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Elan2 tested

 

 ELAN 2
  TESTED by THERMIK MAGAZINE

Test pilot: Franz Sailer

The second generation of the Elan: more power. Responsiveness with performance

In 2014, Mac Para released a successful wing with the Elan and set the bar very high for a worthy successor. We couldn't wait to see if and how the Elan 2 would rise to the challenge.

The Elan 1 impressed with its balanced, comfortable overall design and also scored highly on its largely unproblematic extreme flight behaviour. It is little wonder it retains a high degree of enthusiasm amongst pilots. But competition in the sports class is fierce - as is the performance hunger of XC pilots. The latest Advance release was the Sigma 10, Ozone produced the Delta 3 and Gradient presented the Aspen 6, to name just three brand new wings in this glider class.  With the timely release of the Elan 2, Mac Para follows the basic design principle of its predecessor: "a performance wing without affectations". By this they mean: alongside performance, safety and sensitive handling are of utmost importance. Furthermore, like many other manufacturers have done for years, the Czech paragliding company is increasing its efforts towards consistent lightweight construction. This means the Elan 2 was designed as a semi-light version and in its smallest size only weighs 4.6 kg - nearly 1 kg lighter than the Elan 1. What else does the new Elan offer?

CONSTRUCTION, MATERIALS, DESIGN

The Elan 2 was designed as a perfect three-liner, with 63 cells, just like its predecessor.  Other than that, this new sports class wing with a (slightly increased) aspect ratio of 6.3, has little in common with the previous generation. Christian Amon, co-designer and test pilot at Mac Para explains: "The profile is very different. The Elan 2 has a modified Shark Nose, where the air inlets are positioned differently. The stress distribution on the upper and under surfaces is also markedly different. The Elan 2 was also deliberately designed to be faster at trim and top speed." The result is a racy semi-light sports class wing, with allegedly even better handling. Mac Para is convinced that the Elan 2's ultra-modern design in light materials make this the perfect wing for XC hounds who value performance and safety. Despite the goal of increasing the performance in comparison to its predecessor, the designers did not push this to the limit. Christian explains: "For example, we deliberately didn't use continuous reinforcements in the upper surface. This would have increased the performance at top speed a little, but the handling would be negatively affected.  Wings designed in that way don't absorb turbulence well, they become more stiff and and turbulence can be fed back through the risers." The other Elan 2 design features are a new Shark Nose with the usual stitched reinforcements (Mylar inserts) with thin plastic wire rods. The so-called Rigidfoils are also used. Additional thin, relatively short reinforcements are placed and sewn between the cell openings. This results in even more shape retention at the leading edge. Some of the 3D Shaping on the leading edge creates the colour design transition.

On the internal wing design: lateral ventilation is provided through precisely dimensioned slots (Cross Ports) in the profiles. Each load bearing rib is connected to three lines. These connection points have high quality stitching and are additionally reinforced. Between the individual line areas, special tensioning straps are used to regulate the sail tension. At the trailing edge, a thin, low-stretch tape has been added, which provides sophisticated stress distribution over the entire canopy. Miniribs in the trailing edge ensure the perfect airflow. Mac Para paragliders commit to 100% European production and the use of first-class materials is given very high priority. Skytex cloth by Porcher Sport is used for the whole sail. It is a mix of Skytex 38 Classic, 32 Universal and 27 Classic II. All ribs and diagonal ribs are made from Skytex 32 Hard with E29 "hard finish” coating. The manufacturer claims this mix of materials give the wing the advantage of being both light and durable. The gallery lines of various thickness are unsheathed Aramid made by Edelrid; the main and brake lines are made from Dynema by Liros (PPSL 191). The well-made 12 mm risers, manufactured by Cousin, have a separate A1-riser, easy-to-use pulleys, brake pulleys, press studs that stay fixed, brake line swivels and generous handles on the C-risers. The stainless steel maillons use O-rings to prevent the colour-coded lines from inadvertently slipping. The Elan 2 comes in a possibly record breaking seven (!) sizes (55 kg - 180 kg all-up weight). Christian Amon says: "We had a lot of enquiries about the larger sizes from Scandinavia and therefore had a lot of pre-orders. We also hope to be able to certify size XXL (up to 180kg) for tandem use." Standard colour combination for the wings are lime, blue and white, but custom colours are available.

