, and are comfortable dealing with large asymmetric collapses.
Flight characteristics - EN-D Certified Paragliders have demanding flight characteristics. They can have potentially violent reactions to turbulence or pilot error. Precise pilot input will be required for recovery to normal flight during turbulence.
Pilot skills - These gliders are designed for pilots well practised in wing recovery techniques, and who fly very actively. Pilots should have significant experience flying in turbulent conditions, and accept the implications of flying such a wing.
Pilots should fly for many years before considering an EN-D certified paraglider. Various advanced manoeuvres or SIV skills must be mastered to fly such a glider, and pilots should fly no less than 200 hours a year, and often in strong conditions.
DGAC certification / approval
DGAC stands for Direction Generale de l'Aviation Civile, and is the French civil aviation authority. It issues a certificate of airworthiness for ultralight aircraft, and is recognised in France, Germany, and other EU countries. The tests are done by the wing manufacturers who confirm compliance to DGAC, who then issue the type approval.
A couple of examples of manufacturers using DGAC certification are Dudek and Paramania. You'll be able to view a copy of the certification, where you can check that it's been signed and stamped by the Direction Generale de l'Aviation Civile.
The DGAC certificate is issued on the basis of passing load test,s and flying under power / propulsion. Wings are tested under certain weather conditions, and at the maximum take-off weight. The following are assessed:
- Flight characteristics of the wing
- Behaviour during takeoff
- Speed parameters during straight flight
- Behaviour when placing the wing in a deep (dynamic) turn
- Behaviour during landing
- Longitudinal stability during accelerated flight control
- Longitudinal stability when leaving accelerated flight
LTF / DHV CERTIFICATION
In January 2008, the Paragliding manufacturers association made an agreement to change the name of glider ratings, from DHV to LTF. Now, multiple testing companies are able to issue LTF ratings with the same standards.
As with the EN rating system, each wing will be given a rating for the level of pilot skills required for safe operation. LTF ratings include 1, 1-2, 2, 2-3, and competition, or 3 as shown below.
1 - Paragliders with simple, and very forgiving flying characteristics.
1-2 - Paragliders with good-natured flying characteristics.
2- Paragliders with demanding flying characteristics, and potentially dynamic reactions to turbulence and pilot errors. These gliders are recommended for pilots that fly regularly.
2-3 - Paragliders with very demanding flying characteristics, and potentially violent reactions to turbulence, and pilot errors. These gliders are recommended for experienced and regularly flying pilots.
3 - Paragliders with very demanding flying characteristics, and potentially very violent reactions to turbulence and pilot errors. These gliders have little scope for pilot errors, and are for expert pilots only.
Any safety relevant observations of the test pilot which are not covered by the standardised test flight evaluation, are quoted under "Additional flight safety remarks" at the end of the test report.
So with all of this in mind, beginner paramotor pilots that have completed their training should be looking at EN-A, or EN-B wings. If you find the manufacturer uses LTF testing, you should be looking for an LTF-1, or LTF 1-2 certified wing. DGAC approval isn't essential, but it is preferred.
Wing loading: What size paramotor wing do I need
When choosing a wing it's important to check the PPG weight range, this will look something like 85-120 KG. You need to weigh yourself fully geared-up, to get an accurate in-flight weight. This weight should include pilot + paramotor + fuel + reserve + helmet + any other gear you fly with.
If the weight range is, for example, 85-120 KG, the wing will have a 35 KG range. It's always better to be in the mid to upper range of the spectrum. Mid range would be 102.5 KG, so anything between this, and 120 KG will be a perfect all-up pilot weight for that particular wing.
It's important to choose the correct weight range for a number of reasons. I mentioned that it's better to be in the mid to upper weight range, this is because the wing will be more resistant to collapses.
A lightly loaded wing will be more likely to collapse in turbulence, while heavily loaded wings are less prone to a collapse. But bare in mind, that when heavily loaded wings do collapse, the reaction will be more extreme.
A wing has been tested from the lower, through to the upper weight range, so stay within the specified range. If you're outside of the specified weight range, you're also flying outside the certification for the wing. This could be dangerous, and will also void your insurance in the event of an accident.
If you choose a wing that's too small, you'll also have a hard time launching, as it simply won't be producing enough lift for your weight. If you do manage to get off the ground, your landing speed will also be very fast. Other than that, you'll have more aggressive handling, bad fuel economy, and more stress on the materials. Take your time choosing the correct size wing, weigh everything on a scales, and don't use guess work.
The fastest wing: What is a reflex paramotor wing
Most paramotor pilots like the idea of flying places faster, even if it means burning a little extra fuel to get there. Reflex wings are faster than standard / classic paragliding wings, and much safer if flown right. But what makes a reflex wing different to a standard paragliding wing?
To maintain a higher speed, a wing needs to fly at a lower angle of attack (AOA, which you can read about HERE). Unfortunately, a lower AOA makes a standard paragliding wing much less stable.
The main difference between reflex and standard paragliders is their shape. The reflex airfoil is able to aid the wing in turbulence by changing the point of lift on the wing.
The A and B lines will be extremely loaded when the wing is trimmed to the fast position (reflex mode). As the trimmers are released, and the glider’s AOA decreases, the lift point and centre of pressure moves forward on the airfoil. This increases stability and lift, and makes the wing much more difficult to collapse.
Are reflex wings safer?
