Mini Wings and their use ?
They can be flown at your regular site, in calm air, can be used for travel (due to their easy inflation, low volume and are light weight). The simple pleasure of a quick ‘top to bottom’, increased number of school flights, with repeated launches, approaches and landings.
Mini wings are easy to use, ideal for learning in a school environment, they are suitable for lighter pilots. They are easier to ground handle and launch, than a standard wing, with less speed and power.
Experienced pilots can enjoy high speed sensations, speed flying, high speed turns. They can be flown in strong conditions (thermic or soaring). On site, thermalling and soaring flights. They have a higher potential for speed and feel very solid.
Mini wings are ideal for those wishing to ‘hike and fly’ (they are light weight, easy to inflate, and allow launching in slightly stronger conditions, often avoiding the frustrating walk back down). The handling of a mini wing is more basic and instinctive than a standard paraglider. With a dampened pitch and higher speed potential.
Differences between a mini wing and classic paraglider
Mini wings are faster, and the turns are more reactive, they are harder to stall (asymmetric) than a standard size paraglider (25m2 +). The controls are also more precise.
They inflate very quickly, needing less space to launch, and can even be launched with no wind or in light, tail wind conditions.
Mini wings have a more basic profile, with a smaller aspect ratio than a regular paraglider (between 3 & 5), hence a more accessible wing to the wider public.
Their lines are shorter (6m) therefore easier to rig up in tight launch areas.
And in strong winds (20km/h) they can be inflated by simply throwing the wing downwind.
Trim speeds vary from 38 to 45 km/h, with a glide ratio of between 4.5 & 7.5. Fully untrimmed speeds are between 50 & 60 km/h.With minimum speeds of 25/28km/h. Maximum speed can be reached with 20% brakes (as opposed to no brakes in paragliding and half brakes when speed riding).
Since mini wings are more reactive, they respond immediately when the brakes are applied, and stop immediately when brakes are eased off. There is no inertia, offering extremely precise handling. This means they can be flown at faster speeds. The smaller the wing (18 – 12 m2) the higher the flying speed will be.
Mini wings dive more when turning, they have a lower glide ratio, fly faster, and can turn tightly. Mini wings can thermal and soar like a regular paraglider, but can also cope with slightly stronger conditions, providing the pilot is experienced and familiar with handling a mini wing in such conditions. Similar to a standard paraglider, mini wings can be equipped with trims on the rear risers (trim down to slow the speed, and untrim to achieve full speed). Some mini wings are equipped with a standard speed bar thus pulling down the « A » risers. They can have either 2, 3 or 4 risers.
When flying a standard paraglider (of approx 25 m2) the pilot often has long periods with nothing to do, such flights can be contemplative, with the pilot often waiting for a thermal and reacting to turbulent air. Mini wings however demand the pilot’s full attention, especially when close to the ground. This makes mini wing flying really exhilarating and satisfying, with the pilot in complete control of his movements. Often resulting in a huge grin after just 5 minutes of flying!.
This type of flying means the pilot is rarely bored and has little time to dwell on any fear. Pilots can often feel afraid during periods with little to do, when reacting to the air mass, and worrying about their low speed. Using the speed bar in turbulent conditions, on a standard paraglider requires skillful piloting, hence maximum speed is much less accessible to the wider public. This isn’t the case when flying mini wings, where the potential for speed can be exploited. LittleCloud wings are very resistant to collapse The pilot must of course remain attentive, always flying actively, especially in strong conditions and when flying close to the ground, particularly when using the trim.
Flight incidents and adapting your piloting
Since the wing loading is much higher (5kg/m2) than on a regular paraglider (3.5kg/m2), mini wings are generally much less prone to collapse. This solidity is increased further by a shorter aspect ratio and by their profile, giving a high level of passive security. Mini wings also behave automatically in problem situations, with a much dampened pitch.
When flying a mini wing in strong conditions, frontal or asymmetric collapse cannot be ruled out, however such situations are exceptional. Such situations can be avoided if the pilot flies within their abilities, and remains attentive to the conditions.
In the case of a large asymmetric collapse, the mini wing is likely to turn faster towards the collapsed side, however it should regain it’s normal position, without the pilot’s input, within 360 degrees. Collapses are unlikely with good active handling by the pilot. Mini wings have a wing load and shorter lines, so they have a much stronger pendulum effect (the pilot being automatically swung under the glider when off balance), this in turn, reduces the shooting effect of the wing.
