A blog about Paragliding, Paramotoring, Hang Gliding, Speed Flying, Freeflight, Equipments and more. Flybubble is a freeflight equipment retailer and flying training centre based in the UK, specialising in personal attention and outstanding service. They stock a wide range and offer expert buying advice, fittings, demo flights, part exchanges and used gear.
John Turczak is an experienced pilot from Sussex and is the Chief Coach of the Southern HG Club.
I am a bit of a big kid at heart and still find the fact that I can fly a somewhat fantastic thing. I enjoy being in the air and experiencing a truly amazing activity that is fun, challenging and sometimes completely frustrating. It keeps me very active physically and mentally. I love the continual learning about new things and the joy of flying with others.
Flying Since: Passed CP in January 2010
Total Hours Flown: 900
Best Distance: 100 km
Best Flight: Milk Hill to Milton keynes
Favourite Site (World): Bir
Favourite Site (UK): Devils Dyke
Wing: Niviuk Artik 4
Harness: Advance Lightness 2
Reserve: Beamer 3
Instruments: Oudie + Syride Sys’Nav
Goal: keep on enjoying flying. It is hard to think of anything better than coring a thermal, chasing some bird of prey up to cloud base!
We’re always scanning the horizons for new and exciting equipment, techniques, and developments in the freeflight world. We also spend a lot of time testing and trying out kit, so we can always offer pilots the best advice. It’s not enough to just make a good wing, or even good wings. Over the years we’ve seen many freeflight brands come and go, some with one or two hit wonders, some with none at all, other with important issues they could not resolve.
To make an outstanding freeflight brand takes many things…
Exceptional products with unique qualities
excellent range of products
good range of sizes
a big investment in R&D
high levels of quality control
outstanding customer service
good business skills and sense
and a little magic
We’ve been keeping an eagle eye on Slovenian brand Triple Seven since it was founded in 2011 by brothers Aljaz and Urban Valic, well known in the paragliding competition scene for their top competition results and world records. Whilst we could see that Triple Seven have made some interesting products over the years, it seems to us that now they have made it through the difficult ‘fledgling years’ and finally ‘come of age’ as a company, ready to spread their wings.
We feel that Triple Seven wings offer something unique so we’ve decided to pick up the brand to give our customers more choice. The Triple Seven wings we’ve flown so far that we’re particularly impressed with are the Knight (EN B, low B), the Queen 2 (EN C, high C) and its lightweight sibling the Q-LIGHT.
“Pilot demands of the KNIGHT seem about right for the class, both on the ground and in the air. I found the ground handling predictable and easy in all conditions I tested in (varied but not extreme) with a slight tendency to drop back down in lighter conditions. The wing has a quite reassuring, solid feel in active air, without being too dampened or stiff. The handling can be quite agile for the class, if you want it to be i.e. if you put in sharper inputs… it certainly has the fun factor! Performance seems very good for the class too; I certainly didn’t feel disadvantaged compared to other comparable wings. I am happy to recommend the Knight as a very good low B wing with very good safety, nice handling and good performance in the low B class, for the right pilot. As always, it’s important to match the pilot to the right wing – not as easy as it sounds!” — Carlo @ Flybubble
“You can see me having fun on the Triple Seven QUEEN 2 in my Cloud video. After reaching cloudbase over Brighton I had a huge into-wind return glide. The Queen 2 produced an amazing performance on full speedbar. It reminded me of the Icepeak 6 two liner which I loved, but with a more compact and manageable feeling. Due to the solidity of the aerofoil the Queen 2 is a little stiff in tighter turns and sudden direction changes but it keeps itself together very well in turbulence.” — Greg @ Flybubble
“The Q-LIGHT retains the stable, secure feeling of the Queen 2. The light construction has a significant amount of reinforcing and structure retained in the wing. This translates to a powerful and determined nature with high speed and great performance.” — Greg @ Flybubble
The Leopard is distinguished by its opportunistic hunting behaviour, strength, and its ability to adapt to a variety of habitats including arid and montane areas. It can move at speeds of up to 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph). Phil Clark takes delivery of his Gin LEOPARD (EN D) and takes to the skies.
