Combat C 12.7 and Aeros Winter Race 2014 (Vipava valley, Slovenia).
I took the decision to participate in the AWR2014 in the very last moment, after Paris Williams who had flown the pre-Worlds in Mexico,
shared his impressions about his new carbon Combat C 12,7 and told us how happy he was with the glider.
Before the trip, having borrowed Sergey Semenov’s Flytec 6030… Having received instructions as to how to use it… Having made
arrangements with Markus Eggimann to ask a Swiss pilot to lend me a carbon glider… Having taken my old Myth harness which I use for test
flying hang gliders, next day at noon I arrived to Berlin. Slovenia was only a stone’s throw away from Berlin, by car. :-)
On the next day I was in Slovenia. My glider finally arrived late at night just before the first competition day. I took it easy,
as I did not count on any decent result, and the situation was developing in a normal way for a tourist like me.
A lot of unexpected things were awaiting me at these comps. First, I was amazed when taking the hang glider off the car at the
mountain. It appeared to be much lighter than its aluminium mate. Carbon leading edge tubes coupled with carbon sprogs and sprog Dyneema
wires made it possible to decrease the glider’s weight to 30 kg. The difference is really impressive, especially while launching, when
you hardly make a few steps and find yourself flying.
Having rigged the glider, I saw that the sprogs were set unusually high. I didn’t change anything, though. Probably, I thought, the
Swiss people knew better what the sprog settings on a carbon glider should be. It took me long to get ready to flight, especially trying
to enter the route into the instrument, even though I was helped to do this :-)
More time was consumed by talking to pilots. Many of them asked questions about the glider, lifted it, noting that it was incredibly
light-weight and small. Everyone wished to open zippers and to look inside… The fact that surprised everyone was that I, weighing 81 kg
(over 95 kg clip in weight), was going to compete on a glider with the sail area of only 12,7 sq.m! Collective doubt is not a trifle
thing to face! I even began to doubt whether my choice of the glider size was correct… Luckily for me, it was the time to start. I took
off – oh, a surprise again! Only a few steps and I was in the air! And this with very little wind!
The glider’s handling impressed me at once. With VG off the glider just follows the bar, reacting to control inputs in no time. I
have to note that it’s been long since I competed on kingposted gliders, but my memory tells me that the Combat C 12,7 is the first
glider in my life that has such an incredibly good handling. At the same time the glider is very pleasant to climb, without any sign
of instability, without any need of highsiding. The glider allows to climb at an unusually low airspeed not exceeding 40 km/h. This
is too unusual for me, so I move the CG forward. By the way, later I found out that the stall speed was around 28 km/h. “That’s what
the new LE tubes can do!”, - I thought.
Now I was climbing very much like anyone else, not much better than others but not worse either. That was good. All my doubts as
to the sail area being too small were now swept away.
Getting accustomed to the group and climbing higher, where the gaggle was not that dense, I tried to put some VG on. With 1/3 VG
handling became only slightly worse. I engaged VG by a bit more than 1/2 and moved the CG as much forward as possible. Now the glider
was certainly a bit harder to control, but the handling was still good. Surprise! The gliders spiraling together with me began to sink
one by one. There were a few more hang gliders higher than myself. I could see Tom and Balazs among them. But very soon they appeared
at the same height with me and in a few spiral turns they were lower than myself, too. “Wow! Looks like I have mastered myself while
I was not flying!” - I thought. It took me some time and the next thermal to understand that it was not me… The glider is really very
good in climb. With around 3/4 VG it has the sink ratio better than others flying around. Time and again, as soon as I engaged VG in a
thermal, I found myself higher than anyone.
On one of the days I took off together with Tom Weissenberg and Robert Reisinger. Between thermals Tom flew similar to myself,
Robert was evidently losing. Remember that I had my sprogs very high and my harness was really an ancient one! What if I lower the
sprogs a little bit? So, I lowered them on the next day, but there was no other chance for a clean experiment. (By the way, having
measured my sprogs at the end of the comps I found out that they were still too high: 4-4.5 and 5-5.5 degrees.) I felt the glider was
good at glide, and this regardless of high sprogs and my dinosaur of a harness. I think that if a pilot in a decent harness is hanging
under the hang glider and the sprogs are lowered respectively, the difference at glide will be easily seen. In that flight I was struck
by another feature: with the sprogs lowered the glider had incredibly good handling with VG fully on. Never in my life have I flown a
glider that would handle wonderfully with full VG. During the next two days we were flying mostly along the ridges, without spiraling
in the thermals, and I was able to fully feel the unexpected advantage given by good handling combined with good stability in turbulent
conditions (thanks to oval leading edge tubes!). Flying in the similar conditions (along the ridge at the mountain height or lower) in
the past I only seldom engaged full VG. Besides, I always had the VG rope twisted around my hand, to be ready to throw it off at any
time and maneuver. But now one flight was enough for me to forget this habit. The Combat C with full VG seemed to obey my thoughts and
was very steady on course, allowing to come very close to the mountains. In the past I have never ventured this, even while in top
competition form. Pitch efforts even with sprogs being quite high are not so big as before, and with lower sprogs they are very
moderate and increasing in proportion to speed increase. This was achieved by making slight changes in the sail cut.
After landing I discovered another peculiar feature. Talking with other pilots I heard about turbulence. It appeared that during my
flight I did not feel turbulence like anything one normally feels when flying 80 – 100 km/h along the ridge with over 30 km/h wind.
The difference was really big, very similar to what I felt when changing from a standard class sailplane to an open class one that had
a much bigger wing span. If in a standard class sailplane in good soaring weather you feel like driving on a stone pavement, in an
open class sailplane you feel only smooth swinging, that’s because its wings are long and flexible and absorb most part of turbulence.
The similar feeling I had at these comps. Carbon elliptical leading edge tubes are less rigid vertically, that’s why they damp vertical
air turbulence similar to flexible wings of an open class glider. Besides, oval-shaped leading edge tubes finally allowed to achieve
almost an ideal wing airfoil. I remember that some time ago we experimented a lot, putting various inserts between the sail and the
leading edge, trying to make the leading edge profile thinner. Now we received the profile close to that of a sailplane, which
immediately showed itself at climb, on glide and in stall speed. It made landing easier, too.
All positive feelings considered, I think this was the most vivid and memorable competition in my life.
Well, coming back home, I will have to arrange a new harness for myself, and maybe attend some other comps, too ;-) I do enjoy
flying such a hang glider. I’m also thinking about its other important advantage, the transportation length which is only something
around 3,5 m.
At the end I also want to thank the Slovenian organizers of the Aeros Winter Race. Thank you very much for the great organization!