Fully engaged 360′s are easily achieved with a mini wing, and require less technique than a standard paraglider. The chances of inducing an asymmetrical stall during a spiral are much reduced as the mini wing immediately enters the turn, with no weight shifting necessary. The angle of the glider (relative to horizontal) while in the spiral is less pronounced than with a normal paraglider, giving it less centrifugal force, this gives the wing a higher sink rate, and the pilot is less likely to become disorientated.
The wing’s behavior in a spiral (neutral or stable) is both dependent on the model, and the manner in which the spiral is entered.
When flying a regular sized paraglider difficulties encountered during an engaged spiral arise from it’s high centrifugal force, often causing disorientation. Problems encountered with a mini wing during a spiral are more likely to be due to the pilots mis judgement of it’s higher sink rate and potential to lose height more quickly.
How to chose the correct size and model
Unlike the choice of regular sized paragliders, mini wings offer the choice of between 12m2 and 19m2. The most common and versatile size of mini wing for launching on foot are 15-18m2, flat (thus approx 12-13m2 projected). The choice is not usually defined by the pilot’s all-up weight, but relative to what it will be used for (as with kiting). For example, a pilot weighing 75kg can choose a mini wing from 12sqm to 18sqm depending on their requirements: speed, sensations, mountain flying, soaring. The choice should also be made relative to the pilot’s technical level: launching a 12m2 glider you will need to run faster on launch, it will sink more when turning, will fly faster and will take longer to land than a larger size.
The mini wing’s weight should also be considered. A 15m2, light version weighs approx 2kg with a packed volume of approx 15L. This offers the ideal wing for pilots wishing to hike & fly. With light harnesses now available, weighing just 300g, the complete equipment weighs in at under 3kg!
Therefore, when choosing the size and model of a mini wing, it is essential to take into account the uses, flying sites, conditions and pilots needs and experience.
Trying your mini wing for the first time, warnings
You should seek initial advice, from a professional. They will help you according to your needs, expectations, technical level and experience, and this will save you time and help you to avoid common mistakes. Useful tips can also be found on web forums, however be aware that some advice may not be accurate, if you have any doubts, always check with us first “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com
We recommend that you seek formal training with schools who are familiar with mini wings. It is essential that pilots with a background in kiting, base-jumping, free-falling and speed riding become trained in the principles of free-flight, especially with regard to air law, aerology and flying techniques. Such skills are essential for your own safety.
Mini wings are suitable for those wishing to learn to fly for the first time. Contact one of our recommended schools for the correct training. You can of course, if you wish, move onto flying classic paragliders at a later date.
For your first flights, choose a flying site that you know well. Take off and landing zones should be spacious, allowing room for mistakes. Avoid cliff take-offs and also landing in parking areas between buildings. There is nothing particular to note, the process is the same when trying any new paraglider. Consider your site carefully, the conditions, the wind speed at take-off and in the LZ. All of this should give you a positive experience during the first flights of your mini wing. Some ground handling will also help to get a good feeling for the wing. In general, everything should feel easier with a mini wing, and with more speed, it is important not to sit down in your harness too quickly, and remember to stand up, in plenty of time before landing. Since the lift ratio is higher, you will need to run faster on launch, in this respect, launching a mini wing is slightly different from that of a classic paraglider, where the brakes are touched during the launch, the mini wing however should be launched at speed and the brakes not applied until the wing is airborne. As for the flair, it should be done just before the landing. Avoid doing any wing-overs just before the final approach, since the increased sink rate during the turns may catch you out. Opt for a long final approach, landing a mini wing should feel precise, due to its lower glide ratio. Keep your hands high, then pull gently on the brakes before making the final flair (with a steady, firm braking action, but not sudden) just before touching the ground, with a few fast strides. The best way to land a mini wing is to follow the U shape in the final approach, similar to landing a hang glider.
Mini wings have less inertia when using the controls, they are more reactive, equally when the controls are released the wing returns quickly to resume its course.
The brake travel is shorter on a mini wing, compared to a standard paraglider, as they are not adapted to fly at very low speeds. It is important to become accustomed to his new style of handling.
