how to buy a hang glider
BY G.W. MEADOWS
You've been on the hill
for a few days now and this hang gliding stuff is starting to look like a
something that could turn into a hobby. You're definitely going to have to
give it some serious thought. One of the most important folks have to
consider is the cost, and how it can be kept to a minimum.
I've been hang gliding for a long time, have taught quite a few people
this wonderful sport, and have helped some of them save money in the right
places. The purpose of this article is to help you make a wise decision
when trying to be frugal.
One of the last things you want to be cheap about is your glider. To be
honest, if you can't afford a good glider, one way or another, you should
probably postpone your decision to enter the sport. Whenever possible,
purchase the glider your instructor recommends. He has been at this for
awhile, and understands why a certain glider will be best suited for you.
I, personally recommend a new glider in your class and weight range. There
are a number of new gliders on the market these days that are incredibly
well suited for the beginner pilot's first purchase. Those of us who have
been around for awhile would have loved to have the opportunity to do our
early flying in such nimble and forgiving aircraft. The modern-day pilot
who is just starting out in the sport should consider himself fortunate.
Although I would love to see all new pilots in new, state-of-the-art,
entry-level gliders, the reality is that there are some really excited
folks out there who would just love to get into this sport, but just can't
afford a new wing. So if you're going to but a used glider, at least let
me steer you in the right direction.
If I were talking to you in person I would name the used gliders I think
are well suited for you at this stage. Unfortunately that isn't the case,
and since I don't know you or your aspirations in hang gliding I'm going
to give some guidelines to go by.
DON'T purchase a glider that was made before 1979. Period! The money
you'll save won't justify the hassle and possible danger you may subject
Just because I ruled out all gliders made before 1979 doesn't mean I'm
recommending all gliders made after that. quite the opposite. There are
some gliders made since 1979 that I wouldn't wish on anyone. The hard part
is judging which ones are good and which ones are bad. To begin with, if a
glider was considered high performance in its day, that meant it was also
hard to fly. If it was hard to fly then, it's hard to fly now. The gliders
that fall into this category will be extremely cheap ($300-$500) and
should be avoided. Most gliders that were good beginner gliders when they
were built are still good beginner gliders now. The absolute best thing
you can do when considering a used glider is to call up a reputable
instructor and ask what he thinks about that particular model. If the
instructor doesn't give you the answers you're looking for, call another.
If two instructors agree that the glider model isn't for you, listen to
their advice. As a basic rule of thumb you should plan on spending an
absolute minimum of $700 for a reasonably good used beginning glider, but
$1,000 to $1,500 is more realistic when it comes to a quality used wing.
Again, buy new if possible.
DON'T buy a glider with lots of rust on the hardware. If the glider you're
looking at has rusted bolts it's not been taken care of very well. You
should do through inspection of the glider and its hardware. If you find
rust on any of the bolts and/or other hardware you should also thoroughly
inspect the aluminium tubes for corrosion (inside and out). Corrosion on
aluminium has a different look than corrosion on steel. On Aluminium,
corrosion will look like a white powder that is adhered to the corroded
part. Usually this will be found on the inside of aluminium tubes and
under sleeves. Look very closely at the end of all sleeves and around
bushings and rivets. If you discover any significant amount of corrosion,
move on to the next glider.
DON'T buy a glider with a dented or bent frame parts unless there is a
professional willing and able to fix the glider with the appropriate
parts. It is nearly impossible to find parts for many gliders on the used
market. If a leading edge or crossbar is damaged it may be necessary to
remove the opposite, undamaged part and duplicate it with raw materials.
This is extremely labour intensive, and by the time your "new" glider is
ready to fly you may have more money in it than you had planned on. The
answer to this problem is to stick with a late model made by a
manufacturer that is currently in business.
DON'T buy or fly a glider that has kinked wires. Many used gliders will
have wires that need replacing. Even gliders that are a year or two old
may need new wires. If a side wire has a serious kink (45 degrees or
more), it needs replacing. Tensioning and relaxing a kinked wire
repeatedly will eventually lead to failure of at least some of the
strands. Kinks next to or between nicos at the wire ends warrant special
attention. Damage tot a wire where it enters a nico is much more difficult
to detect than damage along the span of the wire. In addition, look for
wire and nico fitting corrosion, which will probably require replacement
of the wire. Many gliders will have heat shrink tubing over the nico
fitting. After a few flying seasons, visual inspection of this area
becomes more difficult as a result of discoloration of the heat shrink. If
you cannot visually inspect this area you should carefully remove the heat
DON'T purchase a glider with a UV (ultraviolet) degraded sail. A good way
to check for this problem is to try to force your thumb or an eraser on
the end of a pencil through the sail. This test should only be preformed
in the presence and with the approval of the owner. If you feel the
sailcloth giving, or if you actually poke a hole though it, this will not
be a wise purchase. (NOTE: Although colour fade is a good indication of
the amount of UV exposure, many gliders produced in the last four or fiver
years have fluorescent-coloured leading edge pockets. This material is
widely known to fade prematurely because of the pigmentation. When
considering one of these gliders you will not necessarily want to use the
faded colour of these leading edges as the sole judge of UV exposure.)
DON'T buy a glider for which you will not be able to obtain a batten
pattern. One of the most critical consideration when it comes to glider
stability and performance in maintenance of the airfoil. This point is
more important than most people realize.
DON'T buy a glider before you fly it. You might think this would go
without saying, but I often encounter people who bought a used glider
without actually trying it out. Just because you've seen the glider fly
doesn't mean it's going to fly the way you expect it to. This doesn't
apply as much to a new glider, because it will have been pre-tuned and
test flown twice before the customer receives it. This ensures that the
glider being purchased will fly as close as possible to the one the
customer test flew. You'll also do yourself a favour by test flying the
glider you're considering in the kind of conditions you are familiar with,
even if that means going to the training hill. Flying in nasty air is no
way to get a good feel for the handling characteristics of a glider.
Well gang, there are some guidelines to go by when looking at used
gliders. Again, I recommend a new glider if you can afford it. As with all
things I give advice on, if you have a dealer or instructor you trust, go
with his recommendation. This article is not meant to override your