Paratoys has been selling paragliders for probably 10 years, starting with the eponymous Paratoys wing, a beginner model based on the MacPara Muse. Their latest offering, under the brand name Velocity, is the Recon–a reflex model intended for experienced pilots who want to compete or just enjoy going faster with good handling. According to company owner, Mike Robinson, it was designed by a Russian who came up with something truly unique, at least in its approach to brake usage at high speed, always a problem for reflex gliders.
My lone test flight was on the Paratoys Pro Series paramotor at sea level with a hook-in weight of 205 pounds. That included 135 pounds of me and 70 pounds of fueled paramotor. Conditions were mid-day with 2-level bumps and light winds. Thanks to Michael Mixer for letting me try out both his wing and motor and for getting some pictures.
Handling (- trim in, – trim out): The handling on this glider was excellent and the combo brake handles were a joy to use. The tip toggle goes through the main toggle (as pictured left) so that moving the main toggle moves the whole trailing edge like normal brakes. Flown this way response is light and crisp for a reflex wing, comparable to the Plasma. Keep a finger in that small toggle though and, when the speedbar is fully engaged, you can just use the tip steering. Here’s the cool part. This engages just enough of the brake span to also effect useful pitch control. That suggests that you may be able to fly this, fully reflexed and in full speedbar using the tip steering for roll control and enough pitch control fly low level.
What I would now like to do (or hear from other pilots) is try some of the other gliders I’ve flown to see how much pitch control they have when using their tip steering. Maybe its there but wasn’t enough to notice? On this glider it was enough to notice and I would have been willing to use it while powering into a cloverleaf at full speedbar.
There are also more traditional tip steering toggles that pull the stabilos (very tip). It’s good when maximum efficiency or speed is desired because there is no deformation of the trailing edge at all, a feature that also means they’re minimally effective, too, just like pulling the stabilo line on any glider to steer.
Inflation (-): Popped up nicely in the light breeze. As gliders, including reflex models, have gone to lighter weight fabric the inflation is becoming less an issue. No doubt durability is sacrificed but that’s a good trade-off for being able to launch reliably. I’m a big fan of this trade as long as the sellers acknowledge that there is some sacrifice in longevity.
Risers: (-): It has four risers with magnets on the tip steering, relatively short trimmers, a speedbar travel, and split A’s.
Efficiency (- slow/ – fast): I did not do a sink rate test (it was bumpy anyway) but it felt plenty efficient.
Speed (-): It isn’t particularly fast at my weight owing to the larger size but would certainly be competitive for a more heavily loaded pilot. I would need it in an 18 m2 size to be competitive in pylon-type comps but that is hard to find. Also, there is not much trimmer range so you’ll want to have a speedbar hooked up to take advantage of its speed.
Speed test raw: Wind run: 22, 30.5 mph for a windspeed of 4 mph. Test run=23.5, 25, 31
Speed Trimmed Slow = 28.5 mph
Speed Trimmed Fast = 29 mph
Speed Trimmed Fast with Full Speedbar = 35 mph.
Here is the formula to see how fast it would be at your weight.
Construction (-): My casual look suggested a modern construction techniques employing lightweight materials.
Certification & Safety (-): There is no certification at this size and the innovative control method warrants careful exploration by an experienced pilot up high. Its “tip” steering engages more of the wing than most reflex gliders do. That could make it more subject to tip collapses when fully accelerated but I’ve noticed that a lot of competitors on reflex wings get tip collapses and they don’t do much. If I get another opportunity then I’ll try it up high, fully accelerated and intentionally flying through my wake to see what happens (wearing a reserve, of course!).
Overall (-): Anyone wanting great handling and decent speed will enjoy this offering especially at heavier weights than me. My hats off to Paratoys for a unique steering solution. It doesn’t have as wide a speed range as some but would be very competitive in the right hands.
-Jeff Goin, USPPA President
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I recently got back from Salton Sea- this is always one of my favorite fly-ins. Warm, all-day flying is something we Midwesterners don’t get much in the winter. It’s a large fly-in, and that comes with it’s own challenges (especially for new pilots), but it’s also exciting to fly with so many friends. The site is now very well manicured; it was a little rough last year, but a lot of work has gone into it, and it’s quite nice now.
Like a fool, I chopped a cell out of my leading edge on my wing while I was launching to fly back from breakfast. Fortunately, Michele Danielle was there and got it fixed for me for super cheap, on-site, and right away. The repair was so good, you couldn’t even tell. You’re wonderful, Michele!
Going to Slab City was an unusual treat (I even made a new friend!) Salvation Mountain was interesting as well, if not bizarre. Usually, I like to make the Canyon run in the morning/evening (in low wind only) and a field trip to Glamis Dunes, generally on the last night with my buddies. Because of the strong winds, Saturday was a no-fly day, and most of Sunday was as well. Nonetheless, Sunday evening turned out to be some really nice flying. The day ended with burly steaks and friends around the campfire. I had a great time. Thanks to Mike and the Paratoys crew for putting on this great event. Lord knows, I know how much trouble a mid-sized fly-in is to put on…
Wing Review: 22m Paratoys Recon
I always try to fly new wings at fly-ins, but the only new one I got to try this year was the Recon. Ray McMahon generously offered up the new Dudek Hadron to try, and I was going to, but the weather didn’t cooperate before he left. He promised to bring it out for the Indy Air Hogs fly-in this year; I’m looking forward to trying it. On to the review:
First off, I should say that I normally fly a MacPara Spice 22, so that’s the basis for my handling comparisons. I launched the Recon in low wind; probably 2-3 mph. It came up very easily (which surprised me, being a reflex and all) and it almost overshot me. I did some quick upwind/downwind speed tests, and came to estimates of 30mph (trim slow) and 33mph (trim fast): note, my all-up weight is about 255 lbs. The speed estimates are close, but I could have been more thorough. Honestly, I was more anxious to see how the wing handled. The brake toggles have this cool feature where there is a nested (small) toggle inside the main brake toggle. This nested toggle is used for high performance steering, and is suggested for trims slow or fast. With trims fast and full speedbar, you’re only supposed to use the tip steering, which is another control. The steering controls, while unusual, were really cool- very innovative. The nested toggle controls just the outside 5′ or so of the trailing edge, and wow, does it respond. I mean right now.
