The reader is advised to take the information found here as a good starting point in comparing gliders, but as with all hang gliding information, do not purchase a glider that is beyond your skill level and always fly before you buy.
Comments: Floater, easy handling single surface trainer. Uncambered fiberglass battens, poor penetration, statically tail heavy. 229 used as tandem glider. These are getting very old now, but some are still flyable. A real floater, and very popular in the late 70's. Check the sail carefully if you get one.
Comments: Easy handling trainer, (I & II). Single surface, cambered aluminum battens, relatively tight flare timing for a trainer. Getting pretty old now, but an excellent single surface glider. Possibly the fastest turning glider ever made.
- And for a contrasting view:
The Harrier and Duck hang ratings given here suffer from the "older is easier" syndrome. I believe the Harrier was marketed as a Hang 3 glider. As noted, the Harrier has critical flare timing. It is NOT a training glider, because of this.
Comments: Double surface glider. OK handling for an early '80s competition glider, but stiff by contemporary standards. Extremely tight flare timing. Originally marketed as a hang 4 glider, the Duck is stiff handling with critical flare timing - many modern higher (Hang 4) gliders are easier to fly. I think this glider and the Harrier should both be listed with their original rating guidelines, because they have negative handling traits which have been improved in modern designs.
Comments: Similar to Duck but with minor improvements (half-ribs, straight tips).
Comments: Refined Harrier for training use. Easy handling / landing. One of the best single surface gliders ever made, I think. Low top end speed, but it will turn on a dime and is well-engineered. Easy to set up.
Comments: Stiff handling, fast competition (1 & 2) glider. No keel pocket. Early models in particular difficult to turn. HP2 added kingpost hang system and improved handling somewhat.
Comments: Recreational Double Surface Glider. No keel pocket. Compromise good handling, reasonable landing, glide and penetration characteristics. 7075 tubing made for relatively light weight. The Sport American was the same glider with the more common 6061 tubing. This was about 5 lbs. heavier but was otherwise very similar. 167 Sport AT has proven to be better than average rec. class glider. Landing flare timing not critical. Very distinct flare cues. Not tail heavy as in previous WW. Watch for excessive wear on corner fittings. Some gliders came with unsleeved down tubes. Replace with sleeved ASAP. Super Sport is NOT a huge gain over Sport AT if at all. Try and find a used SportAT 167! They are that well liked.
Comments: VG (lever). Easier handling than earlier HP models, but still reputed to have moderately tight flare timing.
Comments: Older generation double surface trainer. I owned a Spectrum 165 and thought it was more for a hang 2 or 3. It was very manuverable in the air but I could never land it consitently well. Also the set up was a bit tedious compared to my friends Pac-Air Pulse. I traded the Spectrum in for a WW Falcon 195 and since I only platform tow once a month or so and I enjoy the Falcon more. Also, the Spectrum I had was called the "plus" model that was $400 more and included wing tips and faired down tubes.
Comments: Very fast, excellent energy retention and good flare authority, though some pilots report unusual handling characteristics. Has undersurface scoop designed to pressurize the wing at high speed.
Comments: Variant of the RamAir (without the undersurface scoop), reputed to maintain the performance of the RamAir with better handling characteristics.
Comments: Single surface trainer. Light, very easy handling. 225 is a good tandem glider.
Comments: Topless. No upper rigging. Fast. "Handles similarly to other Wills high performance gliders" (a bit truck-like, but good in turbulence).
Comments: Topless. No upper rigging. Very fast. Performance equivalent to a rigid wing.
Comments: Successor to Sport and Supersport but reputed to have better performance. Has VG (a first for non-comp level WW gliders).
Second largest US Hang Glider Manufacturer currently based in Salinas, CA. Formed in the late 1980s through the merger of Pacific Windcraft of Salinas with Airwave Gliders of the UK. Phone: (408) 422-2299
NOTE: As of November 1996, Pacific Airwave ceased operations. Airwave gliders will continue to be manufactured at the home factory in the UK. All US gliders will be distributed through Lookout Mountain Flight Park in GA (706) 398-3541.
