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By remmoore
#403071
For the first several years of my flying career, I was a typical flexwing pilot. In 1998, a few of my buddies at Mt Diablo started flying rigids - specifically the Exxtacy. Wow, what a performance difference! Those guys could now easily outclimb and outglide me in my WW XC flex. A couple of years later, I made the rigid wing jump myself, and hadn't flown a flexwing ever since. Until last weekend.

Over the winter, I bought a used Falcon 225 to be able to make relatively short hike-ins to a few PG sites in my hometown. It's an opportunity to get some quick airtime on days when I can't commit to an all-afternoon schedule. Last weekend, I took the F225 to Ed Levin, where I could take a morning flight off the top. My goal was to get dialed back into this flex, after so long away.

What an eye-opening experience! I knew the basic differences in flying a flex vs. rigid, and what to expect - but not the degree of such differences when in the air. I had been thinking, "Well, a Falcon is an entry-level glider. It can't be that hard to switch back." So wrong!

From the very beginning, it's been clear to me how easy it is to fly a rigid. Other pilots mostly comment on the "power steering" feel of controlling a rigid, but there's much more. The most significant change is that for rigids, PIO Does. Not. Exist. It doesn't matter the conditions, your airspeed, or anything else - PIO is just gone. Coming from flexwings, however, it's not the most noticeable part of the very easy transition to rigids. That, typically, is just how dumb-simple the control inputs are. In a first rigid flight a flex pilot will try giving all the small, frequent control inputs needed to make a flexwing go where it should. Rigid wings ignore all of that, and simple require the pilot to give the most simple of turn inputs whenever a turn is desired. A bit confusing at first, but incredibly simple in reality.

Back to my first return to flexwings. Being aware that PIO is now back on the table, I chose a site where I could simply fly out into clear air and play with control inputs. At the end of the flight, there would be a huge flat LZ, where I wouldn't need much finesse to land safely. Good thing, because I needed it. Launching the F225 was fine; I think it went very well. I carefully flew away from the terrain behind me until I felt comfortable that impacting a side-slope wasn't really possible. From there, I tried roll inputs. I knew that relatively small bumps were the preferred inputs for flexwings, but getting the strength and timing of the bump was tough. I also knew that the solution to PIO was to effectively let go of the control bar and just let the glider fly. Very hard, however, to overcome years of rigid wing experience to do so. If a rigid rolls on its own, it typically because you stuck a wingtip in a really booming thermal, or are falling out of one. Rigids just don't roll around on their own, and immediate action is needed to ride such a thermal bronco. The F225 (of course the reaction is greater on higher-perf flexwings) overreacted to my correction inputs, and sent me to the edge of PIO-ville. It seemed like I was walking a tightrope.

How foreign it felt, having such poor control over a beginner glider. I continued careful roll inputs as I descended toward the LZ, getting somewhat better at the execution of each one, even if my comfort level didn't improve much. I set up a long final, not pulling in for speed as I normally would - PIO on final could be an especially bad thing. Of course there was almost no ground effect and I missed the best part of the flair window. No whack, but far from a "good" landing. Still I was somewhat relieved to have safely landed. This is going to take a lot more practice than I expected!

Once I've regained my flexwing skills, staying somewhat current on them will be necessary. During a summer of ripping up the Sierra Nevada skies on my rigid, I have to take a couple of hours here and there to fly the F225 at my local sites. Once I'm dialed back in, I don't want to fall out!

RM
F225 E.L. 3-31-18.jpg
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#403080
After getting comfortable in my Atos, I returned to flex wings once. That was enough. Never again.