During your first flights you should keep the trims neutral, the accelerating systems can be used once you are familiar with flying your mini wing. We can’t repeat enough the importance of ground handling your mini wing.
Depending on the model of mini wing, you can choose to use a standard harness or a harness without a seat plate, with independent leg supports. Harnesses with seat plates are not essential because weight shifting is not necessary to initiate the turn. The action of the brake control alone creates a good roll of the wing. Moreover, a seat plate harness can increase the inverse roll factor when flying at high speeds. It’s for this reason that we recommend using a non-seat plate harness with independent leg supports when flying a mini wing.
As with paragliding, it is personal choice whether to use back protection (Bump’Air or Air bag). They provide an additional measure of passive security. Air bags offer the advantage of lower volume (when packed) and are lighter in weight.
When flying at a busy site, or in strong conditions, you should always carry a reserve chute. There are some very light, and compact models on the market. Be aware that line lengths of mini wings can be shorter than the lines of a standard Pull Down Apex reserve. The same principles apply for using a reserve with mini wings as for classic paragliders; you should buy a certified reserve that corresponds to your all-up weight. LittleCloud recommends that the reserve’s risers are attached in the same place as the wing’s risers ie. the carabiner. We have released a video showing the reserve in use, with a Spiruline 16m2.
Your personal gear (helmet, gloves, boots, glasses) remain the same for classic paragliding. However for speed-flying we suggest the use of ski goggles, they offer good protection, warmth and a wide field of vision. An insect hitting you in the eye at 50km/h could lead to serious consequences!
Materials, strength, certifications and test flights
All the materials used (coated ripstop nylon, aramide or dyneema lines, stainless steel maillons, webbing, pulleys) are of the highest quality, and have been selected to withstand all the pressures that a mini wing can sustain. The same materials and brands are used in the production of mini wings as for paragliders. Mini wings are in fact often designed and produced by paragliding companies.
Mini wings are load tested (to a minimum of 8 or 6g), this certifies the design, construction, and strength of each mini wing. The load certification also provides a recommended all-up maximum weight, relative to the surface area.
As yet, there are no flight tests for mini wings, they don’t conform to EN certifications (a,b,c and d) or LFT (1,1/2,2,2/3). However, thorough flight tests are performed by test pilots of each brand of mini wing (full stall, asymmetrical and frontal collapses at different speeds, spiral dive, deep stall). Also tests such as ‘ears’, and B stall are undertaken, depending on the requirements, goals and design of each model.
Mini wings and Acro flying, different uses
Advice should always be sought from the mini wing manufacturer. Experienced acro pilots will inevitable try specific manoeuvers with mini wings. (SAT, wing overs, loops and spiral dives). We are not sure that the behavior of mini wings (quite dampened) offers what acro pilots are looking for. Acro wings usually range between 18 & 22m2 and behave very dynamically. Acro gliders are more demanding on the pilot and have a different purpose to mini wings. We believe that mini wings lend themselves to different activities: hike & fly, flying in strong thermals, soaring, and flying close to the ground (slalom, flair, high speed waymark courses, speed flying). Also, due to their simplicity, mini wings are suitable for learning, hike & fly and even competitions.
OnMini wings can also be used on skis, and for journeys in the mountains. Before doing so, always consult the flight regulations and rules within national parks. In ski resorts, always seek permission before flying and find out where the the authorized flying zones are. Since the arrival of speed riding, numerous ski resorts now offer designated areas for paragliding, speed riding and speed flying (often with specific launch areas, flying zones and LZs). The same principles apply when flying a mini wing on skis, to a classic paraglider, the skis provide a higher speed for take-off and landing.
Speed riding & mini wings
Gliders used for speed riding (with skis) are generally smaller (between 8 & 12m2), and have very low aspect ratios (usually less than 3). These wings are designed with a very steep angle of attack and have a very small glide ratio (2 to 3). The purpose of speed riding is to glide close to the ground, on and off snowy slopes, at high speed, switching from riding to flying. Handling this kind of wing is very technical, and requires skillful piloting. Speed riding competitions involve free riding down steep back-country slopes, with sections to glide and fly. The descents are judged as a free ride ski descent. Events also take place in snow parks, (prepared zones, parallel slalom courses, ride & fly zones).