Certification : All listed PacAir gliders with the exception of the Magic series are HGMA certified. The Magic series was certified by corresponding European organizations.
Comments: Easy handling double surface trainer. Good landing characteristics. Poor penetration for double surface.
Comments: Next generation Vision Quasi-keel-pocketless (keel strap). Some had high speed oscillation problems.
Comments: Next Generation Vision. Better performance than Eclipse without oscillation problems.
Comments: Current generation Vision.
Comments: High Performance Double Surface (3 & 4) 177. Fast, Easy Landing, VG, high pitch pressures, heavy.
Comments: Keel Pocketless High Performance (Kiss, K2 Double Surface, VG,K3, K4, K5 Some early models had tuning problems. Some models have a high speed oscillation tendency. Different models refer to different sizes (Kiss,K4=154, K2,K5=144, K3=160).
Comments: Next generation K-series competition glider 1995 models have optional winglets that are claimed to improve both handling and high speed performance.
Comments: Recreational Double Surface, good handling. Formulas are yaw-y gliders but very maneuverable.
Australian manufacturer with operations worldwide. Distributed in the US through
Moyes California in Canoga Park, CA. Phone: (818) 887-3361
Only gliders back to the GTR era are included. Somebody else can comment on the Mega, Maxi, Meteor, Missile, Missile GT, Mars, etc.
Comments: Relatively good handling high 210(!) performance double surface, VG, curved fiberglass wingtips, heavy, bulletproof.
Comments: High Performance. No keel pocket (1 & 2). Good high speed glide. Heavy, bulletproof (very hard to break).
Comments: Smaller Lighter XS, descends fast, Relatively easy handling, Some improvements in set up, Ease over XS series. Wider range of sizes than most competition gliders. 127 and 137 sizes are available with smaller control frames and narrower faired tubes for smaller pilots.
Comments: Direct descendent of the Xtralite (SuperXtralite) with some hardware modifications (narrower faired tubes, easier VG). Also contains internal deflexor cable as in Enterprise Wings Desire. This is claimed to improve low speed handling. The four sizes are also referred to as the SX2 - SX5.
Comments: Version of the SX with a carbon spar and no top rigging. Reputed to be very fast with a great glide.
Note that all Seedwings Sensor series gliders listed have curved fiberglass tips and have always maintained a reputation for excellent sail work and hardware finish, excellent sink/climb rates and very good speed range. Until the 610 era they also had something of a reputation for tricky landing and unusual handling.
Seedwings has manufactured gliders in Goleta, CA (near Santa Barbara) since the 1970's. Phone (805) 968-7070
Certification : Sensors up through the 510 series are HGMA certified. The company claims that the 610 series, while not certified, has met or exceeded all the HGMA airworthiness standards.
Glider: Sensor 510A
Sizes: 160, 180
Comments: VG and keel pocket
Glider: Sensor 510B
Comments: VG, no keel pocket
Glider: Sensor 510C
Comments: VG compensator system
Glider: Sensor 510E
Glider: Sensor 610
Sizes: 144, 152
Comments: Improved handling and landing characteristics while maintaining excellent performance. '94 and later models have "flap" system to improve low speed sink rate.
Comments: The latest 610F has the control bar attached behind the CG for better flare authority. There are 6 shear ribs per side in lieu of 3 per side previously. The air frame and ribs are constructed of 7075-T3 aluminum alloy. The 152 weighs 70 lbs. The flap system is integral with the VG system. Sail areas are actually 152, 144 & 135 Sq.ft. respectively. The stall speed is 19 mph correct airspeed with flaps (12 mph indicated airspeed). Min. sink is estimated at 160 fpm at the recommended wing loading of 1.8 lb./sq.ft. The glide ratio is estimated at 14:1. VNE=65 mph, VA=55mph. "Just pull-in on the VG line and watch as the flap system disengages, transforming your floater back into a screaming blade wing."
