Speed Demon is a reflex glider intended for speed with
collapse resistance. It's similar to the Dudek Reaction (they now
have a new one, the Reaction GST) but I did not compare line, cells or
other dimensions. The Speed Demon retails for $2500.
Tested in-flight weight was 230 lbs with
a riser spread of 18.6" using a Blackhawk Rhino 172. This machine did
not have a speedbar so I was unable to test the full speed range. There is
no weight range yet published but I have been told that I'm near the
bottom which will make for significantly slower speeds and less crisp handling.
Using numbers from a reaction 27 wing (27.8
m² flat, 24.6 m² projected), the projected wing loading was 230 / 24.6 =
9.35 lbs / m².
Handling (3): It feels solid and
smooth. The correct and smaller
size would have likely been much better but all reflex gliders (that
I've flown) sacrifice some handling for their speed and solidness. This one
has good responsiveness but took more pressure to achieve the turns. It
can handle the increased pressure, though, with little risk of spinning.
Handling gets noticeably stiffer
with the trimmers out, as with most reflex wings, but I didn't do much trim-out maneuvering.
If I get another chance to fly one then I'll add comment here. Tip steering
works by making the tip line (stabilo)
readily accessible for turning. If you're flying it accelerated, you'll
appreciate this feature since the brakes are heavier at the fastest
speeds. You pull the left tip line to turn left
and right tip line to turn right. With the trimmers out, it's easier to
turn it with tip steering plus weight shift is also effective.
It's recommended not to use the speedbar in
the slow trim configuration, especially while using brakes for steering or
Inflation (4): For a reflex glider,
inflation may be a bit better than average. It was quite easy to reverse
launch in a 6 mph breeze. It only gets a 4 because all reflex gliders tend
to require more effort. The original Reflex was a 1 on inflation. However,
once the technique is learned, especially that you have to stay on the A's
longer, then it's not an issue. It tends to come up straight and is easily
controllable with the brakes alone although not as much as lower aspect
Efficiency (4): This is a mixed bag.
The glider seemed quite efficient with the trimmers in. That was most
apparent on landing where I could fly along the ground, power off, for 15
feet or so while bleeding off speed. Expect your fuel burn per hour to be
high but, since you're going faster, the fuel burn per mile will be
average. Not surprisingly, the faster you go, the more fuel burn increases
and, since reflex gliders go faster than others, their fuel burn is
commensurately higher. A paraglider is an exceedingly draggy craft—going
fast means gulping fuel.
Speed (8): Trim speed (hands up, no
speedbar) averaged 23.6 mph, trimmers out=25.6.4 mph, speedbar full=not
tested. These speeds will be much better for pilots at the recommended
higher weights. This is part of the reason why its almost not fair to the
wing to test below the weight range.
Construction (5): According to
Elisabeth Guerin, a now-experienced wing inspector, the glider is not as
stout as some other reflex gliders but is plenty strong for it's mission.
The lighter construction is probably what improves inflation characteristics.
Certification & Safety (6): To
my knowledge, none of the reflex gliders are certified thru their entire
speed range, that is, with trimmers out and full speedbar. This one has
not been through any certification process but, depending on how close it
is to the Reaction, it would be expected to be a CEN Performance which is
about like a DHV 2. With the trimmers full out or with speedbar used in
the slow configuration, all bets are off.
It would not be ideal for a first wing since
it's more challenging to inflate and it has some dark corners that new
pilots should not have to worry about.
Overall: I'm not into going fast
and that is what this wing is about: speed with stability. If speed is part
of your mission than this glider is as good as the other reflex models
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Differences between reflex paragliders and "regular" paragliders |
Origins & Understanding of Reflex Gliders
There are some basic differences between reflex
and "regular" paragliders that revolve around their airfoil shape (right)
and riser set. All wings with trimmers lift the wing's aft section but reflex wings do
it more and with a different profile.
Much of the difference is in that the A's and B's are extremely loaded in
reflex mode (trimmers fast) and so pulling down one A riser does very little.
The center of pressure is farther forward and they are difficult to collapse. In
fact, one reason why they had difficulty certifying the wings is that the test
pilots couldn't collapse them in certain configurations. Plus, the effort
increased airspeed making the collapses even more dramatic when they did
happen. But such a test isn't very realistic.
One telling experience I had was while kiting.
Being skeptical about the stability claims I took to kiting one on a brisk
spring morning with the factory test pilot present. Kiting with the trims in was
fairly standard and the glider behaved pretty normally but with less tendency to overfly me. Then he had me leave the brakes alone. The glider would
come forward and go beyond where I thought it would have tucked (frontal) but it
didn't. It just stayed there. Bizarre. Same with the trims out, it was
incredibly resistant to collapsing. Kiting was quite easy using just the tip
A darker side emerged when I went to kite with
the trimmers out using brakes. The wing collapsed almost immediately and was
very difficult to kite. I was told it wasn't designed to be used that way: with
trimmers out and on speedbar it's extremely stable but NOT with the brakes being
If a reflex wing is trimmed fast, unloads a bit, and you pull
a brake, it is far more likely to fold on the pulled side.
Most models recommend against using brakes while trimmed fast for
this vary reason. A few do allow it but, in my experience, even
these models are more subject to tip collapses if brakes are pulled
in this situation.
When trimmed fast, use the tip steering toggles! Of course
check the wing manual to see about your specific wing.
Another note is that most reflex wings do NOT allow the speedbar to
be used with the trims slow. That common practice on free-flight gliders makes reflex airfoils susceptible to large tip collapses, especially if
the brakes are used. Reflex designers logic that there's no reason to
use speedbar if you're trimmed slow. To them that's like hitting the
brakes and gas at the same time.
I've flown quite a few reflex models and they have all exhibited tip
collapses when flown this way. I was testing because of competition: I
wanted to use brakes for turning while flying courses down
low and wanted to find a balance between using medium fast trim,
speedbar and brakes. What I found out was that it's not a good idea!
Some competition pilots who fly reflex wings use the speedbar for height
control and wingtip steering for directional control. That, obviously,
will take some getting used to.
If you want to fly fast with the least likelihood of deflations,
reflex models are perfect. They're a bit harder to launch although that
has improved dramatically over the successive generations, are usually
more sluggish to control but offer the best speed range in our sport.
Overall, these wings serve their mission well provided the get respect and understanding.
Fly them how they're supposed to be flown and you'll do well. Experiment
with non-recommended control inputs and don't be surprised at the
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