Helix wing loading
**While this post was originally written for the Helix, the topic is easily applied to any of our wings. 20JAN2017
We are regularly asked what the "ideal" wing loading is for the Helix. These questions are often worded something along the lines of "What kind of a wing loading would you recommend for competition?" and/or "What size [Helix] would you recommend based on my experience and loading?". While this is a very good question to ask, it is nearly impossible to answer appropriately for any individual pilot. There are a lot of frames of reference and variables to account for, and we at Fluid Wings are not knowledgeable about your specific piloting skill or experience. Some of the difficulties involved include things such as:
What exactly a pilot's experience is? What was your progression – parachute models and sizes up to this point.
What conditions are "normal" for you? – higher elevation dropzones, locations prone to turbulence, etc.
What kind of traffic do you normally fly in? Are you at a Cessna 182 DZ or a busy multiple Twin Otter DZ with lots of traffic?
How long have you been flying your current configuration? Have you kept the same wing model and loading for 100 jumps or 1000 jumps? In addition, the size of the wing makes a big difference (e.g. a 120 at 3:1 would be entirely different than a 64 at 3:1).
What your habits are? We all do minute things differently – how we pull risers, how we line up for turns, etc. The subtle difference in technique can add up to make larger differences in overall performance, good or bad.
What is your overall comfort level? Are you highly experienced and calm when things don't go right, or are you overconfident and likely to freeze because you're overloaded already when things get uncomfortable?
All of these and more can make some wings suitable for one pilot and entirely inappropriate for another. There are also technical aspects in our design process methodology that we use to ensure similar flight characteristics between sizes. Without going into to much detail about our process – we design our wings to fly consistent with our design goals in all sizes of the same model (sometimes this means significant changes to the wings between sizes). However the methods we use keep our testing aimed at ensuring the wing performs well for a range of loadings and is not set to be optimized at any specific value. Also, what may be considered an ideal characteristic for one person may not be for another.
With the Helix (as with most wings) there is not an "ideal" wing loading, however our employees, test pilots, and a majority of our customers seem to most enjoy a loading somewhere between 2.5:1 to 3:1. Of course your mileage may vary so you should start light and try several sizes until you find one that suits your skill, experience and comfort level.
If you have any interest or plans to demo a Helix, we regularly recommend requesting the same size wing or a larger wing than what you are currently flying. The Helix is truly high performance and is a significant step up from your average conventional cross brace wing. This is the best way for you to directly compare flight characteristics between the two models without being too much to handle in a busy skydiving environment.
To find more information on our wings and other products, check out our website: http://www.fluidwings.com/
Remember to fly conservative, stay safe, and have fun!