I recently flew my Ozone Viper 4 18m and hooked up the speedbar, something I don’t do very often. Turns out there was a 15-18 mph wind only 500 feet up and I was able to go stationary by pointing straight into it. With GPS speed displayed on my phone, I eased into full bar while adding power. When the speedbar pulleys finally met (took nearly max foot extension), I was going 18 mph. That’s impressive. Mind you, this wing has a form of Speedbar/Trimmer interconnect where pushing speedbar ALSO lets out the trims.
While accelerated I was careful to only engage the tips which got me thinking about its 2D steering, something I don’t otherwise think about. But it’s pretty important in this condition.
In my competing years, or during helmet-cam filming, 2D steering was great. It’s a bummer that it came along late in life for me, but I like it when implemented well. So what constitutes “implementing well?”
First off, it’s got to be adjusted properly. Primarily that means:
- You can reach the brakes and get enough travel even when fully accelerated.
- The first inch of brake travel or so should do nothing in any speedbar/trimmer configuration. That’s avoids parachutal which is more possible while under power trimmed slow, AND ensures the inner trailing edge is not pulled while accelerated.
- The first few inches of straight down brake travel only pulls the tips. That’s because pulling the main brakes when fully accelerated could promote front tucks on many wings.
- The “bowing” or arc of the main brake line should be more than the tip line. Check out the illustration below on 2D Steering. When configured this way, when you pull straight down, the tip deflects first but just a bit.
- Pulling inward on a brake (not down) should only engage the tips for the first part of the pull. That means the main (inner) brake line must have at least 4 inches of play where you pull straight down for 4 inches and nothing happens beyond some tip steer. If you move the brakes mostly outward, the tips do NOT engage but the inner brakes do.
Making brake line adjustments without understanding the implications, or even if you do, is risky. It is for me. Tie a knot wrong, then have a brake let go just as you REALLY need it, and things could go south quickly. That’s especially true if you’re into low, precision flying where 3 seconds of missing brake pull (before you get to the rear riser) could be fugly (f’n ugly). Tying them too short could cause spin/stall, and too long could prevent ENOUGH pull.
There’s two types of tip steering that I’ve seen. Stabilo and tip brake. Tip brakes, the most common, cup the very tip of the trailing edge in a way that both slows the tip down and pulls it over in that direction. It gives awesome handling. Stabilo steering is aerodynamically efficient but less effective at turning. Pulling a stabilo line to turn is more influencing the wing than turning. Try it while you’re kiting or flying—it works, just not very quickly.
Another observation: skill is what makes the pilot good, and has far more influence than gear most of the time. I marveled at the Dudek team pilot who used a stick for tip steering, but more importantly, it went to the stabilo. What? Yup, that man killed the fast part of slalom courses using stabilo steering. Even I can do it with regular steering, but with that? Big bag of NOPE.
Why Use Any Tip Steering?
The big reason is that while fully accelerated on reflex wings, you don’t want to pull main brakes. Turning should only be done using tip steering. Some wings require only tips be used when trims are fast OR speedbar is applied. But many, if not most, don’t require tip steering if just trimmed fast. On those wings, the only time tip steering is needed is when on speedbar. How often do you fly on speedbar?
If you fly cross country then it’s possible tip steering toggles would be good.
Higher end free flight wings have handles on the rear riser for use while accelerated, but that hasn’t become common on motoring wings.
Most pilots, even good ones doing precision flying, probably don’t have much use for 2D.
The main benefit is for low-level maneuvering where you’re going from slow flight (cornering) to full bar. As you add speedbar you VERY MUCH don’t want to be pulling those center brakes. Keep your hands high and inside the risers on those fast runs to only engages the tips. That is very useful.
A minute side benefit is having less drag when using inner (main) brakes to slow down, especially in the flare, and maybe the ability to go ever-so-slightly slower. The tips contribute more drag than lift, but I’ve never noticed the difference.
But do you do slaloms using speedbar? If you do, like down around the bushes, you’re a good candidate for 2D steering and will appreciate it as you roll out of a turn and feed in speedbar. Otherwise, well adjusted brakes will eliminate some line and a small amount of complexity.