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Thursday, March 16, 2017

NOVA Phantom S and XS

NOVA Phantom

I have waited more than 6 months to receive the S size. The 99 cell low aspect ratio glider from NOVA has indeed a very complicated internal structure. This process of construction is delicate and takes lots of time to be completed. The price of the Phantom is high…Twice to three times more expensive than a conventional low B glider. The fabric used is light for most of the delicate parts. 
Lets find out if the high price and the complicated construction will give its user the required benefits …

Launching the Phantom is similar to any B glider with a fast rise above the pilots head. 
I flew the glider from 95 to 98 all up. 
The Phantom has a different feel than any low or high B glider. The construction gave me the impression of flying under a higher rated glider in the feel of the airmass but with a huge passive safety like any low B glider. Weird feeling, but on the positive side of things.
The brake pressure is moderate, probably lighter than the Mentor 4, but very short in precision ability. If the brakes are pulled a bit far, the Phantom reacts like a low B glider with good passive safety. The brake fan gave me a short, precise, fairly agile, turning ability. 
With the Phantom nose ‘cool searching’ tendency and its precise turning ability, i could imagine myself on a higher aspect ratio glider, but the high dampened feel under the Phantom woke me up to reality. No matter what the conditions throws at you, the Phantom overall movements above the pilots head are very limited, giving you the feel of a ‘Rolls Royce’ of the sky ! Really like that ! It needs a bit active piloting, but much less than a Mentor 4 and slightly similar to an Ion 4. 
The difference in feel between the Ion 4 and the Phantom is that the Phantom has a smoother but compact profile, a better handling ability, and of course, an impressive increase in a totally easy to use performance through the whole speed range!  

In weak (0.5m/s) , the pitch is nearly absent as the Phantom slows down a bit before entry at trim, without any pitch movement whatsoever.  This is why some pilots reported a difficulty in climb in very weak stuff. 
The climb commence slowly in weak thermals, and will be very efficient and much faster in moderate thermals (+1.5m/s, or +3m/s ) versus other B gliders.  
For example, flying the Phantom is weak thermals versus the Mentor 4 (four) S similarly loaded, showed similar climb ratio. In moderate thermals the Phantom climbs slightly better ! 
Flying the same Phantom S with a Mentor 5 S also similarly loaded, showed that in weak stuff the Mentor 5 or a Chili 4 is floatier. In strong moderate to strong thermals ,the Phantom structure will help in a more coherent feel and very efficient climbs very close to any high end B glider.   

Considering that the Mentor 4 has impressive performance that could match some high C gliders, and as i always reference it in my glide comparison, even with other high end gliders, i took it to compare with the Phantom.
Gliding with a Mentor 4 S in calm air, both loaded at 95 all up, showed a similar glide angle. It is in moving conditions that things gets a bit different.

Gliding with the Mentor 4 in moderate to steady lift lines, will give the Phantom a higher chance even at +10 km/h over trim with a more forgiving ,steady, racy profile for the Phantom for sure ! 
The Phantom is faster at top speed by +1 km/h than a Mentor 4 S, or the Mentor 5 S similarly loaded ! With very close glide ratio at speed ! Really impressive !  The Mentor 5 has the edge in longer glides in moving conditions.
For instance, gliding next to a Mentor 5 (five) S in weak lift lines, will give the Mentor 5 the upper hand over the Phantom. The Mentor 5 is a floaty wing. 
After many glide attempts in moving air, (Video soon) with a Mentor 5, the Phantom is always haunting  :-) not far away.

Ears are easy to induce, efficient, and reopen quickly. Induced asymmetrics and frontals are super easy to recover. 

Conclusion: The Phantom has a low aspect ratio of 5.19 ! (3.82 projected! ) IMPRESSIVE !
It behaves like any low B glider. The handling, the feel under it and the way to turn the glider is excellent for the category. Low B pilots can fly the Phantom easily. The performance is indeed on the top shelf of the High B category. Good pilots downgrading to the Phantom will find on one side, a comfortable ride, and on the other, top performance in the B category. It doesn’t resemble a Ferrari, nor a Porsche . 
Its a Rolls Royce with a 500 HP engine!  Rolls Royces are expensive, but you get well served ! 

After my test on the S size, here's some comments on the XS .
I flew the XS (70-90) from 84 to 88 in mild then in strong turbulent air (loaded).

The handling and the way to turn the XS at 88 compared to the S at 97 are:
A lighter brake pressure on the XS , and a longer brake travel, but 'more' agile to turn !