There are a few things to be aware of when flying reflex wings. Although a reflex wing is much more resistant to collapses, they can still happen if flown in strong turbulence. If pilots get lulled into a false sense of security and start flying in stronger conditions, they could end up in serious trouble. A collapse at a higher speed will be far more dynamic, and more difficult to control.
Another thing to note, is that most manufacturers recommend against using the brakes while trimmed to the fast position. If a reflex wing is trimmed fast and unloads while you're pulling brake, it's far more likely to collapse on the side that's being pulled.
This is why a reflex wing will be equipped with wing tip steering toggles, to use instead of the brakes when in fast mode. Some reflex wings will allow brake use in fast mode, but even these models are more likely to suffer from wing tip collapses if the brakes are pulled during turbulence.
You should never in any situation use brakes while trimmed out and on speedbar. The wing is very stable in this mode, but not if the brakes are pulled. And speedbar should never be used while the wing is trimmed to slow.
One last thing to consider, is that you will burn more fuel when trimmed to fast mode. But if you want a safer, faster wing, with less chance of a collapse, then choose a reflex wing. You'll be able to penetrate stronger winds, but don't be fooled by thinking they won't collapse, as they most certainly can if pushed hard enough.
How long does a paramotor wing last
The life of a paramotor wing really depends on many different factors. Somebody flying on a beach in Spain will most definitely see a shorter wing life than somebody flying from an inland field in England. The age of the wing will also be a factor, even if the wing has never been flown! But why? Let's look at some of the main reasons why a wing deteriorates..
All polymeric materials and fabrics degrade underneath the sun, so the more sun exposure your wing gets, the quicker it will degrade. Paramotor wings are made from nylon, UV light degrades the nylon with exposure through chemical degradation. The problem is known as UV degradation, and is a common problem in products exposed to sunlight.
Porosity of a wing can increase dramatically on wings that have been in, or even near salt water. Once gliders get salt on them, they attract moisture which will increase degradation. On top of that, the minute salt crystals abrade the nylon enough to cause serious degradation, and increase porosity.
Salt crystals will also get into the lines, which then become very abrasive when they're dry. These tiny crystals can then abrade the lines as they move, this means the lines will wear out much faster.
Inflating, deflating, and large amounts of mechanical stress on a wing will shorten it's life. Ground handling is important, but if you do a lot of it, it's best to practice on an old, less important wing. Manufacturer warranties which claim 300 hrs, will exclude acro because of the large amounts of stress placed on the wing.
Nylon will degrade with age, even if the wing is sat in its bag at home. You could easily account for 20-40 hours of flying time equivalent per year, just by leaving the wing in the bag in a cupboard.
Something which reduces the integrity of nylon is ozone. Ozone has high oxidising potential, and is always present in small quantities in atmospheric oxygen. Over time, ozone will degrade the wing fabric, even if it's stored in a bag, in a dry and dark area. This type of oxidative damage is extremely hard to prevent, especially to such sensitive fabrics.
I remember a story of a vintage wing that had never been flown, failing a porosity test. The wing looked brand new and had only been out of the bag once, but age had taken it's toll and destroyed the wing in its own bag!
The longer you fly a wing, the more porous it will become. With good care you should be able to get 300 - 600 hours use out of a paramotor wing. Bare everything above in mind, and take good care of your wing. Keep it dry, store it in the dark, fold it correctly, and have regular inspections to check porosity, line strength, etc.
Used paramotor wings
If you're thinking of buying a used paramotor wing, you should consider everything in the previous section of this wing guide. Find out how many hours the wing has flown, and some of its history. You'll also want a current model, so you're flying modern and up to date technology.
Before buying the wing, it's extremely important to get a test report. This report will tell you the general condition of the wing, the results of porosity tests, line strength check, and any repairs made or needed. If the seller doesn't have a test report, ask them to get one; if they refuse, then don't buy it. It's also best to go and view the wing in person, rather than buying online on sites like eBay.
Check out my full guide to paramotoring while on a budget HERE.
The best paramotor wings for beginners
With everything we've learned so far in this paramotor wing guide, you should now have a good idea of how to choose the best wing for yourself. One last thing to consider is the colour choice, this isn't just a case of aesthetics, but an actual safety issue.
A paramotor is usually quite easy for other pilots to spot in the air from below. But aircraft flying above you may find it hard to notice you, and the wing colour may make it more difficult.
For example: if you do most of your flying around rolling green hills or trees, then a green wing probably isn't the best choice. It'll be like flying a camouflaged wing, making it blend in with the surroundings. Choose a wing that stands out against the scenery that you fly over the most.
Other things to consider when choosing a wing
Sink rate - The rate of decrease in altitude is referred to as the rate of descent (RoD), or sink rate. This will usually be quoted in meters per second.
Glide ratio - The instantaneous ratio of rate of fall to horizontal speed for a glider with the engine switched off. Or, the maximum ratio of rate of fall to horizontal speed that a glider can maintain.
Trim Slow/fast, and maximum speed - Manufacturers will quote the speed of the wing at different trim settings, and the maximum speed with speedbar fully engaged.
Glider Weight - The weight of the wing, usually in KG. Lighter wings may be easier to launch in lower wind speeds.
I hope this paramotor wing guide has been helpful. When you've chosen your wing, you can check out my other guide to help you with your choice of paramotor > HERE.
And find out all of the equipment you'll need to start flying > HERE.