Mini wings are bigger than speed riding wings (12 to 18m2), they are slower and have a better glide ratio, they are in fact closer to a regular paraglider. They can be launched on foot, and their main advantage is that they can be flown in many different ways / disciplines. Since mini wing flying is a relatively new activity, there are no formal competitions as yet. The current mission is to create and develop schools who wish to offer mini wing flying, to formalise the training and explore their different uses.
Progression from paraglider pilot, and those without any flying experience
A competent and qualified paraglider pilot, who’s able to make his own decisions, is comfortable flying at various sites and in different conditions, should find it easy to fly a mini wing (following a complete briefing on the differences). Ground handling and short flights are essential to familiarise the pilot with this new type of wing, and are important for getting used to the speed. Ground handling sessions (in both light and strong winds) are also invaluable to get a feeling for the mini wings, and how they react to different conditions. Also a few take-offs and landings at a training hill are a must, to get used to the vivacity, damping, brake travel and reactions to different trim adjustments.
For those who have never flown a glider before, the standard paraglider training (FFVL) is perfectly adapted to learning to fly mini wings. The particular features of mini wings however should be highlighted.
Note: In both cases, it is essential to choose a suitable flying site for mini wings (in particular, the topography of the site, the approach to the landing area, with sufficient space).
Mini wings, paramotor = Sparamotor, winch
A number of paramotor pilots are now starting to use mini wings. It is however, strongly recommended that only very experienced paramotor pilots practice this. It offers a new approach to motorised flying with the ability to do fast courses close to the ground and also demos at air shows.
LittleCloud’s mini wings are also being flown by winch, but for the moment this remains discrete, developments to follow.
Different activities, sizes and models
8-14m2 Speed Riding
Generally used with skis, in ski centers and back country areas, most of the time is spent with the skis touching the ground, with occasional flights in the air.
These wings usually have 2 risers, and may or may not have trims. The best glide ratio for speed riding wings is obtained around mid brake travel, the glide ratio is between 2 (hands up) and 3.5 to 4. The size is chosen relative to the pilot’s skill level and experience. Speed riding wings are load tested but do not undergo certified flight tests.
Note: Speed Riding wings (8-14m2) can also be launched on foot by experienced pilots, they can be used for soaring in very strong winds, flown close to the ground, and are effective in achieving precise landings.
14-18m2 Mini Wings
A relatively new sport which is closer to traditional paragliding, but with smaller wings. Mini wings are generally launched on foot, they can be flown in a wide variety of wind conditions (from nil wind to strong). They are suitable for thermic flying, soaring and some acro manoeuvers.
Mini wings have glide ratios from 5 to 7.5 and fly at higher speeds than traditional paragliders
They are suitable for a wide variety of flights (on site, mountain flights & soaring).
Choosing the size, model and brand of mini wing is dictated by the technical level and experience of the pilot, professional advice should always be sought.
There are numerous advantages to the mini wings: they are easy to handle, low volume, light weight, great fun, they can be flown in stronger conditions and are easy to ground handle. Mini wings sized 15 to 16m2 make excellent hike and fly wings, due to their low weight, 2.0kg!! A 16-18m2 wing seems to be the ideal choice for hike & fly, with climbs of up to 5000m of altitude possible. For high mountain flying, the 18m2 is recommended. Most mini wings are load tested but don’t undergo test flights. Test flights are undertaken by the individual manufacturers.
Note : These wings can also be used for speed riding but since they have a higher glide ratio they are harder to fly close to the ground. They are however, easy to fly with skis.
There is a wide choice of models within this size range. There are 18m2 acro gliders, load test certified. Freestyle wings are also becoming available, they are less radical for acro, approx 22m2, and most are certified in flight tests. There are also XS gliders that can be certified as beginner to intermediate gliders for very light weight pilots (45 to 60kg), with test flight certification. Competition wings are also found in very small sizes, they have aspect ratios of 7 to 8, they are certified in load tests, approx 22m2 for pilots with an all up weight of 110kg. In this size bracket we can also include mountain paragliders, easy to launch and handle, light weight and low volume, with a larger all up weight range. They undergo certified test flights and weigh between 2.5 & 3.5kg.
Over 22m2 wings
Here we find the complete line of paragliders, from beginner to competition. The pilot’s skill level and personal needs will determine their choice of glider. Tandem gliders ranging from 36 to 44m2 are also available. The glide ratios are between 7.5 & 11, with aspect ratios of 4.5 to 9.5 and trim speed from 33km/h (arms up) to 60km/h with the speed bar.
