Well what a surprise this weekend turned out to be after the run of appalling weather we have been suffering. I’ve been flying both Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday around 9 am I received a text from Northy ”I’m on Curn, its bob on and 13 mph”. This is too good an opportunity to miss as I’ve been itching to get the new Dakota out of the bag. As it turned out, by the time I arrived at Curn the site was blown out and Northy had moved on to another site, Staarvey which is generally lower and where the wind was OK. I arrived to find Giles in the air and Northy about to launch into a sometimes gusty 14 mph. I started to prepare the Dakota for flight before this hill also got blown out.
ITV provide a generously sized and well padded rucksack for the Dakota, so for those pilots who mix hill flying with powered flying it is a comfortable carry with a good range of adjustment and useful pockets. The glider is in an inner lightweight stuff bag, so if you want to keep the bulk down when you go power flying then you dont need to take the rucksack with you. The first thing that struck me when I unpacked the Dakota was that in comparison to other power wings how light it felt, in fact it only weighs 5 kg for the large size as opposed to 7.5 kg for the large ReAction which may account for some of its launch characteristics, but more of that later. The glider is as usual with ITV, well manufactured using quality materials and neat construction. The upper and lower surfaces are Skytex 9092 fabric and 45 and 38 grams respectively. To help with inflation stiffeners are sown onto the inter cell walls at the leading edge. This glider came in the blue white orange colour scheme which looks very neat indeed. Dyneema is used throughout for the suspension lines and terminate in 5 risers, split As, Bs, Cs and Ds. The risers on this version where fitted with trimmers and no accelerator system. Im not sure if this is standard or not as the specifications quote a maximum speed and a maximum speed with trim, so Ill need to talk with Heniu to discover if an accelerator set with trimmers is available. The trimmers are the normal jam cleat type with two graduations stitched across the trim tab tapes at approx. 1/3 and 2/3s travel. The risers on this Dakota are only set up for low hang point systems, so again Ill need to discover if a high hang point riser set is available. Anyway today Im hill flying so after pre-flight checking the wing and stowing the rucksack into my harness I clip in with my SupAir harness and launch the Dakota. Now in breezy conditions I like to launch wings with one tip weighted down on the windward end and pull up the downwind tip with the up wind tip following. This has the advantage, particularly on a hillside launch of gradually inflating the wing and you avoid getting launched by the wing as it inflates. Not all wings respond well to this technique but the Dakotas behaviour was impeccable as it came overhead and steadied easily with good response to inputs. I was able to hold the wing on the ground with deep brake while I checked for debris in the lines etc. The wind at this point had dropped a little so walked backwards up the slope into a little more breeze and launched into weak lift. The first thing I noticed was that this wing felt like a well mannered paraglider which isnt what I expected as all of the other reflex section type wings Ive flown tend to rather heavy on the brakes and stiff to turn in comparison to the wing I normally hill fly, my nimble Sky Brontes. But here is an auto stable reflex wing that flies like a really well sorted paraglider with agile handling and very acceptable brake pressures which considering Im flying at the top of the recommended free flight weight range was a pleasant surprise. Flying with two other pilots I didnt quite seem to have the sink rate, but on the other hand I didnt need to use the trimmers whereas they had to resort to using accelerator as the wind increased on the hill, so maybe they werent as heavily loaded, but it certainly didnt disgrace itself performance wise, especially as it actually a power wing and not a hill wing! After flying for about 45 minutes I thought it prudent to land as the wind seemed to be picking up so I top landed in stiff breeze with no problems dropping the wing down with the C risers.
Well what are my first impressions? If the Dakota was chosen as a hill flying wing, I really wouldn’t be disappointed, excellent hill launch behaviour, light controls with good feedback, very acceptable soaring performance and good agility but considering this is supposed to be a power wing I’m really quite impressed that it feels this good.
