Nirvana strives for refined, good looking performers in the premium price arena. I’ve flown this machine before (at the Endless Footdrag) but didn’t do a write-up. It’s time.
This flight, in November, 2014 at Wings Over Winter near Orlando, was on Eric Farewell’s regular ride. I’m guessing it had 20 hours on it. Weather was a typical Florida winter day with light breezes of 78° F air. Brutal.
Weight: With a half full tank and reserve parachute, this was a heavy machine, probably 90 pounds. Nirvana lists a 60 pound weight without harness so it’s probably almost 70 pounds with harness.
The Simonini 230 is a powerhouse that extracts it’s piece of gravity. Thankfully, the frame is remarkably well balanced so even my scrawny 142 pounds was able to easily get up myself.
Harness & Suspension: The harness was extremely comfortable, among the most comfortable I’ve experienced both in flight and on the ground. It has an anti-torque strap that you wouldn’t want to forget since it looks like it could reach the prop. If it can happen…
The seatboard stayed flat while walking around and came back to flat even after leaning over. Many machines, including my Miniplane, struggle with this and, if you don’t get that seatboard flat before launching, it’s far more difficult. I’ve tried other harnesses on the Miniplane and it doesn’t always happen so it depends on your size.
Regarding attachment, the Nirvana is commonly called a mid hook-in because of where you clip in while on the ground. But in flight it takes on typical high hook-in geometry. I sometimes read that low hook-ins are better for high performance flying and find this to be utter nonsense. Not only from my own experience but also from competition results. A good pilot will make any machine sing.
Starting: Electric start does rock if you don’t mind it’s extra weight. I wanted to kite the wing before starting the engine to get a feel for what to expect since I’d hate to fall and hadn’t flown a heavier machine for a while. But after getting the wing up, turning around and walking, I just pushed the button, it started and I took off. Brilliant.
Its kill switch is cool but you must be careful. Pressing the button starts the motor, pressing it again stops it and you don’t have to hold the button. Since it’s right there at your thumb it’s easy to push accidentally. My practice on landing is to press and hold the kill switch to make sure it stops. I did that after landing but released it momentarily then pushed it again by accident. Of course she started immediately. No problem but something to be aware–make sure you turn off the master switch (removing power from the starter) immediately after landing. You can reach it easily while standing with the motor on.
Ground Handling & Kiting: It’s so well balanced, maybe by putting some load on your waist, that I was able to walk around comfortably after landing.
Launch: The reverse inflation was typical, even easy in spite of the motor’s heft. I’m guessing a power forward would be no problem up to a 25 sq meter wing or so, maybe much more. Getting into the seat was easier than many, not even requiring more than a little wiggle.
Climbout & Torque: Climbout was outstanding as you would expect. Antitorque vanes eliminated probably 60 to 70% of torque effects allowing a turn against torque using only weight shift. The anti-torque strap probably helped on launch but my experience is that such straps actually help only a little bit.
I first flew these antitorque vanes on the Scout and found they do work, they’re more than a gimmick. There is some cost in thrust but, judging from the climb rate, it’s not much. Still, I suspect it would benefit from more riser offset since that entails no loss of thrust.
Flight: This is among the most comfortable, smooth, machines I’ve flown. Throttle response was smooth, immediate and predictable through the range. Idle was a bit high.
Weight Shift: With the anti-torque strap connected you get very little weight shift so I undid that and wrapped it around something. Then the units moving bars and other flexibility gave me 3 to 4 inches of travel. It was easy to do weight shift turns but then that wouldn’t take much on my little wing. But it was better than you’d expect from a high hookin machine.
Thrust: Must have been in the 180 lb range. It would be plenty for doing tandems.
Endurance (-): On a reasonably efficient EN 1-2 wing at 10 lbs per sq meter loading I’d guess you’d easily get 2 hours but that’s a SWAG (semi wild ass guess).
Vibration: Harness padding and work on smoothing out the motor makes this an extremely smooth runner, among the best I’ve flown. I remember one of the Pollinis being this smooth and maybe one other.
Sound: About what you’d expect for the power.
Safety: It would benefit from a second hoop just inside the prop’s radius. Like most machines, the cage will not protect a hand in an accidental thrust-up. The good news is that, with electric start, you can easily start it on your back. Still, reality suggests that pilots will wind up starting while standing in front it. It would be nice to have more protection.
I already mentioned the kill switch being the same as the start switch. That’s handy but you must get into that habit pattern of turning off the master right after landing.
Construction & Reparability: It’s very well built and good looking but the cowled motor increases complexity somewhat. Primarily, it will take longer to get to some components if repairs are needed. A possible benefit is that cooling may be improved from the cowl parts by directing airflow into the right places.
I never looked at the temperatures because I taxed it so lightly.
Transport: This machine is made to travel. It doesn’t break down as far as stick-based models but it sure is faster. It’s frame is the smallest piece but it can pack into a very stout case that even most baggage handlers won’t kill.
Cost: It’s at the high end of their already high end, probably over $10k. A lot goes behind this company — I’ve seen their factory and it’s quite an extensive operation.
Overall & More Info: Smooth, powerful, comfortable, sexy and expensive.