Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snake Charmer

I officially love my new wing! Only took three flying days to know for sure - including yesterday's gift of a flyable afternoon at Kahana during an unexpected break in the strong winds.

Four years ago I thought I was ready to upgrade from the spunky DHV 1-2 Sport to Airwave's newly announced DHV 2 wing, the Mustang - but it had only just been announced, and would be many months away from production. So I took a chance, and bought the readily available Magic 3 instead, a fairly benign DHV 2-3 with only a couple of 2-3 scores (and only when accelerated). In retrospect I feel like that was a great decision, and I learned a lot about active flying, ground handling and wing control.

Two years after that, it was an easy decision to choose the Magic 4 when it was time to choose again. The performance gain in speed and glide from only having three line sets was impressive, and I loved the high trim speed. But I struggled to thermal well under that wing. I was never great at thermalling anyway, but I definitely didn't make much progress under that wing. I flew it in four competitions, and somehow managed to bumble through a couple of tasks in the 2007 Rat Race in fairly easy conditions, but for the most part I felt like I was never really thermalling well under it. I never felt nervous or uncomfortable on it, in fact I loved the way it handled and the energetic feel of it, but I wasn't able to make the most of its potential performance.

So four years later, the timing is perfect for me to step back down and finally try out Airwave's latest DHV 2, the Cobra, the successor to the Mustang 2. It is practically a three line glider like the Magic 4, with only the tiniest little final bifurcation of the C lines at the center of the wing. The lines are fully sheathed - it doesn't have the unsheathed upper cascades the Magic 4 had. I think that will be easier in our rough terrain here. Also the risers are thicker and easier to handle. There are tiny little swivels attaching the brake handles to the brake lines to prevent brake line twists. The colors are more subtle than what I'm used to, gold, white and grey, but hopefully it will show up well enough with backgrounds of jungle, sky and ocean.

After my first brief flight at Lanikai, I was worried by what seemed to be a mushier feeling to the brakes, and a slight decrease in energy retention compared to the feeling of flying the Magic. But after a nice thermal flight at Nanakuli on Sunday and a sweet soaring flight at Kahana yesterday, I realize that the brake travel is about the same, it's just that they are tied off a bit longer than I'm used to, so there is some slack to take out before they bite in. Taking a full wrap seems to bring them to about the same point I'm used to, with a familiar responsiveness and agility. I might consider shortening them a few inches at some point.

Also, the glider has a slightly lower aspect ratio than the Magic - 5.9 compared to 6.2 - and combined with the new internal cross bracing in the wing, it reacts more like a single wing than the Magic did, which always seemed like two separate wings attached in the middle. So far the feeling of a flying under a single wing seems a bit easier and less demanding. I felt very relaxed in the thermals the other day at Nanakuli, and it seemed like I was able to turn and stay in them without the usual difficulty or frustration. Maybe it was just a super easy day, or a placebo effect, but either way it was a nice confidence boost. Also the glider is less of a challenge to inflate and handle on the ground, compared to my previous higher aspect wing.

I'm really looking forward to exploring the potential of this new lower-rated wing. I'm excited to work on charming the full performance out of this aggressive little serpent, while leaving the practice of high-performance magic to more talented wizards. Maybe the snake charming will be just an illusion, a placebo effect, as Dave suggested, but even if that's the case, I expect to be the happiest charlatan in town.

Thanks to Dorothy for the expense account, and to Pete and Rob for the quick deal on Airwave's latest marvel, the Placebo, I mean, the Cobra! See you guys out there.


JeffMc said...

Alex - nice wing review! I personally like your colors, but I guess I never really thought about a wing's photogenic quality :} But I see what you mean - I suppose in certain lighting, the wings colors might blend and appear mostly white. But hey - it's still a nice ship!


Anonymous said...

Some wings with those annoyingly long brake lines are built that way because of the speed system, so you should check how much slack there is under full speed bar before shortening the brake lines.

firedave said...

or you can just move the brake pulleys up and shorten as much as you like.

Anonymous said...

fire daves right, on my first aspen I moved up the pulleys
and it made the acro much more precise and less exhausting. Sounds good Alex, would like to try an Airwave someday, happy holidays, RT