After years on a 3 liner (Advance OMEGA 8), I’ve been flirting with a 2 liner (Ozone ENZO 3, CCC) for the last 18 months, perpetually torn between full competition race kit and a hike-and-fly setup. I liked the 2 liner enough to get a ‘proper’ harness. The Genie Race 4 harness made flying a lot easier, but due to family and work commitments, I struggled to keep the currency where it needed to be for the ENZO 3 so I decided to stop kidding myself and let it go.
But I still liked the 2 liner feel and handling, so was more inclined to get a ZENO / PEAK 4 style of wing as opposed to something like the MANTRA 7 or Triple Seven KING. Advance have the new OMEGA XALPS (EN-D) coming out, but as much as it had the Nitinol reinforcement and no packing issues, I wanted more cells and a heavier cloth.
The LEOPARD ticked all my spots. I really liked the Gin GTO2 when I reviewed it but there wasn’t enough of a step in performance to justify the switch then. I was optimistic that the LEOPARD would be just the thing I wanted: enough of a step but not as demanding as a CCC wing. All up I am at 96kg (more when I carry water), so I chose to fly the small size (85-102 kg).
Gin LEOPARD: Construction
The risers are quite stiff and easy to sort with only two central A lines plus a baby A and stabilo on a ratio system. The three B lines are all looped (to allow for easy trim corrections) and the T bar handles are in a comfortable position. The brake line doesn’t have a swivel, instead the line runs through a low friction ring. The brakes have nice clunky magnets for securing to the risers.
The glider came with a packing pillow but I’m actually wrapping it around the front of my harness with just one fold to get it into an XXL Gin bag. The rods are quite thick around the first 50cm from the leading edge, the thinner rods then run for much of the rest of the chord. I plan to leave the glider in a concertina pack when I’m not flying and also to alternate the direction of the single fold when I do pack into the rucksack.
Gin LEOPARD: In the air
Pulling up in a reverse launch was much more like the Omega than the Enzo (steady, measured) and after a short time handling the wing on the ground I launched for a few short flights. Winds were quite light and the lift was predominantly thermic so it took a little while for me to really feel I could crank it up (I was flying on a low shallow ridge, covered in bushes and trees).
I finally got up to about 400m in rough 2-3 m/s climbs. Not the ideal day for a new glider but certainly good enough to highlight strengths or shortcomings over the hour.
Photo by Colin M
I found it climbed well, had a good turn of speed at trim, responded well to weight shift in the turn as well as initiating the turn. Somewhere between the ENZO and ZENO in terms of how solid it felt but nowhere near as aggressive as the ENZO with its behaviour when partially loaded. I didn’t try the speed bar or any extreme attitudes. I did overshoot the first top landing though, that’s usually a good sign!
Gin LEOPARD: First impressions
Photo by Colin M
I still need to experiment with speed, handling at speed, wingovers, stall point, forward launch and such but first impressions of the Gin LEOPARD are very good. Easier to launch, nicer to turn, plenty of energy retained but mellow enough (for the class) and full of purrr-romise. Gotta have at least one cat pun!
Alex Buck is an up-and-coming pilot from Kent, UK. He first experienced paragliding in 2010 on a tandem flight in the french Alps which later provided the initial motivation to learn with Flying Frenzy in Dorset. He lives in London and particularly enjoys hike and fly and cross country flying.
I love the overall feeling of adventure that is enabled from flying. I feel this every time I fly away from the hill, even if it’s only a few km, and especially when doing hike and fly. Flying has allowed me to visit some amazing new places such as the Cauca Valley in Colombia and also see very familiar places on the ground from a completely different point of view. I have made some really good friends through flying and it’s great to be able to share these experiences with them.
