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Ozone Power Gliders

Ozone was created in 1998 by a group of passionate PG pilots from England, including the only double world champions of hang gliding and paragliding; Rob Whittall and John Pendry. The aim was to create a company of pilots designing wings for pilots to give performance at all levels, never forgetting safety. Today Ozone is one the top companies in paragliding and power kites and is working hard to bring those talents to the paramotoring and kitesurfing worlds.

Mathieu Rouanet, originally a free flight paraglider pilot, flew paramotors with a standard paraglider from Ozone and loved the feel of it. Being seriously involved in the competition scene, he came to us to see if we would be interested to make a special PPG wing for him to be more competitive.

The aim was to keep the excellent performance in sink rate and glide of our paragliders, the lightness and ease of inflation, the “Ozone” touch in the handling, but adding the possibility of reaching very high speed plus high stability to compete against the “Reflex” type wings, which at the time were setting new standards in PPG competitions. This is how we became seriously involved in paramotoring in 2005.

PPG / Free flying – the differences:

The major difference comes from the power source. While free flying the pilot needs natural lift to stay in the air, and of course while paramotoring, the pilot has an engine.

Although some of the fundamentals remain the same, the engine changes the design requirements of the wing.

You obviously have better chances of flying often with a motor as you don’t depend on the weather as much. Because the pilot doesn’t need to wait for thermals or wind to soar, which in fact are sources of turbulences, you will generally fly in calmer / smoother conditions.

So you don’t have to run around to find the right site where the wind is blowing the right direction, you don’t have to wait the perfect conditions to stay in the air, and because you can avoid the sources of turbulence, paramotoring can be attractive.

In free flying, you need to stay in the air with these natural sources of lift, so the performance factor of the wing (sink rate and pure glide) is quite important, whereas in PPG, as long as you have enough power to get off the ground you don’t really need the same sort of performance. Instead, because you want to cover some distance and enjoy flying over the country, speed is a more important factor.

Ease of launch has always been an important point for both. But it has to be said that with 30kg of gear on your back in no wind and on a flat field, you want to make sure your wing will launch easily the first time.

The effect of the motor on the glider is very specific and can only be experimented by flying with an engine. The motor affects the roll, damaging the quality of the turn. For both sports, a glider that rolls a lot with short brake range and high spin tendency would not be ideal.

The turn ability of a wing is quite important in free flying as it’s nice to be able to stay in the core of the thermal, in a small area of lift, or even to land in a tiny field. In the past it has not been seen as important in PPG as most the flying is done in a straight line at high speeds. However, in the future PPG pilots will realize that precision is a very important feature in a wing. More and more pilots will realize how fun it is to play near the ground and with the terrain, and in order to do this precise and agile handling is the key.

A Specific airfoil for PPG:

Because of what I have explained above, performance in glide and sink rate for free flying and speed for the motor, it is obvious that wings need developing specially for each category.

Everybody in PPG today has heard about “auto-stable” or “reflex” airfoils. Here is the simple explanation of the benefits of this type of airfoil:

As I’ve said earlier, pilots want to fly fast to cover long distances, so needed in the concept is everything to make a paraglider fly at low angle of attack (to go fast) with maximum stability. The “reflex” airfoil acts as an automatic system that helps the wing to handle turbulence by delaying the point of break (collapse) by positioning the lift forces quite far forward on the profile.

In effect, the more you accelerate, the more effective the reflex is and the more solid your wing becomes: This means it’s more solid, but as I’ll explain bellow, that doesn’t mean it’s safer!

Also, a reflex profile is usually associated with poor aerodynamic performance. In order to achieve maximum speed, a competition reflex wing my require 100% thrust in order to maintain level flight in trimmers out / fully accelerated position. This is the case with the Viper, for instance, which is designed with an emphasis on speed.

So to summarize, reflex profiles have been developed for speed in paramotoring and is the best known solution for speed with a certain amount of solidity and comfort in flight.

The negative sides of reflex airfoils are less often discussed, but are just as important:

The reality of a soft canopy concept, rigged with lines, is that the pilot is always vulnerable to the possibility of canopy collapse. Reflex in the canopy profile delays the point where the collapse occurs, but the risk is ever present.

Additionally, another rule of soft canopy aerodynamics is that the faster the airspeed and the lower the angle of attack at the time of collapse, the more dynamic will be the reaction of the glider to the collapse. Because a reflex wing will not deform at the leading edge in turbulence, collapses are generally larger in surface and volume than in a free flight profile, and as a result of this tend to be more aggressive in dive and surge during collapse.