Sunday morning and there is a stiff breeze as forecast so I basically write the day off for flying. Ive arranged in the afternoon to go and check out a couple of potential flying fields with Mark who is currently working towards his Club Pilot. Mark arrives around 1pm and I notice that the wind seems to be dieing off, so after coffee and just in case there is an opportunity to fly, we load up his pickup with a PAP 1250 Ros 125 and the Dakota. The first field we look at is a little small and although it is probably suitable for experienced pilots I dont think it suitable for a potential field for a new pilot. We move on to a larger field which is basically boot shaped and although its not ideal, it is useable. The field slopes in two directions so bearing in mind the wind direction I pick the best area to minimise the upslope take off. The wind is now very light with the windsock hanging limply, so I take my PG harness to practice a nil wind launch with the Dakota. The glider inflates perfectly in a few steps and I know that Im not going to have any problems launching with the motor, maybe the lighter construction weight contributes to the easy inflation. The motor is checked out, fuelled and run up. I clip in and rev up and accidentally hit the engine stop button. OK start again. This time I dont cock up and using a powered inflation the wing comes up nicely over head, an application of brake to load it up and Im accelerating for take off. The take off is uphill so it takes a few steps more than normal, but with the power of the Ros 125 the Dakota quickly climbs out. I like to fly with the front harness strap on a loose setting and the torque of the motor at full power is trying to turn me left so I weight shift against it and reduce the power setting while I settle into the harness and check the wing is OK. I notice that with my harness adjustment that the wing reflects the different power setting of the gutsy Ros motor. The torque effect is quite controllable with just weight shift and this wing and paramotor combination fly hands off around the straight and level power setting with no need for trim or weight shift. With the added weight of the motor as you would expect the brake pressures are higher than when flown without, but they are by no means heavy and the wing has maintained its good agility which indicates that it should be a good thermalling wing for those inclined that way. The first landing is quite fast and I think Im landing sort of cross down wind and I use a powered flare to land on the wet grass. I have another flight, the launch was again very easy with the wing coming over head nicely and being easy to steer during the launch run. This time I play around with the speed system. This wing has an auto stable reflex profile on fast trim and at full trim certainly seemed to be motoring along quite well, unfortunately I had forgotten my instruments so cant comment on actual performance figures but the Dakota certainly seemed to motoring along very well and I dont doubt that the performance figures quoted by ITV are genuine as they are one of the few companies that dont bend the truth about how well their wings fly! On full trim speed the glider still responded well to steering with the brakes and although the brake pressure was higher it was still easy to steer at full speed. Glide performance proved to be quite respectable; I tried a power off glide from about half a mile away from take off and was pleased to arrive back with some spare height.
So what are my overall impressions so far? Well with the conditions as they were, i.e. nil to light wind and a upslope take off, I was impressed with the inflation and take off characteristics. This is a scenario that so many wings fail at, yet the Dakota just took it in its stride and did what I asked it to do. In flight I think it is maybe a little more sensitive to torque effect than the PAP motion or Racing, but not overly so and is easily controllable with weight shift, and as I said it flew straight at a level power setting. Brakes pressures arent particularly heavy which pleased me as I am flying this wing at the top of its weight range. It remained agile and responsive to brake steering when trimmed at full speed with no nasty tricks up its sleeve. Brake travel is quite long so a good flare was needed to stop it in the conditions I was landing in, slightly down wind for two of the flights! It is well put together and looks very smart in the air.
I believe that ITV have produced in the Dakota a brilliant all round paramotor wing. Easy to launch, uncomplicated to fly, has good performance and is efficient, its quite quick and handles well both as free flying wing and a paramotor wing which is some accomplishment with a reflex profile wing. I can now understand why the wing is selling so well.
Now I need to fly it with power in stronger bumpier conditions to test the full speed auto stable profile, Ill keep you posted, but it certainly looks very promising so far.
Ill be out of the office for a few days but feel free to email me and Ill answer any queries as soon as I return.
Have a Merry Christmas everyone