27 July 2007

Testing a new wing

For quite a while, I have been more and more dissatisfied with my trusty "Taifun" wing. At first, I just accepted that my inability to rise as fast or as high as most other pilots was due to my lack of skills. I thought I might take a bit longer than most to learn the tricks of staying in the thermal to rise and prolong the flight. My opinion started changing after I purchased a new mounatineering wing to go to the Aconcagua. In the first few flights with it, I felt a notable difference in performance, particularly when turning, which is exactly what we do in the thermals...
So, at the beginning of Summer, I decided I'd try new wings. Two years ago, I attended a talk by Olivier Caldara, an aircraft engineer and designer of a complete range of wings (see Bio-Air Technologies) and I really liked his presentation. We learnt a lot about wing profiles and design compromises that evening. He obviously talked about the Bionic wing, and I flew under the tandem wing with Alex earlier. From that time, I've been itching to try the Bionic. A meeting with Laurent from Les Choucas and I have a Bionic 2 on loan.
The weather is not cooperating, confirming the famous saying "A l'Elysée Sarkozy, été pourri" and I wait until today for a first flight.
The conditions are a bit dicey so I decide to have a short flight to start. Take off from Le Couteau, and fly straight above the ridge to the landing site.
When I get to the take off, Jean-Jacques is concluding his preparation. He takes off in front of me, just as I finish my preparation. Right at the end of the take off slope, he veers to the right and rises over twenty meters in the air.
I pull on the risers and the wing inflates behind me, faster than I expected and I let it overtake me a little too much, I have to run really fast to put weight in the risers and get it to fly to take off. It's tempting to turn to the right to follow Jean-Jacques, but I stick to the plan and fly straight. There is a lot of sensations transmitted from the wing. It really "talks" to me, the seat keeps shifting but at the same time, the trajectory is very linear. I like the wing already, and I feel very safe under it.
Characteristic shape
When I get to the ridge, I've lost very little altitude from take-off. I feel so good flying the Bionic that I decide to test in in the thermal. Just at that time, the batteries that power the variometer pack in and I'm left flying "by the seat of my pants". Well, I have enough landmarks around to know when it's time to head for the landing site, so I stay in the thermals.
The ride is rather bumpy, with small thermals around, but I manage to gain quite a bit of height. I even stay above Mickael for quite a while, and even above Alex. La crête au dessus des Favrats.
A while later, Alex has moved over Les Favrats and gained a good couple of hundred meters, heading towards La Chapelle. I circle a few more times above the ridge, and move back above Le Couteau. If I gain another fifty meters or so, I'll try crossing to Les Hermones.
It doesn't take long and I'm on the ridge below La Chapelle. I spot a deer in the tall grass. Thrilling sight. I feel more and more confident in the wing, despite the permanent movements, the trajectory is very stable, and I can feel every bump that help me raise my altitude. I circle a couple of times in front of La Chapelle. Alex is on his way back from the antennas, flying very high above the ridge. I guess he might even be above 2000m. I keep going and find a powerful thermal just before the antennas. I circle quite a while to store up a good altitude margin, I plan on going over the end of the hill, above the river La Dranse, so I want to have enough safety.
I'm way above the ridge, and this is the furthest I've ever traveled on a flight. I turn around and quickly snap another shot on the start of my journey back. I regain even more height on my return trip, visiting most of the thermals I've encountered on the way.
Hermones, Forchat et Voirons en enfilade
At the end of the ridge, the deer is still on the grassy slope, but it gets scared on my second turn and hides in the undergrowth.
I go back to the ridge above Orcier and decide to end my flight. I really enjoyed it, and I like this wing. If my other flights with it are as pleasant, I will probably buy it.
Test flight


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