AirDesign is a somewhat new company owned by Stephan Stieglair, a former world champion and former designer for Pro Design, UP and Airwave. The Rama Flex is their first entry into paramotoring. I’m told that it has been certified by DHV to the EN 926 standard and they are going through other certifications as well. There is an XS size that would have been more appropriate for me but that was, unfortunately, not available. It did not appear to be certified at flight time, at least according to the wing placard or Para2000.org.
I flew the wing with my half-full weight-shift Miniplane in a moderate breeze of 8 to 12 mph. With 138 pounds of me, 5 pounds of cold weather gear, 55 pounds of motor and about 12 pounds of wing, I checked in at 210 pounds (95 kg). So I was light on this with a wing loading of about 8.3 pounds per m². The XS, a 20.5 m² would have been much better. I was, however, in the middle of its published weight range (88 – 110 kg).
Handling: Handling on this glider must be judged when using the tip steering. With just the brakes it’s kinda sluggish both trim in and out. In fact I didn’t see a huge difference on the different trim settings but suspect that, at higher pilot weights, you would notice an increase in responsiveness with trims in.
The tip steering is what sets this glider apart. Comfortable handles are conveniently located just above the brakes for easy reach with a finger and they are quite effective. They engage two outer brake lines exactly like on the Ozone Viper. A little pressure does a lot and, for cross country flying, you’d just use the tip steering.
I didn’t do any cloverleaf type flying to see how it handled at full speedbar but, if it holds up in that environment, it might be a respectable ride for newer competition pilots who want to use speedbar. You’ll need to use speedbar to extract most of its potential. I’m told by the importer that it is acceptable to use the brakes while fully accelerated but the handling is stiff so tip steering is recommended. That is what I used and it was extremely effective.
Pulling the regular brakes doesn’t turn a lot but does cause a fair amount of riser lift where you feel your butt cheek go up on the braked side, a phenomenon more pronounced on weight shift machines. I call this adverse riser lift since it’s opposite to your turn direction. Pilots using weight shift will simply overpower it and everyone else will rightfully just get used to it. There is no downside that I can think of.
Inflation: There was about 10 mph breeze so I simulated light wind by bringing it up while walking downwind. It performed well, coming up and kiting easily with the A’s with minimal tendency for the tips to fall back.
It uses nylon tubes to keep the airfoil’s leading edge shape which should help in no wind launches and may help slightly with efficiency. It’s all the rage now so I’m hoping that it really does help. I can’t tell the difference during my casual tests from wings that don’t have this feature but then it’s difficult to tease apart other differences. You’d need to compare the same wing with them and without.
Risers: It has a pretty standard 4-riser system with no split-A’s, magnetic clips*, trimmers and tip steering. Brake keepers use magnetic clips* that easily clog up in iron rich sand. I’m surprised any wing makers still use these things since the covered magnets are so much better in such soils. They could stand to be a bit stouter.
*2013 Mar 30 The manufacturer has since replaced the brake magnets for snaps in current production models.
Efficiency: I didn’t do any empirical tests but it felt like it should score well here. One good sign was that I was able to EASILY fly at fast trim on full speedbar but that’s likely because I’m so light. I’d need the XS size (20.5 flat) at my weight.
Speed: This wing is reasonably fast but only if you’re willing to use the speedbar. As the numbers show, the trimmers don’t add a lot of speed. Calculated wind speed was 8 mph. Speeds were 25 mph at slow trim, 28 mph at fast trim and 34.5 mph at fast trim and full speedbar. The image at left was what I wrote down in flight. I did try one time from slow to neutral but the difference was negligible.
At slow trim: 25 mph, run 2 = 25.5 mph
At fast trim: 27.5 mph. run 2 = 28 mph
At fast trim, full speedbar : 34 mph, run 2 = 35 mph
Construction: Nothing out of the ordinary.
Certification & Safety: The placard, shown at right, shows that this model is not certified. Apparently later production gliders are certified EN B according to importer Chris Bowles.
Overall: This would be great second glider for pilots with some experience, mostly due to the added complexity of tip steering. I’m not a fan of giving new pilots another complication in an already-foreign environment. But for someone with PPG2 level skills and 50 or so flights, this is a great possibility. At lighter wing loadings (like how I flew it), and withOUT the tip steering used, the Rama Flex does have good beginner handling and would seem to be forgiving.