Let the testing begin.

This Enterprise trip has several missions besides fun. One is getting pictures that illustrate a certain type of light wind reverse launch. Another mission is to quantify various aspects of handling.

Naturally there are some wings that I really like and some that I don’t care for so much. Mostly it revolves around handling. I’m not terribly interested in going fast or doing aerobatics but I love precision maneuvering, whether it be competition or dragging my feet down a winding drainage trails.

How do you quantify handling, though? It’s so nebulous.

Mostly it amounts to brake pressure and response. A big plus to good handling, not necessarily for new pilots, is light brake pressure. Why not measure that pressure to see what it takes to achieve certain results? Among many other elements to handling are how it responds to side loads, how much it yaws and whether brake input also pulls the glider sideways instead of just slowing down that side. These are important but not as much as simple brake pressure and response.

Fish Scales

That brings us to the fish scales.

I set out to measure brake pressures using simple fish scales attached to the brake toggles then performing some simple maneuvers. My plan is to use the same tests on each wing tested. I’ll explain the items in the wing reviews section.

Pressure and response won’t define  how a glider flies, but will certainly give great insight into it. Having “crisp” handling, for example, means that a little brake instigates a big turn quickly.

The glider I fly the most is a Spice 22—small, squirrelly, more challenging to kite and not suited to ham handedness or big air. But its handling is incredible. Here’s what I found.

It takes about 9 pounds of brake pull to level stall (no bank) a Spice 22 at my weight (235 lbs including motor and fuel). I didn’t do a stall but could tell it was close at 8 pounds and the pressure increase slowed. Five pounds of pressure moves the brakes about 5 inches and is enough to get the Spice into an increasing spiral dive. Just over 4 pounds is enough, actually. Less than that and it will roll in but then settle into a mellow turn. I do the test from the mellow turn then see how much more it makes it to start steepening. Once it starts from that point, it will continue to increase with no more pressure until you would be pointed straight down in a nose-over spiral.

I plan to do this testing to other wings whenever I review them and will add the results to the appropriate wing results. It would also be telling to see what brake pressure and length was required at trim fast and full speedbar configurations.

We’re doing all this south of Phoenix, AZ near Casa Grande. Regretfully we didn’t make it up to Lake Pleasant where other Phoenix area pilots are flying for the weekend. That’s a beautiful area. Years back I got some gorgeous footage of Mo Sheldon flying there for Risk & reward.

Tomorrow we’re going to Picacho Peak, another area where I’ve not spent several memorable flying sessions. We hope to capture a bit of the beauty.

Back to flying and trying. Life’s a learning curve, I’m enjoying the climb.

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Another fun thing I did was twisting around under the risers and flying around backwards. Tim captured it with full zoom.

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Photos by Tim Kaiser except #2 which is Tim Kaiser.