Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Gin Glider Comments

Gin "Glider Family" Notes

I’ve flown Gin gliders exclusively for the last four years. The following are some comments on my experiences with the current Gin "family" of gliders; other pilots may have different impressions, glider preferences and even results seem very pilot-related. I am a Gin Team pilot.

I have 100+ hours on the SM Boom III and a similar amount on the IV, and around 40 on the new M Boomerang Sport. I've flown both in all sorts of conditions ranging from light to very strong, mountains and flats. I also have a fair number of hours on the Zoom Race (50+) and Gangster. I’ve also been flying the Beetle tandem some this spring. The gliders are all related, so these notes are written that way.

The Boom IV is the obvious performance benchmark for the family. The IV excels at gliding well at speed--it's a competition-focused tool. It also climbs well--I can normally get to the top or near the top of the stack on the IV. Brake pressure is stiff and precise, and the whole glider feels very hard in the air. Every single air movement is translated to the pilot, which is great for locating thermals and really feeling the air. This “air feel” is primarily why I prefer to fly comp gliders most of the time. The IV out-glides the old Boom III, especially at higher speeds. The IV prefers to be flown relatively fast in thermals, and is always "in front" of the pilot. It almost never pitches back behind the pilot when encountering thermals or headwind gusts, which makes it go into the wind very well. It requires regular strong input to keep the glider from pitching forward aggressively in strong air, but this is also why it tends to go upwind so well. The IV tends to frontal when it collapses on bar, which is generally a faster recovery than an asym deflation. It also tends to frontal in big collapses in extreme turbulence, again preferable to a big asym. Most frontals are relatively casual even with some bar on, but big asymetrics at speed generally result in excitement and some loss of altitude. At comparable speeds the IV is about as stable as the III, but because it's faster at 1/2 bar collapses can be more dynamic at similar bar settings—for the first year of flying the IV I’d often look down at my GPS and think, “Am I really going that fast?” The only issue I have with the IV is that the tips get stuck in the lines somewhat easily compared to the II and III. The IV is an "orbit" glider, meaning that it's best to just set the bank angle and then ride it around instead of constantly adjusting it. A friend called the IV a “sail plane,” that’s a good metaphor.

I had given up flying 2/3 gliders a few years back as all of this class of glider that I'd flown seemed to only offer the performance of a 2 with all the instability of a 3. The 2/3 gliders also didn't offer very good "feel" for the air, and without the air "feel" I would think the glider was fine and then it would all go to hell, especially on bar. Recovering 2/3s was every bit as entertaining as a 3. For this reason I started flying DHV 2 gliders like the Gangster and the Zoom when I needed something solid for deep wilderness flights (Andes, over the Grand Canyon) or to film and take pictures in the air, and various Boomerangs when I was free flying or competing. I take more collapses flying the 2s because I pay less attention to the air and the wing, but the collapses are benign--on both the Zoom and Gangster I felt confident flying in even very strong conditions with the brakes in one hand and a camera in the other, or both hands off the brakes. I've folded the Zoom Race up a few times without the brakes in my hands, no big deal. The Zoom Race offers very respectable performance with a large margin of inherent stability, plus it’s more fun to mess with (wing-overs, acro) than a comp glider, at least for me. The Zoom Race does take proper weight shift control and input to stay open in rough air.

I first flew the new Boomerang Sport while shooting photos with a French friend. I was honestly prepared for another DHV 2/3 that didn't go all that well compared to a proper comp glider, and yet blew up a lot. My first few flights were into windy strong spring conditions here in the Canadian Rockies--the valleys are already hot, yet the temps aloft are usually below freezing, meaning the lapse rate and thermal strength tend to be high. Right off launch it was clear that the Sport is a new glider--I could feel the air very well despite the "buttery" smooth feeling of the wing. As I thermalled out in rowdy air I thought, “Hey, this feels nice!” On the first glide I pushed half bar and the glide was good; I kept the bar on as I flew into a mild lee, surprisingly the glider stayed open and cut through the chop smoothly. I actually forgot to completely release the speed bar when I connected with the first lee thermal, the glider just felt good on bar and the step-down speed system means the bar pressure is quite low. My 5020 confirms that glide and speed are both better than the Zoom Race and very close to the Boomerang III on most glides.

After many more flights I’ve decided the Sport does three things very well. First, It's incredibly pitch stable, meaning that it seldom gets "out front" of the pilot, yet it doesn't lag behind the pilot in thermals or when hitting headwind gusts. I don't know how Gin and the other designers made these two contradictory factors work, but they did, a first for DHV 2 or 2/3 glider for me. Second, the Sport is also the best coordinated glider I've ever flown--set the angle, relax, go up. It's almost like cheating. Finally, it glides on bar very well--it feels very close to the III in glide up to about half bar, and it's stable even with a lot of bar on. I can keep the bar at half or more in air that I would have to reduce the bar on the IV in. I’ve done some filming and photography while flying the Sport; at first I was concerned that it would be too hectic to fly one-handed, but it’s solid enough that I’ve sold my Zoom Race, my old “one handed” glider. My French friend, a professional photographer, also uses the Sport as his photo platform while flying one-handed even in strong conditions. That says a lot about both the glider and my friend's skill flying one-handed...

In short, the Sport has changed my basic opinion of DHV 2/3 gliders from “No” (all the instability of a 3 with the performance of a 2) to a “Yes!” It seems like the first 2/3 with very close to “3” performance and “2” recovery characteristics. I’m considering flying my Sport in my next two competitions—both are at big mountain sites with strong conditions where the glides between thermals can be very turbulent; if I can keep a decent glide with more bar on then I can with my IV then perhaps I can actually fly faster overall? The climb rate seems as good as the IV, so if I can fly faster between thermals then it could be a good solution. I’ve done enough competitions with people on Boom Sports to see that the Sport glides well compared to anything in the sky; it’s annoying to be on a Boom IV and have a Boom Sport keeping pace. I can drop the Sports with more bar, but sometimes I have to get off the bar in choppy air that the Sports can glide through on bar. Maybe this is lack of skill or faith on my part, but either way it makes me wonder if a Boom IV is the best tool for me to go fast at rough sites.

For competitions in relatively humid air (Eastern North America, Europe in general) I’ll continue to fly the IV, same for flatland comps where the climbs are strong but the inter-thermal glides generally OK (Chelan, Texas). Nothing goes like a Boom IV on 3/4 bar!

My only complaint with the Sport is relatively minor; the brakes attach to the riser with magnets, which seemed like a great idea at first. However, the bakes tend to detach from the risers when laying out the glider, and then also re-attach when launching, which is annoying. I like to feel my glider as it comes up, the feeling of the brakes being locked to the risers as I lift the glider feels like a possible brake line knot until the magnets release. I prefer snaps.

The final glider I’ve been flying some is the Gin tandem, the Beetle. I’ve flown a lot of tandems over the years, but my favorite was always the old Merak from about 1997. I’ve wanted a glider that flew like that tandem ever since. The closest tandem I’ve flown to the Merak was the Advance tandem, but the Beetle now takes the place of the Merak in my “best tandem” category. It launches easily (always the first consideration when flying passengers with very inconsistent responses to the command, “RUN!”), has good brake pressure and just flies well. I set my first tandem landing on the Beetle up like I did for my old tandem and found myself much too high; it’s more like a Zoom in terms of glide.

I wrote all this down to help me think about the differences between gliders, if you’ve read all of it you’re persistent, good luck with whatever you fly!


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