We recommend new pilots fly certified gliders since they’re not equipped to be test pilots. Even though the motor may change a wing’s handling, and certification is not done with a motor, it’s still helpful to know how a glider behaves without the motor–a valuable starting point.

EN certifications of A through D have become the standard. The most common certification systems are illustrated below along with how they relate to recommended pilot skill.

Paragliders have been tested for years by several organizations to help insure they are reasonably safe for the intended skill level. Even though most testing is done without a motor, it’s beneficial to have an idea how your prospective wing will behave when things go awry. It’s a valuable starting point.

Our sport and its gear are unregulated in the U.S. and most other countries. Germany, however, requires licensing and certification of both wings and paramotors. No surprise then that the only two organizations certifying motors and wings for powered use are in Germany: DULV and DMSV (now likely defunct). We can only hope that motor testing evolves to include safety standards as listed on A Better Paramotor.

Changes are occurring in the testing realm as the organizations sort out what they feel are the most appropriate tests. In the past, DULV has generally accepted DHV testing then simply flown the wing with a motor to insure it had no dark corners under power. It’s possible for a wing to be fine for free flight but unsuitable when powered. That’s rare, to be sure, but its nice to have it tested.

Most paragliders have one of the certifications listed below and no specific motor credentials. In my experience, about one in 20 wings will have a roll oscillation with certain motors. There’s no predicting which ones and it’s easily controlled. Of the ones that have had it, none have been divergent (continuously getting worse). A wing may do it on one motor but not another and vice versa. Wings that are excessively slow or prone to parachutal stall should be avoided with power.

Some reflex gliders struggle with certification because the current testing methods consider recovery from maladies (such as collapses) rather than resistance. Reflex gliders strive to resist collapses but when they do happen, recovery can be very dynamicï and it’s a trade off. Current certification standards don’t recognize this trade. 

The overall classification of a glider is found by taking the highest (e.g. most demanding) classification obtained in any single test flight category. Classifications may contain a suffix denoting the restriction to a certain class of harnesses to be used with this glider. Gliders are tested according to the manufacturer’s manual and include parameters like weights and riser separation.

Certification Comparison

Organization Rating Values Differences
DHV – German 1, 1-2, 2, 2-3, 3 For collapses and other maneuvers, rates based more on recovery than entry resistance. Test pilot makes the ratings.
EN (CEN) – European A, B, C, D Combination of entry resistance and ease of recovery.
SHV – Swiss
& AFNOR
Standard, Performance, Competition  
DULV Standard, Advanced, Competition Concentrates on testing with a motor in those areas more likely to cause problems under power.
DMSV Standard, Performance, Competition  (Likely defunct — their prior link is dead)

Certification Rating Equivalents

DHV AFNOR CEN Description
1 Standard A Most benign handling, quickest to recover from deflations, spins and other maladies with no pilot input.
1-2 Standard B Fairly benign handling, quick to recover from deflations, spins and other maladies with minimal pilot input.
2 Performance C More demanding characteristics and stronger reactions to turbulence, deflations and other maladies. Not as forgiving.
2-3 Performance C More demanding characteristics and stronger reactions to turbulence, deflations and other maladies. For highly skilled pilots.
3 Competition D Most demanding characteristics. Requires advanced handling in deflations and other maladies. For highly skilled and risk-tolerant pilots.

DHV classification of paragliders

courtesy www.DHV.de

The DHV classification scheme gives a scale for the level of pilot skills required for safe operation. It’s obtained through test flights as part of the DHV/OeAeC type test procedure. Tests are meant only to provide safety relevant information, NOT to measure performance.

The overall classification of a glider is found by taking the highest (e.g. most demanding) classification obtained in any single test flight category. Classifications may contain a suffix denoting the restriction to a certain class of harnesses to be used with this glider. Gliders are tested according to the manufacturer’s manual and include parameters like weights and riser separation.

Addition  

Description

 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. Recommended for regularly flying pilots.

 2-3

Paragliders with very demanding flying characteristics and potentially violent reactions to turbulence and pilot errors. Recommended for experienced and regularly flying pilots.

 3

Paragliders with very demanding flying characteristics and potentially very violent reactions to turbulence and pilot errors, little scope for pilot errors. For expert pilots.

The performance of today’s class 1 and 1-2 gliders is pretty close to the performance of more demanding gliders. As their good-natured flight characteristics give a high level of active and passive safety, they are recommended to anybody who doesn’t fly regularly or whose motivation to fly is fun rather than ambition.

On the other hand class 2 gliders, which were formerly used in training, due to their higher speed-potential today require an actively flying pilot who knows how to recover from abnormal flight situations.

Experienced pilots of course will like their handling characteristics and their high rate of active safety, which is combined with a level of performance equaling that of high performance competition wings just a couple of years ago.

When viewing test reports you should bear in mind that test flights are flown and evaluated in a well-standardized manner, as this is the only way to achieve reproducible test results. This gives you an objective scale to compare gliders, but any statement concerning in-flight characteristics applies in absolute precision only to maneuvers flown in a standardized manner under perfect test conditions.

