The question of what wing to recommend to people has recently become a topic that has plagued my mind. For quite some time now I have said that too many people fly a DHV 2, (or LTF 2) wing who really should be flying a 1-2. So what is that has brought this question back to the forefront of my mind so much this summer? The answer is a couple of different things. Firstly I started thinking about this issue again when an old student and now good friend mine was in the market for a new wing and decided that maybe it was time to up-grade to a 2. He asked my opinion and despite usually recommending people to stick with a 1-2 for as long as possible, I must admit that I found myself agreeing that it was a good time for him to move up a category. Bruce, the pilot in question, has only been flying for two years but has already flown all over the World from great XC flights in the Alps with me, the Himalayas, Australia and much more. He has experience in towing and has flown in so many types of conditions and terrain as well as attending 3 of my SIV clinics. He’s a natural pilot and if anyone was ready to start flying a 2….Bruce was. So why did I change my mind and sell him a Gin Sprint, (LTF 1-2)? The answer is partly gut feeling and partly statistics. My gut feeling is still very much that far too many pilots are flying wings that are somewhat beyond their ability as well as the strong belief that any pilot will get more out of a flight, both in pleasure and in distance, if they are flying a wing that they feel extremely confident in as opposed to a wing that they are nervous of behaving badly as soon as the air becomes unfriendly.
I started looking into the maths too. The Gin Rebel has impressive glide ratio of 8.9! The Gin Sprint, however is at 8.7. I worked it out that if I cross my valley in Verbier for a typical cross country flight (assuming still air), I would arrive at the other side less than 50 meters higher on my Rebel than Bruce on his Sprint. If I’m looking to win a competition or break a World record, this incredibly slight advantage, just might make all the difference, but as a recreational pilot out to enjoy a good XC flight I really don’t think it’s going to change a lot.
1-2 category wings are no longer what they used to be. Designers have done an incredible job bringing the performance of these wings up to compete with their bigger brothers. I really feel that I see too many people who fly a few weeks of the year flying on a category 2 wing. Do you need to step up? Or actually do you need to step down?