Club: primarily SHGC
Flying Since: 2013
Total Hours Flown: ~250
Best Distance: 120 km
Best Flight: 50km from St Vincent to St André
Favourite Site (World): Planfait
Favourite Site (UK): Magic / Brecon Beacons
Wing: Supair Taska
Harness: Supair Strike
Reserve: Companion SQR Light
Instruments: XC Tracer, XCTrack
Goal: To keep learning, challenging myself and progressively pushing my own limits. Also want to focus on taking part in more hike and fly competitions and exploring more of the Alps.
A cyclist is more visible to car drivers wearing bright clothing, and arguably safer. Flight alarms are the digital equivalent of a high-vis jacket. You might not be able to see the aircraft on the other side of a tall cloud, but you could see it on a screen in your cockpit, and your instrument could also make a noise when aircraft get close.
This is the principle at work in commercial airliners, but with a lot more infrastructure. In the seafaring world, locator beacons offer routine conspicuity and improve search and rescue. For commercial aircraft, this has to work all the time and every time, with the attendant astronomical cost. There is a more cost effective solution for gliding (sailplanes, hang gliders and paragliders).
FLARM (FLight alARM) is popular amongst sailplanes. The typical FLARM unit sends and receives signals and calculates the trajectory of nearby air traffic to warn of collision risk. This unit is too large and costly for most freeflight pilots, but for a very small cost to a manufacturer they can make a tiny device that transmits FLARM signals. As the slower moving HG or PG, we really want the faster moving vehicle to see us.
FANET (Flying Ad-hoc NETwork) is a similar lower cost method of transmitting position and sharing information, but not for collision avoidance, as that is a FLARM patent.
FANET+ is a combination of a FANET transceiver and a FLARM transmitter.
Where can I get one?
The Skytraxx 2.1 and Skytraxx 3.0 are available in FANET+ versions. If you just want to add conspicuity to your current instrument setup, the cheaper Skytraxx Beacon offers FLARM (Tx) and acts as a flight logger.
You’ll see all the FANET aircraft on the Skytraxx 3.0, but you can actually receive position information from nearby FLARM aircraft as well via the OGN (Open Glider Network) if the unit is fitted with a WiFi dongle and connected to the Internet via a mobile hotspot. However, this information is via a number of relays and is not 100% live.
The Naviter Blade also has these features, and it looks like they will ripple down into future versions of the Oudie. Other manufacturers may follow suit. Also advertising FLARM (Tx) are the XCtracer and AirWhere units.
As FLARM relies on a glider equipped with a receiver, and many gliding club aircraft don’t carry the same, it’s not a guarantee of visibility. It just improves the odds of being seen, as a lot of gliders that are privately owned and flown cross country have the necessary hardware fitted for collision avoidance and moving map navigation.
The Civil Aviation Authority is pushing for electronic conspicuity for all airspace users. It’s best that we have our own networks rather than having costly, heavy and unsuitable transponders or ADS-B transceivers forced on us.
Although our best method to stay safe in the air will always be to ‘see and avoid’, we think FLARM (Tx) is valuable, affordable and works when we need it most (close to cloud base, with sailplanes on approach at over 100km/h).
He’s visual and clear of cloud. FLARM equipped sailplanes in the immediate area would have had him on their displays. He would also have been visible electronically to sailplanes on http://www.glidertracker.org
Other FANET paraglider pilots could have seen him, as could anyone helping with retrieves. If the device was registered on Livetrack24, then he could be visible on xcrt.aero.
This flight alarm system demands no action or attention from the paraglider pilot – you simply switch on your enabled device, and fly.
The Skytraxx 3.0 is an all-in-one flight computer. It offers all the bells and whistles for flying competition tasks and will record your flights and replay them to you. It can’t thermal for you, but it can show you where to go, what’s around you and where you’re going with accuracy, clarity and style.