This wing handled very similar to my Spice, which I consider the Porsche of motoring paragliders. It responded quickly, went into a steep dive when you wanted it to, and didn’t seem to roll oscillate. I really liked it. And this coming from someone who never really liked a Paratoys wing. I thought this wing was kick-ass. I really wish I’d gotten to try the Dudek Hadron so I could have compared them, but alas, it wasn’t in the cards. So now I can say that I’ve finally flown a reflex wing that I really liked. I will also say this: this wing is not for beginners. The very responsive handling combined with the complexity of the additional steering controls would be too much for a newbie. But for an intermediate or advanced pilot- yeah, this is a winner.
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I got to fly the Recon as it was being demoed by my friend, David Jackson, a reflex Dudek Nucleon pilot. The Velocity dealer, Michael Mixer, told us all kinds of great things about the Recon but I’ve heard all that hype before so it went in one ear and out the other. Finally, after having my fill of all the BS, I figured I’d shut this guy up and fly the Recon to let Michael know that “it aint all that…thankyou, come again”. OMG was I wrong. It IS all that!
Let me start with what is not good with this glider. The runout on launch is a little further than my current classic dhv 1-2 PPG wing. In slowest mode (trimmers pulled in) I would guess, in no wind, it takes 5-7 more steps to fly. I love flying but running is not something I enjoy so strike one. Michael tells me the minimum speed is 2mph faster than my current non-reflex glider and I can understand that as being part of the reflex game. Next…….well that’s it for the negative and I mean that.
Now, to the positives. After running those extra 5-7 steps, I’m in the air. I made my first 180deg turn and true to Michaels words, it turned using half the brake travel and pressure as I normally use on my classic dhv 1-2 glider. After a few more turns and cutting up I’m instantly feeling comfortable with this glider. It’s easy to make it do some nice diving swooping turns and for some reason I feel like a better pilot. I don’t/can’t do any acro and am the “median” pilot….I like to cruise around….fly to some locations 10 miles away and then come back to the LZ and cutup. My “acro” is doing sharp turns, big ears, foot drags…touch and goes and things like that. I’ve got a little confidence with this wing quickly and it’s time for some foot drags. Normally I have to modulate the throttle a good bit as well as the brake toggles on my own glider but the Recon is different. With it I am almost always at a constant throttle and can really manage sink and lift with the Recons brake toggles. It may have a lot more energy…it might be because it’s green, I don’t know but it is much easier for me to do foot drags with the Recon. It’s like I can really feel what it is doing and the glider responds very well to everything I’m asking it to do. There is a PPG term for that I’m sure but I don’t know it. It just feels “right”.
Climbing up and leveling off, I decide to look at my GPS. I see 23mph going into the wind and 31mph coming back with the wind for an average of 27mph in slow mode. I let the short trimmers out and see my average speed has increased to 29 mph. Wow this thing is pretty speedy but I honestly could care less about speed having given away my speedbar pullies to my flying buddy Sam Nash many months ago. At least the Recon is doing the speed Michael told me it would.
Now it’s time to mess with these smaller inner toggles. Somehow, they just sit there inside the main toggles out of the way. Michael said to try them and that I would be impressed. I pulled one down about 5″ and YES SIR this thing turns on a DIME! I mean right NOW!! After landing, I call Michael and ask why in the world would you need to turn THAT fast??!! He tells me the Recon is a cross country/competition glider. I have never flown a comp glider but this must be what they feel like…..when you want to turn quickly it happens immediately. I decide that I will play with those toggles after a few more flights because im a Nascar driver driving a Formula 1 car at this point.
It’s time for a landing and I remember Michaels advice. Come in….a little brake and it will level off just above the ground. Right when you start to lose some altitude flare and watch her stop and ease you down. That is exactly what happened. At first I thought “man I am hauling butt and this is going to be faster than I can run.” As soon as I started to lose a little energy I flared and the Recon slowed to a creep and just set me down easy. You do have to be careful because it has a lot of energy and will raise you back up into the air several feet if you treat this thing like your old classic glider. The Recon has a LOT of flare energy…very surprised.
That’s my initial impressions. Next comes some speedbar to see what this full reflex hype is all about…Sam I need to borrow those pullies.
One more point is that our flying was in some bumpy air. The Recon seemed to smooth out the bumps some and they didn’t grab my attention as much as they normally do. I constantly felt in total control and somehow the rough air was just more manageable and not nearly as nerve wrecking. I really feel like this wing can extend my flying time another hour in the mornings as the thermals start because it dampens the bumps so well.