The twitchiness in turbulence, wrestling with weight shift steering, poor glide (and this was a state-of-the-art carbon topless) all conspired to make me quickly put the flexie up for sale.
#403145
Yeah, there's no way I would go back to regularly flying a flexwing. The F225 is just a supplemental wing so I can fly some of the local PG hike-in sites. I'm having way too much fun on my ATOS VR, which I got to fly yesterday. What an amazing wing!
VR Diablo 4-8-18 2.jpg
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By seb
#403148
I fly a rigid and love it but there is something about the connection with a flex wing that keeps me coming back and flying one. I enjoy both! The only time a rigid can get into Pio is with full flaps as there is such a big delay on roll.
#403176
seb wrote:
Tue Apr 10, 2018 8:17 am
I fly a rigid and love it but there is something about the connection with a flex wing that keeps me coming back and flying one. I enjoy both! The only time a rigid can get into Pio is with full flaps as there is such a big delay on roll.
Flex wings inherently fight against you when turning, requiring muscle power to overcome and vastly reducing your sensitivity to the surrounding air. Rigid wing spoilerons do the turning for you, giving the pilot much more ability to feel nuances of the ambient air. It also was my experience that jumping back and forth prevented the pilot from getting really good on either type of wing.

The day US manufacturers and pilots deliberately chose to eschew the vanguard of hang glider development and for the sake of convenience and familiarity revert back to flex wing technology with it's origins in the 1970s was the first sign of the stagnation and ultimately demise of hang gliding in America. It would be comparable to pilots of the 70s choosing to keep flying their Pliable Moose after the Comet was introduced.
#403179
Given that I know some number of respected pilots who switched back to flexwings after a period of flying rigids, I know that they're not for everyone. There are several reasons why someone might switch back, and they are all legitimate. I also think there are some pilots who will never try rigids due to misconceptions. That's too bad, but no tragedy.

Also - I hope I don't suffer the fate offered by Miracle. Perhaps I'll never get good at flying both, since I'm no good at flying either to begin with... :lol:

RM
#403192
raquo wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 2:50 am
So what are the legitimate reasons to switch from a rigid back to a flex?
Like I said - All of them. :wink:

I'll give a few examples. One of the earliest rigid pilots in my area, a true sky god, flew three different rigids for about a decade before switching back to flexes. He missed being able to wang a wing around, and was willing to give up the performance advantages for that option.

Anther pilot who owned an earlier rigid could no longer handle the weight, due to a developing back problem. He went back to an intermediate flexwing.

Yet another just decided he preferred the "feel" of a flex over a rigid after flying both for a few years.

The only times I feel negative claims about rigids aren't legitimate are those coming from pilots who have no experience with them, and are making untrue assumptions. "Too expensive...fragile...flexwings have equal performance." All easily disproven, but only if you want to. Don't want to fly a rigid? I don't mind - everyone gets to choose.

RM
By seb
#403254
remmoore wrote:
Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:48 pm
Hmm...I've flown with full flaps for landing many times. Never experienced PIO even then.

RM
Not for a rigid wing pilot who has flown one. Put a new pilot on and chances are you may see Pio during base to final depending on them. This is the only time Ive seen it with new pilots. Happened to me as well my first flight.
By seb
#403255
raquo wrote:
Thu Apr 12, 2018 2:50 am
So what are the legitimate reasons to switch from a rigid back to a flex?
Hmmmm Id say there are not many but the biggest one why I still fly a flex is somedays you dont want to deal with the setup and breakdown time. It takes me 30 - 40 minutes doing a very good preflight from start to finish before I can say Im ready. I watch others and they fly thru it and dont check all the stuff I am. Sometimes you just want to get in the air and go. On days that it might rain Ill fly my flex because I can break it down fast. The rigid takes me maybe 15-20 if Im hurrying to break down and put away.

Weight is another factor. Walking 200 ft absolutely sucks with a rigid compared to a flex wing.

Ive got the lightest and smallest rigid made and it still sucks walking 200ft. Ill skip my flex wing walking that distance lol.
#403263
seb wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 3:53 pm
remmoore wrote:
Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:48 pm
Hmm...I've flown with full flaps for landing many times. Never experienced PIO even then.

RM
Not for a rigid wing pilot who has flown one. Put a new pilot on and chances are you may see Pio during base to final depending on them. This is the only time Ive seen it with new pilots. Happened to me as well my first flight.
Well - you might have me there. After flying rigids for 17 years, I don't remember what full flaps felt like on my first rigid flight. Must not have been particularly noteworthy, though.

RM
#403293
If I had the $ I would buy a rigid and add a trike type thing to it, sorta /kinda like the WW Easy Flyer thingy...

I would also add a comfy seat that reclines Lazy Boy style, with a good fairing behind me, and I would have a restrictor system that would allow only enough travel for good pitch control, and really nice wheels for roll-off launches and landings.