Skytraxx 3.0 Screens
The device has an ultra-bright full colour screen (better than most smartphones) which is not touch sensitive. This offers excellent sunlight readability and can’t be accidentally triggered by a chest-strap or body part.
You can customise the four default screens, but they’re very well thought out, so you can just go out and fly. For all its elegance and complexity, the Skytraxx 3.0 is a “turn it on and fly” instrument.
The first screen is a moving map with airspace overlaid, and key flight values in boxes to the right of the screen. To the left on the screen is a bar graph of the vario. This screen will also show you a thermal assistant when you hit lift.
The second screen is a more detailed moving map with the terrain relief in colour. Both screens give you an accurate wind direction and speed after you have flown some turns.
The third screen has vertical and horizontal view of airspace, and the fourth is a statistics screen with task parameters and competition information on it.
Skytraxx 3.0 Operation
Four easy-touch buttons control it. The extreme right hand button switches screens and the two middle ones control zoom. The left hand button takes you into the menus. It also doubles as the on/off button, with a suitable long press.
The optional Skytraxx 3.0 Remote with Receiver allows you to change between screens without having to take your hands out of the brakes. It can be set to perform other tasks like zooming in and out.
Skytraxx 3.0 Vario
The only thing you will want to adjust is the volume of the vario audio, which needs be loud enough for you to hear. There’s huge adjustment on this, and the loudest is very loud. Using additional sensors, the pressure that drives the vario and altimeter is filtered for better accuracy. The high quality vario audio removes any need to look at the instrument in crowded or pressured situations.
Skytraxx 3.0 Task setting
The Skytraxx 3.0 is designed to be fully autonomous. If you want to connect it to a PC, everything you need can be done in the mass storage mode. No additional drivers are needed. Rehearse the procedure before your first comp, but once done once, it’s straightforward.
Competition flying will require you to create a folder for your competition and upload the waypoint file to the place you are told to by the manual. Once in that folder, you can create new tasks. Fill in the relevant times and thermaling direction reminder, then you can start to add turnpoints. Finally set their type (entry, exit, end of speed section etc). Once you’re happy the task is correctly entered, scroll down to the very end, where you’ll find “Activate”.
Skytraxx 3.0 FANET+
There are two versions of the Skytraxx 3.0. The standard version operates as above. The FANET+ version adds a radio antenna that transmits your presence and receives the position of other hang glider and paraglider pilots who are using this new ‘flying ad-hoc network’ system (currently Skytraxx, AirWhere, PilotAware and Naviter Blade … more units coming soon).
If there are other gliders on FANET round you, you’ll see them coloured in with green if they’re in lift and blue if they’re in sink, the same as your visual vario display. (Red above is from the OGN. If there is any internet access during flight (via your mobile phone hotspot) it will also display aircraft information from devices received from the Open Glider Network).
The big plus part of FANET+ is FLARM transmission, which makes you more visible to other aircraft that are suitably equipped with FLARM receivers (some sailplanes, helicopters and microlights).
Once you’ve set up your options of which glider you fly with, your name for your IGC files and what sort of broadcast presence you want, it’s time to get out and fly. No further attention required.
Skytraxx 3.0 Wifi
Highly recommended! The Skytraxx 3.0 can be used with a tiny WiFi dongle plugged into the side (only that one works!) which will enable automatic updates. Once set up, you’ll be much better placed for airspace currency, firmware and the newest physical and topographical maps.
There’s a rather fiddly built-in keyboard input method where you have to tilt the instrument around to slide the dot on to the key you want to select. Thankfully it will also accept a USB keyboard, as this saves a lot of time when it comes to putting your personal info or WiFi access codes into the device.
Skytraxx 3.0 in summary
This is a fully featured, compact instrument. It’s been great to fly with and promises a lot.