The forces described earlier are - “in a simple way” of explanation – naturally making the airfoil to increase its Angle Of Attack (AOA), even when outside influences are pushing it down, and there are other direct consequences from that :

The altered point of lift on a reflex profile (put simply) naturally encourages the wing to increase its Angle of Attack (AOA), even when outside forces are encouraging it to decrease. There are other direct consequences of this, such as:

  • Slower inflation / poorer launching. The glider is reluctant to rise and needs to be held with the A’s until overhead otherwise the glider tends to drop back.
  • Poor flying characteristics at high AOA (slower speeds). Delayed recovery from stall and a short brake range (spin tendency), and poor handling are symptoms of a reflex profile.
  • Inefficiency: Fuel consumption is noticeably higher.

In pure theory, reflex is actually not the ideal solution for reaching higher speeds. Ideally, a symmetrical airfoil with a Moment as close as possible to zero would offer the highest possible airspeed. In comparison to a symmetrical airfoil reflex is actually slower. Reflex is the solution that fits the needs of our soft canopies when flying at low AOA (high speeds).

Speed is the most popular measure or performance in PPG, and Reflex is the technology currently ‘in fashion’.
There are other answers to increase speed, for example reducing the surface area of the wing dramatically. But like everything else, this must be paid for with higher take off and landing speed, and poor passive safety, which makes it a less than ideal solution for most pilots.

In the future, PPG designers will continue to focus on reduction of energy consumption and performance will center more on glide and sink (efficiency) as well as speed. This is where the limits of reflex become painfully apparent and designer’s skills will be tested when trying to achieve this delicate balance.

OZRP – The World Champion’s Choice

We’ve worked long and hard developing the Ozone Reflex Profile OZRP to solve the problems with standard reflex profiles to develop the Championship winning Viper, which we think is the perfect balance. The Viper offers high stability at high speed, while maintaining great flying characteristics with an excellent sink rate, glide ratio, and a very precise feeling in the air.

However, we have not lost sight of the fundamentals, and for the reasons listed above, we feel that it is very important to choose your paramotor wing carefully and to be honest with yourself about what kind of pilot you are. Reflex profile has absolutely no place in the design of a beginner wing – for all of the above reasons, it would be inappropriate for a beginner pilot to fly with a reflex profile. The OZRP Technology can be found in the Roadster, which is meant for intermediate and advanced paramotor pilots, and also in the Viper, our expert competition wing.

Today there are 3 types of wings on the PPG market:

1. The Beginner Wing.

At the start you want to be able to learn without having to think about your wing.

This means the lightest and the easiest possible must be offered. A quick take off so you don’t have to run far. This necessitates good enough performance and a slow minimum speed that provides enough lift to fly. You’ll also want forgiving brake travel with predictable response and a long brake range.

Your aim at the start is to gain confidence and skill in your launches and landings, and become accustomed to flying the motor and coordinating the turn in the air: the basics of ppg flight.

All these requirements show that there is no need for reflex in a beginner wing. However, all of the classic ingredients of a good school wing will work perfectly. The crossover with the needs of free flight paraglider training is high, and similar wings are needed. For PPG we have developed the new Ozone Indy as the answer to the beginner PPG wing.

2. The Intermediate wing, for the widest range of pilots.

This is the wing that is easy and safe enough to be used by any pilot that practices occasionally. But it needs to be fast enough so the pilot can enjoy going for distance flights without getting bored or frustrated with a slow wing.

The take off must be very easy. There is nothing worse, when you have 30kg on your back, than having to struggle to get your wing into the air so you can start to fly. Also, the general passive safety of the wing should and must be quite high. Certainly, the wing must have enough ‘reflex’ to allow the pilot to fly fast with comfort, but the effect of the ‘reflex’ should not be so high that it damages the wing’s general ease of use.

Getting these characteristics right is difficult and that is why it has taken us some time to develop the OZRP into our new Intermediate wing for PPG - the Roadster. You cannot just add a bit of reflex to a paraglider design to get the answer. The whole concept has to be thoroughly developed and tested to get the right blend of safety and the required performance. Getting a good EN certification has been a strong aim for this glider and we are happy to have achieved this with a ‘reflex’ wing.

3. The Competition Wing.

When speed is one of the most important parameters, like when pilots fly in competition or practice long distance flights, then it’s necessary to have top speed and glide performance, and hopefully plenty of agility.

This is where the OZRP has proved its incredible versatility and why it has won every major event in the last 2 years with Mathieu Rouanet.

We’ve been the first to introduce the idea of a compromise in reflex profiling, where the design doesn’t push reflex to an extreme that gives the wing only one advantage and loses the rest.

The agility, efficiency, ease of launch and passive safety that are by-products of the OZRP are like 2 wings in 1: Speed and stability of the reflex, plus pleasure in flight.