The overall movements in turbulent air are slightly livelier than the S size but really very reassuring !
The differences in turbulent air between the Mentor 5 XS at 88 and the Phantom XS at 88 is that the M5 feels more energetic and needs much more active piloting.
The differences in turbulent air between the Mentor 5 S at 96 and the Phantom S at 96 are not that both feels very dampened.
It seems flying the XS at top weight is best, without the feeling of an overloaded glider. It still climbs well.
The Phantom XS is a fast 5.1 aspect ratio B glider at trim and accelerated for the category.
Ears are stable and efficient !
A reliable small companion for fun XC travel.
Easy to use, "slightly" less piloting level than a 777 Knight S or Buzz Z5 MS, which are superb B gliders ! ( The Phantom XS has less pitch surging behavior in turbulence) with very nice overall performance.
I liked that XS size !   :-) 
Hope it helped a bit by relocating that XS size !

UP Summit XC 4

UP Summit XC 4 SM 
After my beloved Trango X-Race :-), here’s UP new B glider the Summit XC 4 in SM size.
I took a bit of time to write this test, but finally here it is.
The XC4 has a aspect ratio of 6.3 with an EN-B rating !
Honestly i wasn’t a fan of the XC3 SM when i test flew it…The overall performance and usability didn’t convince me at the time.
Today with the Summit XC 4 i took my time to explore it a little bit and finally managed to get a Carrera plus SM to complete my comparison.

Launching the Summit XC 4 is like any mild 6.3 aspect ratio glider. It’s easy to launch…Not like the 5.4 aspect ratio gliders…But it has a homogenous and straight launch.

Once airborne, the Summit XC 4 gave me the same brake feel as its bigger sister the X-race ! with a slight more forgiving and filtered feel. But the Summit XC4 strangely has the ‘same’ DNA ! 

With a medium brake pressure, the XC 4 has a moderate to good agility, A very nice coordinated feel, performance oriented turning radius. The movements of the air is transmitted through the brakes. Much like the X-race but slightly less feedback coming from the brake lines, and also more comfortable in turbulence than the higher aspect ratio Trango X-race.
I must say though that it does move around a bit in turbulent conditions for a high B glider.
The climb rate next to my reference glider showed me a very competitive climb rate in moderate conditions! 
In entering thermals the Summit XC4 SM at 95, have a neutral pitch behavior. 
In very weak stuff below 0.5 m/s i think my reference glider is still floatier, but with the Summit XC4 faster trim speed, it still has a moderate float ability in very weak stuff. 

The last day, i flew in some weird air, with turbulence, and really unpleasant. In those tricky conditions, the Summit XC4 showed a character and behavior of any moderate aspect ratio C glider (up to 6.5 AR). For sure it is not intended for those low B pilots coming to the higher B category. I could say rather that High B pilots with two seasons on their gliders would be welcomed on the XC4.
The Summit XC4 needs active piloting like the some higher aspect ratio B’s or some C’s. 
To be even more precise, the Summit XC4 needs slightly more active piloting than the Summit XC3. I already updated my B-comparison (see blog) to give you an idea of the overall XC4 placement inside the B category.  

Now i have tried to make some glide comparison with a Carrera plus SM (80-95) loaded at the max(95) , and i was 95 on the Summit XC4 SM ( 75-100). I was really curious to see how it will perform.
To both our surprises the XC4 came out really nice ! It is not that i wasn’t expecting it to be that good…but i wasn’t prepared to see and feel that improvement !

At first with the mentioned loads, the Summit XC4 has around 1.5 km/h more trim speed. And the glide was slightly better for the XC4…The glides were made in some difficult headwind conditions, and the Summit XC 4 surfed the air quite impressively. That does conclude that the XC4 with its B rating has now reached the top performers for the best glide/ efficiency ratio. 
The speed bar has a moderate pressure. The controls on the C risers have a moderate pressure, a bit less than the X-Race ones, and they are more usable in limiting the pitch of the glider in gliding through turbulent stuff when applying the bar. 

Ears are stable, and reopen easily.   

B rating gliders goes to this delicate box…The Summit XC4 has been rated a B certification. Ok. That doesn’t mean that any “new comer” to this category will find that the 6.3 AR, Summit XC4 will suit him. 

The new comers to this category won’t be able to assimilate the benefits and the bags of performance plus the feedback the Summit XC4 has to deliver. Its like driving a two wheel bicycle for the first time. IMHO, i think this B rating should be understood as a psychological ‘peace of mind’ idea for those who already fly C gliders.  Or high B pilots having a full season in different conditions on their moderate aspect ratio glider, wants to upgrade to a higher aspect ratio glider, and don’t want to leave the B class, then the Summit XC4 is a very interesting tool to move forward on long XC’s with all the benefits a C class glider has to offer.