I'll turn 66 soon, and while I'm in decent enough shape I'm no longer into athletic aviation, but I don't want to go sailplane.
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By red
#403295
remmoore wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:45 am
There are rigids in good condition for sale all the time in the $3500 range. Look around.
RM
Campers,

Just remember if you break anything structural, and the factory CAN not (or WILL not) make that part for you, or if the part costs more than you paid for the glider, then you have a very expensive piece of junk on the rack.

As an example, does anybody know the cost of ATOS keels lately?
#403296
red wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 2:46 pm
remmoore wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:45 am
There are rigids in good condition for sale all the time in the $3500 range. Look around.
RM
Campers,

Just remember if you break anything structural, and the factory CAN not (or WILL not) make that part for you, or if the part costs more than you paid for the glider, then you have a very expensive piece of junk on the rack.

As an example, does anybody know the cost of ATOS keels lately?
While it's true that buying a larger replacement part from AIR will be surprisingly expensive, I've never had to do it. I've been involved in the repair of many glider components - some on my own wings, and on others as well. Carbon can be repaired, including the structural d-cells. There are professionals out there who can certainly do it. I've seen massive d-cell holes (takes a mighty pounding to create one of any size) repaired as-new for a fraction of the replacement cost. I've personally been involved in repairing a number of keels - it doesn't require professional skills.

I've made plenty of carbon repairs, myself. Ribs, flaps, spoilerons, and control frames - everything except large-scale d-cell repairs. While I learned some of the basic techniques from a professional, I developed my own skills without having a background in CF work. It can be fun and certainly rewarding, but isn't at all expensive to do.

It's yet another way rigids are different than flexes - there are many more rigid repairs one can make without shelling out the bucks for replacement parts.

RM
#403298
raquo wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 7:52 pm
Curious, what kind of incidents led to the need for all these repairs? Bad landings, transportation? Would a flex wing suffer similarly significant damages?
Generally transport and bad landings. Its takes a lot of abuse to cause the above mentioned damage though.
Depends in the flex? Full carbon LE's, possibly, Jonny D's glider got dropped of a rack a few years back, broke the LE.

(Side note:
Thing about a rigid, it will hold almost the same performance until the sail falls off. A flex will lose its performance with hrs.
Why the comp guys always have a new glider)
#403299
remmoore wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 7:31 pm


I've made plenty of carbon repairs, myself. Ribs, flaps, spoilerons, and control frames - everything except large-scale d-cell repairs. While I learned some of the basic techniques from a professional, I developed my own skills without having a background in CF work. It can be fun and certainly rewarding, but isn't at all expensive to do.

It's yet another way rigids are different than flexes - there are many more rigid repairs one can make without shelling out the bucks for replacement parts.

RM

Just my 2cents but I feel obligated to respond to this post. Circa 1999 I saw the worst thing I ever saw in my life let alone Hang Gliding. My friend Jerry Davidson was flying the North Side Point of the Mountain. It was late and the glass off was perfect. I was just stopping by to say Hi and have a beer as I was driving by after flying Inspo and dropping someone one off at the South Side to pick up their vehicle. At the time you could drive between both sides on the bench and I was headed back to Sandy.

All the sudden I hear what I think is a gun shot from a riffle. Scared the s--- out of me. Then I look up and Jerry's Extassy was completely folded up at about 200ft. Couldn't believe how fast he got his chute out. Kinda worked but he still slammed in really hard. (undersized chute but might have saved him in how fast it opened). He did crash pretty hard but was life flighed out and lived, but with severe brain damage. He passed away in his sleep 5 years later.

Anyway he had major D-cell carbon repairs done recently locally. I am not going to mention any names but most people believe that a faulty repair job was the reason the glider folded up. There is really no other explanation.

Again just my 2 cents.

Pat
#403300
Sad deal, you get what you pay for.

If you damage the I-beam, that is pretty much in my opinion a non-repairable item some people try and force that but I would not.

There's the proper way to do a repair, and there's not.

Kind of like years back when someone repaired a flex carbon base tube incorrectly. I'll have to look and see if I can find it, somewhere there's pictures of it
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