Two very special paragliding tours are happening in Colombia in January 2020, both organized by our good friends and Ronald and Angelique of Action Paragliding from the Netherlands. The first tour will be a Colombian Paragliding Road Trip from 5th to 17th, starting in Medellin, ending in Cali. The second will be a Colombian Paragliding XC Tour from 19th to 31th, based in the famous Cauca Valley. Paraglider pilots can join either tour, or both!
Colombian Paragliding Road Trip 2020
Dates: from 5th to 17th January 2020
Route: starting in Medellin, ending in Cali
Explore Colombia whilst flying over rich and varied landscapes and untouched nature!
This tour offers a fantastic combination of paragliding on the most beautiful flight sites and getting to know the country and the people of Colombia. Since we got to know it, we fell in love with it.
This will be a fun paragliding XC tour aimed at experienced thermaling and XC paraglider pilots who are keen to fly cross-country, easy going and enjoy being part of a group. On the last XC tour we had a real BLAST of a time, enjoying many fabulous flights though epic Colombian skies!
You don’t need to be a ‘pro’ to join this XC trip, but you do need to be fully self-sufficient at launching and landing and able to deal with thermic turbulence, have at least some good cross country flying experience involving multiple thermals, and have a good understanding of the weather so that you can independently make good judgement calls as conditions change.
Pilots in the group will benefit from Carlo and Nancy from Flybubble giving additional XC tips and in-flight inspiration to help them get more out of the flying.
Come and join us for an unforgettable winter escape to one of the world’s best paragliding regions!
We don’t have a promo video for this tour, as such, but Carlo’s review of the Phi TENOR light , filmed in Colombia during the last XC tour, gives a pretty good idea of what to expect:
Phi TENOR light paraglider review - YouTube
Colombia Paragliding Flying Conditions
Colombia provides a fantastic range of flying conditions, from light thermaling to big climbs, from morning descents to massive glides across serene countryside, from mellow cloud-chasing to sometimes rowdy afternoons as the sea breeze advances.
Nancy and Carlo at Flybubble have flown and worked with Ronald and Angelique of Action Paragliding before and found them to be well-organized, very helpful and great fun!
Colombia Paragliding Photos
Check out some photos from of our previous Colombian paragliding trips – some of our favourite memories!
We are delighted to welcome Gemma to the crew, to manage our e-commerce site and help us connect with everyone online.
“I have always been a bit of an outdoorsy person, walking, cycling, climbing and I love watersports. Although new to the world of paragliding, it seems to be an amazing sport with some very talented pilots out there. The hike & fly stuff looks like so much fun, I may well have to add it to my ever-growing to-do list of adventures.
Over the years I have worked with some very large retailers. This makes the small experienced team at Flybubble a really nice change. They are amazing at rising to a challenge and are so friendly. Every day is a new learning opportunity, especially when I am learning more and more about free-flight.”
Who doesn’t dream of being able to fly at some point?
Stephen Simpson is an experienced pilot from North Wales. He has flown in the PWC, as a member of the British Team at the Pre World championships in Bramburg, Austria (with Carlo) and as a UK Nationals Pilot. His mentors were Judy Leden and Jocky Sanderson. He likes flying in the mountains of Wales and Cumbria, the Alps, the Sierra Nevadas of the Owens (California USA) and the Victorian Alps (Bright, Australia). He currently prefers to do vol bivouac.
Why do I fly? Perspective – Leonardo Da Vinci was right.
Club: North Wales HG & PG Club
Flying Since: 1987
Total Hours Flown: Many
Best Distance: Never as far as I’d like unless I’ve made goal.
Best Flight: Thermaling alongside a Wedge-Tailed Eagle in Australia. The next flight.
Favourite Site (World): Owens Valley, California
Favourite Site (UK): Latrigg, Cumbria
Wing: Niviuk Klimber P “Red Bull X Alps”
Harness: Advance Lightness 2
Reserve: High Adventure Beamer 2
Instruments: Naviter Oudie 4 (full fat), XC Tracer 2 linked to iPhone running FlySkyHy, Renschler Solar audio vario