here to see
the Spice 22 go through a maneuvers clinic.
This is the most
fun glider I've ever flown. The reason is a combination of super nice
handling and high efficiency. After playing with Alex Varv's loaner in 2004,
I was hooked and, in spite of some trepidation over its lack of
certification, I bought one. I have yet to fly anything that compares to it
for pure carving fun but admit that there's a some tradeoff in risk. Acro
wings have great handling but rarely this kind of efficiency. This wing is
not intended for acro.
I've accumulated an intense 100 hours or so
including two competitions, some soaring and many tests of techniques.
Tested wing loading (projected) was 230 lbs
per 19.4 m˛ or 11.8 lbs/m˛. That's pretty heavy. Using Flat wing area of
22 m˛, the wing loading is (230/22) 10.45 lbs/m˛.
recommend this wing only to pilots who have mastered active flying; that
is, keeping the wing exactly overhead even in moderate (level
3) turbulence. It's incredibly light handling and rapid spin-up in a
big collapse will necessitate it.
Handling (10): Awesome, its raison
d'ętre. When braked, the tips curl in which both slows them down and
pulls them sideways. Other wings do this, too, but when combined with
the high loading and efficiency it makes for incredible responsiveness.
That combination of efficiency and handling is what makes it so
alluring to me.
Like the Silex, pulling just one brake will
dive it towards the ground. But incredibly flat turns are possible with
more opposite brake pressure to prevent the dive. Anybody who says the
wing dives in a turn is simply not controlling it. Yes, if you just tug
on one brake, it will point earthward. That's part of the reason why
this is not a beginner wing and part of the reason why some pilots like
it. If they want to dive at the ground, it will do so with
Inflation (7): Easy. Its so small that
it doesn't tug back so you can easily keep moving. But if it starts
coming up crooked it'll go over sideways quickly. If not for that
characteristic I would call it the easiest inflating wing I've launched.
Don't overdo the A's, like most MacParas, it'll front tuck pretty
easily. Being so clean it will also overfly you quite easily.
Kiting, on the other hand, is harder for a few reasons. 1)
as the wing gets lower, trying to use the brakes will cause the
tips fall back before effecting a turn. 2) it's squirrelly. Where the
fatter beginner gliders will recover from getting off-center with brakes
alone, this one will require a step or two sideways. If you have a
limited launch area (like the top of a motorhome) and high, bumpy winds,
this wing will be more of a handful. This characteristic is common on
high-performance soaring wings, usually rated DHV 2-3 or higher. 3) It
overflies and front tucks easily, you must be a bit more proactive
keeping it from surging. Make no mistake, you can master kiting this
wing as well as any other, it will just take an hour or so with it in
each condition you want to master. It requires a bit more attention than
Efficiency (10): It's basically a
scaled down comp glider—real high aspect ratio and with a bazillion cells, so it's
quite efficient. Even though it's smaller, it has a better sink rate
than my Silex and a much better glide ratio. My direct drive motor takes
about 4700 rpm to fly the Silex level and 4400 rpm on the Spice.
This high efficiency allows for lots of cool
flying and even soaring (be careful, though). On landing, it maintains
its speed (energy) enough that you can flare and skim the ground for 15
feet or so before needing to touch without needing to swoop.
As you would expect, it has a higher sink
rate owing to its higher speeds.
Speed (7): It's not as fast as a
similar sized reflex glider (Action, Reaction, Revolution, Etc.). Being
so small, it's even more sensitive to weight than a larger wing. So a
heavy pilot will go like mad on this thing. I only weigh about 145 lbs
so it's only middling fast. Of course few gliders build such an overload
into the published weight ranges as the Spice so those reflex gliders
will typically call for a larger size at a given weight. In that regard,
the speed is closer. The Spice isn't that particularly fast (for the
size) but its quite efficient at its higher speeds.
With trimmers out and full speedbar the
glider is obviously fast. It's also more susceptible to frontal
collapses than other gliders I've flown. The 25 sq meter model is
certified (AFNOR Performance) and doesn't even have trimmers, possibly
because it would have been difficult to certify. That explains why using
trimmers and speedbar simultaneously risks a potentially wild ride in a
Construction (5): Built soundly
although probably not as stout as some others. I only say that because
it's so lightweight which is also part of its blissful inflation. It
still passed the normal 8 G tests so, unless you're doing intense
aerobatics, its plenty strong. I've put it through enormous paces,
especially high wind kiting, and has withstood all that beautifully.
After over 100 hours its handling like it did on day 1.
The wing comes with trimmers, a stuff sack
and speedbar. The trimmers are unusual in that there is a white line to
indicate neutral. The manual doesn't even describe the trimmers so I've
done some testing. Minimum sink rate occurs with the trimmers set full
slow and light brake pressure. Neutral (white line) is a good compromise
and approximates the best glide ratio setting. Trimmers full out speed
it up handily at some increased risk of frontal collapses.
Certification & Safety (2): Here's
where you sacrifice. The model I fly (22) is not certified probably
because it would be too dynamic at the high weights allowed. The biggest risk,
though, has not come from weird collapses, rather it's come from pilots
over-controlling it. The super responsive, light handling makes easy to
get carried away beyond a pilot's skill or anticipation. With little effort this
wing can be turned to dive at the ground or let the pilot cause a severe oscillation very quickly.
As to collapse recovery it's been
surprisingly good. Although I've had a couple, it recovered very quickly
with minimal input. But that input is critical, if she starts turning,
it will get steep in a hurry. Also, collapses large (over 50%)
while accelerated verge on the violent. Admittedly one of my collapses
was pure stupidity. While flying along with a friend I spotted some
geese walking on the ground. "Lets go get 'em" I said on the radio as I
simultaneously pushed out the speedbar, flicked up the trimmers and let
off the power. Of course the front of the glider tucked under! It
recovered just as quickly when I reversed my bafoonery.
Another collapse happened while competing in
the 2005 April convention. I was accelerated with the trimmers 3/4 out
and it was turbulent. Most pilots weren't using full trimmers (for good
reason). In spite of 40% of the wing folding under, I was able to steer
enough to remain in the course and complete the task.
I've also had a couple spins but it recovered
immediately with hands up after only a quarter turn. It's very
sensitive to excessive brakes—more than other gliders. Due to it's
overloaded weights it is not very susceptible to parachutal stall.
In smooth air this wing is pure joy with
minimal risk increase. But when it gets bumpy you must already be
skilled at keeping it overhead. For the pilot who has really mastered
such active piloting, it may be just as safe as any other wing.
This most certainly *not*
a good choice for a first wing nor for pilots who fly infrequently or
tend to be mechanical.
Overall: This is my favorite glider
but I realize that it can bite easier than most. Enjoy, but be careful.