Any safety relevant observations of the test pilot which are not covered by the standardized test flight evaluation are quoted under “Additional flight safety remarks” at the end of the test report

EN classification of paragliders

courtesy European Union. Test results from the primary testing facility can be found here or search “Reports – Air Turquoise”.
# Flight Characteristics Pilot Skills Required
A Paragliders with maximum passive safety and extremely forgiving flying characteristics. Gliders with good resistance to departures from normal flight. Designed for all pilots including pilots under all levels of training.
B Paragliders with good passive safety and forgiving flying characteristics. Gliders with some resistance to departures from normal flight. Designed for all pilots including pilots under all levels of training.
C Paragliders with moderate passive safety and with potentially dynamic reactions to turbulence and pilot errors. Recovery to normal flight may require precise pilot input. Designed for pilots familiar with recovery techniques, who fly �actively� and regularly, and understand the implications of flying a glider with reduced passive safety.
D Paragliders with demanding flying characteristics and potentially violent reactions to turbulence and pilot errors. Recovery to normal flight requires precise pilot input. Designed for pilots well practiced in recovery techniques, who fly very actively, have significant experience of flying in turbulent conditions, and who accept the implications of flying such a wing.

DULV

Entered by Footflyer through correspondence with Swing gliders.

#/Value Flight Characteristics Pilot Skills Required
Standard Benign. Designed for all pilots including new pilots or those who fly infrequently.
Advanced Requires more advanced piloting but still recovers predictably from maneuvers. Designed for pilots with at least moderate skill and understanding of flight behavior.

DMSV

Likely defunct. Their website is a dead link and we’ve seen no certifications in years. It was a German Paramotoring Association.

Here is more information.

Current Certifying Bodies

Germany has so many orgs for certification because certification is required of their equipment.

DULV – German powered aviation certification body. Somewhat less stringent requirements but testing is done mostly with a motor.

DMSV – German Paramotoring Association, probably defunct. Testing was done mostly with a motor. Here’s more.

DHV – German hang gliding and paragliding aviation certification body. The sport is more regulated in Germany than probably any other country and these certifications are required. They emphasize recovery behaviors.

EN (CEN) – European standards body. Their website lists a 4-tiered naming convention, A through D, where A and B are like DHV 1 and DHV 1-2. C is like DHV 2 and D is like DHV 3. CEN is the committee was forming the standards, EN-946 is the standard.

SHV (FSVL) Swiss Hang Gliding and Paragliding Organization. Adopted AFNOR standards and now EN standards.

Related Organizations

EHPU European Hang Gliding and Paragliding Union.

Former Certifying Bodies

A.F.NOR – (was APCUL until 1994) French certification organization. Paragliders have 3 tiers: standard (similar to DHV 1), performance (similar to DHV 2) and competition (similar to DHV 3). These were pass/fail tests rather than the numbered results used by the DHV.

FFVL French Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. Only a very few paragliders were certified under this organization and I’ve never seen one.

ACPUL became A.F.NOR in 1994.

Paramotor Certification

There is no internationally-recognized paramotor certification body. That’s too bad because there is a lot of room for improvement in paramotor safety, especially regarding prop-strike protection and torque mitigation. I can imagine a fairly simple set of tests that could be employed to give a safety rating, much like for cars. They would be objective measures, some of which are based on the “A Better Paramotor” criteria.

Proposed Certification Tests

If there ever is a certification for paramotors here are some of the tests I would love to see. There may be other criteria but we should be able to perform a non-destructive, objective test in order to include them.

  1. How close does the prop tip get to the fuel tank or batteries with 20% of rated full thrust applied to the tip?
  2. How close does one hand get to the prop when squeezed against the most vulnerable part of the cage?
  3. Can the throttle get into the prop during normal arm motion, including during a fall?
  4. Can a foot be made to get to the prop?
  5. What percentage of the outer cage is protected? Outer cage is the part that goes from 30% of the prop radius outward.
  6. Are cage-protection system (netting on most machines) openings less than 2 x 2″? Big opening could allow hands to through. This test could be done using a cone shaped object and reduced to asking how many pounds of pressure it takes to get it to touch the prop at the most vulnerable point.
  7. Is the kill switch readily available with a simple press of button on the same hand holding the throttle?
  8. Is there an alternative motor-kill method reachable easily from by the pilot in flight or after a fall. This could be a choke, spark-plug puller, alternative switch, or other means. The motor must shut off within 3 seconds.
  9. Hanging from two 5 foot ropes, attached 4 feet apart, with a 200 pound pilot, how much twisting occurs at 100 pounds of thrust (or max rated if less than that)?
  10. How quickly can an average pilot be expected to get out of the harness if he only has one hand free?
  11. How much pressure does it take to tip over the cage forward from the top of the netting. This number may be in the ounces for some machines.