I do not know who put the entry for the Sensor 610F but it is misleading. The 135 size does not yet exist even in prototype form. Delivery for new Sensor exceeds one year as Bob Trampeneau does everything himself. Furthermore, none of the Sensor 610 are USHGA certified. Maybe I am picky but I was looking at buying one and I did some research. From what I heard from other pilots, I will never buy a Sensor myself unless I want to be a test pilot for Bob.
The 135/610F first flew in July 1996. Most are in Japan, a few are in Calif. As to test flying, I, or qualified factory individuals test fly each Sensor before delivery. The flap system was retro fitted on approx. (75) 610's that were produced prior to the introduction of the 610F. We have 150 Sensor 610's flying now. Our newest 610 F2 is available in sizes: 150, 142 and 135. The new 610 F2 are all standardized planforms with each other, they all have the same number of ribs. The latest addition to the new 610 F2 design is a turbulator bump on the LE of the airfoil improving L/D and min sink. The new F2 comes in 3 configurations: wire braced (standard), washout struts instead of reflex bridles or negatively cantalivered (topless). The second two configurations will be available by 1998.
The many versions of UP: The earliest was a leading manufacturer in the late '70s and early '80s and produced such well known gliders as the Condor, Mosquito, Comet 1 & 2, Gemini and GZ (Glidezilla).
This company, however, folded due to legal problems around 1985. UP was resurrected in 1988 with the introduction of the Axis high performance glider and the Comet 3. During this period they also took over manufacture of the Dream series of trainers from the defunct Delta Wing Kites. This incarnation of UP lasted until about 1990 when the management changed and the company moved from southern California to Utah. This change corresponded with the introduction of the TRX carbon fiber framed high performance glider. At this time production of Dreams was assigned to a separate company, Air Sports
Aviation. Gliders manufactured by Blue Sky are currently listed under the UP heading in the hang glider database.
Certification: All listed UP gliders are HGMA certified.
Sizes: ?, 269
Comments: Possibly the slowest flying hang glider ever made. The Condor would still make a good trainer. The 269 was a popular tandem glider for large loads.
Comments: First of the modern double surface gliders. Good performance for its day, but rather stiff by current standards, high pitch pressure. Easier to land than its contemporary, the Duck series.
Comments: Single surface Comet. Floating but exposed crossbar. Well regarded trainer of this period. This was a single surface version of the famous UP Comet. Same hardware, same upper-sail planform, just no lower surface. Flies well, turns well, but doesn't fly as fast as the Comet.
Comments: Carbon fiber framed, high performance glider with VG. Significantly lighter than other competing designs. Very good sink rate and landing characteristics.
Comments: Blue Sky's succesor to the TRX. Carbon framed, uses vortex generators on the wing to increase performance. Reported to outperform the TRX. Predator sails may be retrofitted to TRX frames.
Australian Glider Manufacturer. Distributed in US - contact Don Quackenbush
In December 1995, Enterprise Wings closed, due to the low volumes and the high fixed costs of hang-glider manufacture. Spare parts for all the product range are now available through Moyes Australia which will also continue to manufacture the Enterprise Wings "Rage" recreational glider.
Certification : All listed Enterprise gliders are HGMA certified.
Sizes: 145, 165
Comments: Keelpocketless, recreational double surface wing, No VG, 14 battens upper-surface, 4 under-surface. Aspect Ratio 5.2. Nose angle 122. 65% double surface. 56 lbs. Great Novice wing.
Comments: The Rage has a very fast set-up, VG, and very good glide at low to medium speeds. In Enterprise Wings' tradition is particularly easy to fly.