Adapting and Learning to fly a Mini Wing
The formal (paragliding) training process should be followed (FFVL). The different stages / qualifications are as follows, although the names vary between countries:
‘Elementary Pilot’ (flying in calm air, at a familiar site)
‘Club Pilot’ (flying in different conditions, at different sites)
‘Advanced Pilot’ (mastering all methods of flying, and safety measures, including flying mini wings)
The training covers the following skills: Technique / Mental training / Analysis / Practice
Each of the qualifications are classed by different colours (white, yellow, green, blue & brown).
As the pilot progresses through the exercises, and practices flying the mini wing, attention is focused on specific features (speed & reaction) and also the benefits of the mini wing (ground handling in strong winds, getting started & less force).
In summary, a competent paraglider pilot should be able to grasp this new activity, with some helpful advice from a local professional; choosing a suitable site, and the right equipment (size of wing, back protection, safety equipment).
Total beginners, will follow the normal paragliding instruction process, but will adapt their learning to flying mini wings.
Pour une personne désireuse d’apprendre directement la mini voile, une équipe compétente professionnelle lui proposera une progression adaptée basée sur l’apprentissage traditionnel du parapente en tenant compte des spécificités de la mini voile.
Notices / remarks
Using a reserve is not recommended when flying in strong winds or coastal soaring.
Finding ourselves under the reserve when it’s blowing 40km/h could lead to serious consequences. A quick release system is a potential option.
Flying mini wings in strong conditions can lead to difficulties when top landing. Hence a quick release system (carabiners) can be useful, used on impact with the ground, releasing both risers (one side may be enough). Since mini wings can be flown in stronger conditions, special care must be made on launching and landing and the pilot must learn to perfect these actions in strong winds.
Additional protection is strongly advised (helmet, back protection, gloves), since hitting the ground, or any other obstacle, is likely to happen at high speeds, thus exposing the pilot to serious injuries. The use of a reserve in strong conditions, or when flying close to the ground, is not advisable since it could lead to serious consequences.
Mini wings are simple to fly in normal conditions. Their nature allows the pilot to fly in much stronger conditions than with a normal paraglider. Flying safely in strong wind requires good technique and handling, a good understanding of the air masses and the pilot should be in good physical and mental shape.
Mini wings do not transform a 45km/h wind into a 20km/h breeze, nor do they turn a beginner pilot into an expert!!
Depending on one’s experience, and choice of wing, mini wings can be flown in thermic conditions, soaring, speed flying or simple fly-downs. Mini wing flying is an activity, a style of flying, not a glider.
Small gliders: confusions & clarifications
There are many small wings now on the market, here are a few pointers to guide you:
Small paragliders , are based on classic school paragliders, sizes are reduced to 14 & 18m2. This means they have a more lively pitch, and they’re aimed at experienced pilots. They offer a slightly better glide ratio to mini wings.
Large speed riding wings (16 & 18m2), are very accessible. They have slightly less glide, than small paragliders and mini wings, and they also have a tendency to dive with the hands-up position.
Mini wingsare designed with a specific profile, giving a dampened pitch. Sizes vary from 14 to 19m2. They remain very accessible to a wide public, for a large variety of uses. Mini wings offer sufficient performance for both thermalling and soaring.
Flying a mini wing is no more complicated than flying a classic paraglider, in fact at LittleCloud we are convinced that pilots of all levels will find them easier to fly. However, you are reminded that flying safely is entirely dependent on mastering all aspects involved (choice of site, aerology, respecting the learning stages) and NOT your choice of glider.
During each flight, you must respect and apply all knowledge (equipment, aerological conditions, physical & mental form, skill level), this will ensure that you will develop safely, and will continue flying for a long time.
Mini wings can be flown in stronger conditions than regular paragliders of 25m2 (due to their greater wing loading, flatter aspect ratio, dampened pitch). However such flights must not be considered lightly, they require active piloting. You are reminded that mini wings do not have the effect of reducing the aerological conditions, and nor do they transform a beginner into an advanced pilot.
Piloting skills of a mini wing do not come more quickly, you must take the time to learn.
Enjoying the safety of flying should always be your driving force.