Certification

Currently there are only 2 types of certification for paragliders (DHV and EN), and one dedicated to PPG wings which is recognized only by the German authorities (DULV).

The DHV and the EN certification are very similar and after years in use have become a recognizable standard for paragliders, with the flying public well acquainted with the categories of each system.

The DULV is inspired by the DHV. The DULV test pilot performs a selection of DHV flight tests with and without motor. The categories have been reduced to a simple pass / fail, so in the end the wing has DULV certification or not.

As ‘auto-stable’ airfoils become more popular in paramotor wings, there is an obvious problem with the certification of these wings with the current tests.

The current tests only measure the effect of a collapse, but not the ability of the wing to resist collapse. Paramotor wings with ‘auto-stable or reflex airfoils will fail all current flight tests. The reasons are explained above: the high resistance of these airfoils at low angle of attack cause very dynamic reactions to collapse.

Ozone is currently working in concurrence with several other paramotor manufacturers and Air Turquoise (An EN testing) to set up a specific certification for the sport of paramotoring.

The idea would be as follows:

First, the wing should pass the EN tests in a defined configuration (let’s call it ‘neutral’ position), to be sure the flying characteristics and the behavior during maneuvers fit into a category of safety. This category, like the current EN tests, will be defined by European Community Law.

Second, a measurement would be taken to give a figure representing the amount of reflex, such as a percentage point, that would define the amount of reflex at full speed and / or untrimmed flight.

With this measurement pilots would know how much reflex there is in each wing. Today, apart from what the manufacturer says and the feed back from the pilots that have flown the wings, it’s impossible to know what a wing is like in terms of amount of reflex. The current definitions of no reflex, semi reflex, and ‘reflex’ are inadequate.

This measurement won’t be a stamp of approval or a measure of safety for flight at full speed, but it will be information for pilots and a reference to compare between wings.

To return to what was explained earlier, a high amount of reflex will describe a wing with higher resistance to collapse but stronger side effects, while a lower figure will show a wing with less resistance to collapse but less trouble in other flying characteristics.

Whether or not a wing has reflex doesn’t mean it’s safe, or unsafe. This is why we think it is an important point that a PPG wing for most pilots should be treated like a paraglider and be tested as such. The brake range, the behaviour at high angle of attack (spin tendency, stall exit, big ears, etc), the spiral, collapse behavior, etc… need to be tested to show that it is suitable for that level of pilot.

We don’t simply launch and go into the full speed or untrimmed flight mode to turn the reflex ‘ON’ and then hope we’re safe!

Flying requires the pilot to go through various stages and making sure the wing will behave within the defined categories during all stages of flight is a much greater warranty of safety for pilots.

Disregarding this and only measuring the amount of reflex in a wing would be disregarding over 20 years of research and experience of paraglider testing.

Accelerator / Trimmers

In paragliding, most certified wings don’t have trimmers. The reason is simple: for the same result (achieving higher speeds) the ‘speed bar’ accelerator system is safer because it can be released at any time. In case of collapse, by just releasing the speed system (taking your foot off the accelerator), the wing will react more gently and will behave more closely to its ‘neutral’ configuration.

With trimmers, because you’re stuck in the full speed setting without the possibility to return to neutral flight immediately, the reaction to collapse will lead to severe pitch and or rotation.

PPG pilots should be aware that by using trimmers with a large range, the wing is not certified at all. It’s very difficult to achieve a safe result after collapse and therefore to get a certification with trimmers longer than 5-6cm is almost impossible. This is why most of the wings with proper certification will only be certified without trimmers or only with very small ones.

So it’s very important to know if your wing has been certified when making your choice. You should know if your wing is certified, but more importantly, in what configuration of trim. It is important to note that some major manufacturers of reflex wings advertise their wings as certified, but fail to mention that the wing is uncertified the moment you release the trimmers.

The Roadster has passed EN certification at full speed on the 12cm accelerator range. This proves that there is another solution to high speed with higher safety! We hope to see the culture of the accelerator growing slowly in the PPG world.

To summarize, we encourage PPG pilots to educate themselves and to ask questions. Some manufacturers have pushed the reflex concept too far, suggesting that it is the main ingredient in the ideal PPG wing.

There is little doubt that the concept is useful but we cannot forget some of the other fundamentals that have proven, particularly to us through our years of work on paragliders, to be just as crucial in PPG wing design.

Ease of take off, precise handling, stable speed, and for when it is needed: collapse recovery, are just as important in PPG as they are in paragliding. The motor allows us to push the concepts differently but at the end of the day a recognised level of safety and ease of use will ensure that pilots get the pleasure and the performance we are all seeking!

 


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