Comments: Competition wing with extremely good handling. Named Desire to maintain the letter tradition started when the company's name was Foil. The Combat was the Foil C. The Desire is the foil D. The focus on handling highlighted by the success of the Combat is very clear in the Desire, which coordinates brilliantly in thermals, with no need to high-side (particularly the 151), even with VG full on (most pilots would fly it with VG on except for take off and landing). Glide is very good and landing is easy due to a relatively large flare window. Flat rigging and tensioning is possible. Was the glider of choice of the Australian champion.
Comments: Replacement for the Desire. The following is a detailed report taken from the hang gliding mailing list: The planform looks different than the Desire. All 7075 tubing so it is *much* lighter than the Desire. The Leading Edge looks very stiff. There is no any neoprene between the top and bottom surface at the tips. It has washout struts. The top of the A-frame is on a short slide, using the Wills Wing hardware, for laying flat. That is the only WW hardware though. There is at least one shear web in the tip section. There are no tips of any kind, and not even any Velcro to install them. Supposedly [Enterprise Wings] had done some wind tunnel tests and the round type tips most gliders have actually make more drag than just the open tip. It has a folding base tube. The VG string travel is quite short and light. The cross bar pull back is very easy also. The nose wires are tight. It has the internal LE deflexor like the Desire, but the cable is heavier and the hardware is improved. The stock TE cloth is a mylar sandwich, and they are using different LE cloth. The sail looks very nice. The top of the A frame is at least 6" behind the hang loops. King post hang system, with a neoprene seal around the king post. Few manufactured before company folded.
Comments: Stiff, fast (for its day) competition glider. Keel pocket, no VG. Detached under surface. Several of these tumbled after tuning modifications.
Comments: Attempted copy of the then popular Airwave Magic series. Good handling but never had the performance of the Magic. Many called this glider the "Mistake", but Kevin Christopherson did set a world distance record in one.
Comments: Very popular single surface trainer. Docile handling, easy landing, poor glide/penetration. The 145 was one of the few good trainers for light (under 120 lb) pilots (until several small trainers - Pulse 9M, XL 145, small Spectrum - hit the market in the early '90s). The 220 was the de facto standard tandem glider for many years, but the 240 was reputed to be too big and difficult to handle for all but the largest tandem loads. Production on these models has continued through UP and later Air Sports International after Delta Wing folded. Like the Skyhawk, a superb single surface glider. Very maneuverable, easy to launch, land and set up.
Comments: Trainer. Quick set-up. Uncambered plastic battens. Poor speed and penetration. Comparable to Raven without tail heaviness. There was a huge difference between the old Lancer IV and the Super Lancer. The Super Lancer was something of a Raven clone. The old Lancers were among my personal favorites. 2 Sizes, 170 sq feet and 190 sq feet. They would slow down like a Condor, yet fly faster than a Stratus V.
Comments: Easy handling, easy landing trainer. Cambered Aluminum ribs. Better performance than Lancer series. Comparable to Harrier series.
Comments: Early double surface glider. Competitor to the Comet, but a bit heavier (80+ lbs.) and lower in aspect ratio.
Comments: Double surface competition glider with reputation for good handling. Not many produced before Flight Designs folded. The Shadow has 27 battens and is still the best handling double surface glider I have flown. It does have the ability to spin but I consider this an asset in dropping out of clouds and losing altitude when you want to come down. Fun glider. If you ever get the chance to fly one, give it a try.
Avian are a British Company based near Sheffield in the North of England. Chief designer and Founder is Steve Elkins, a well known British League Pilot. Avian are setting up agents in USA and Europe. Please call them on: +44 1433 621308 or fax them on +44 1433 621753.
Comments: High performance glider that handles easy as an intermediate, very light VG, excellent speed range, very good climb.
Long time French Hang Glider manufacturer. No contact information at present. Note that only a small fraction of the gliders produced by this manufacturer have been listed below. Any more information would be welcome.
Comments: Intermediate double surface glider. Very nice handling, forgives some mistakes, very easy to control during take off even in turbulent conditions.