LAUNCH

Flying the wing at the top of the weight-range at 91 kg, I launched the demo glider for the first time at the end of July at the busy site at Bischling in Werfenweng, Austria. The inversion was persistent and a small gaggle of early birds had to fight for every meter so as not to bomb out. Would I be able to keep up with them with the glider so heavily laden? I set up the canopy in a nice arc to avoid the cross wind and sort the lines. The unsheathed main lines are made from Liros (PPSL 191) and have a tendency to tangle and twist, so need to be separated carefully. A gentle pull on the A-lines is enough to inflate the semi-light wing and the complete canopy fills with air and rises quickly overhead. Even in challenging wind conditions there is no snagging. Even on flat take-offs and in nil wind, the Elan 2 displays exemplary inflation characteristics. With a stronger pull or with a lot of wind, the wing has a tendency to overshoot a little and may also lift asymmetrically. However, even in a stiff breeze the wing will lie on the ground in a well behaved manner.  In gusty winds the wing can at times come up asymmetrically and may yaw and twist. A quick brake input sorts this out immediately.  The Elan 2 is certified for towing and due to its eager inflation as well as precise brake input characteristics, is very well suited to this launch method.

FLIGHT CHARACTERISTICS

After take-off I soared along the east facing slope and, after gaining a few meters, joined the gaggle in the house thermal. In comparison to its predecessor, the Elan 2 flies markedly faster at trim. Flying absolutely at the top of the weight-range, a size 24 wing reaches 41 km/h at trim, placing the Elan 2 right at the top of the sports class for speed. It flies like it is on rails - this sleek wing cuts through rough air and maintains a feeling of complete solidness. The stiffened canopy is taut across the whole span and doesn't need to work hard to stay solid. The wing remains totally crease-free and is efficient in a head wind and turns unflappably in thermals.

The control characteristics of the Elan 2 are of the highest calibre: brake inputs are converted exactly and without delay. Brake travel is pleasantly short and brake pressure is low to medium. After only a few minutes, the pilot can feel the outstanding strengths of the Elan 2, which form part of the excellent handling in all flight situations.

Like the Elan 1, the new model is super agile and very manoeuvrable in roll. Pitching is a little more pronounced than on its predecessor, probably due to its higher trim speed.

Thermalling

The Elan 2 could be described as an "agile flat-turner"! The glider allows perfect turns with minimal heigh loss using only weight-shift. For those who like it a bit more dynamic, weight-shift and a firm pull on the inside brake will induce a rapid change of turn direction. In thermals the Elan 2 excels due to its precision and agility. The wing obeys instantly and converts every centimetre of brake input or each kilogram of weight-shift into the desired bank. There's no slipping, yawing or constant tip flapping. If the pilot sits in the harness lazily without moving at all, this agile sports class wing will turn perfectly in thermals just by using the brakes. No weight-shift is required. Visibly sloppy turns don't hamper the Elan 2 from making clean circles in the sky. If sore, tired shoulders or cold hands prevent brake steering, then all the Elan 2 needs is a little bottom wriggling.  Sometimes in the lee or in a rough thermal, the wingtips have to be controlled. The wing may also pitch, bumps cause feedback through the risers and one side may be hooked asymmetrically into the thermal. Even if such challenging conditions require active pilot input, in a rough thermal the wing stays remarkably stable and buffers turbulence well. Flying the size 24 wing with 85 kg seems to be the optimal load.

Christian Amon agrees: "The Elan 2 can be flown in the middle of the weight range, without negatively affecting the handling. The new design also immediately converts weak thermals into lift."

Accelerated flight

When accelerated, the new Mac Para sports class wing is solid, has great directional stability and most importantly - it's fast! The top speed of + 56 km/h takes it to the top of the C-class and the polar curve is completely competitive with its rivals. When fully accelerated, the leading edge stays fully taut. There are no dents or fluttering at the nose. On full speed-bar during turbulence the Elan 2 is less likely to warp, but it the risers may vibrate and there may be a light fluttering of the tips. Even at the limit, the tips provide limited feedback. C-steering is very comfortable due to the generously sized C-handles. As usual with three-liners, during stronger pitch corrections the wing visibly creases behind the B-area, but the profile is not nearly as deformed as with so many other high-performance three-liners.

Fun factor & extreme flight behaviour

The nimble, agile Elan always encourages you to play. Trimmed to be fast, the wing provides the necessary power when performing manoeuvres. Whether you want to perform a deep spiral, big wingover or an asymmetric spiral... For those who want to improve in this area the Elan 2 is a great tool to progress and perfect their skills.  During test flights in windy conditions and with strong thermals, I experienced no frontal or asymmetric tucks.  No wonder, at trim the wing is bombproof (accelerated as well) and an XC hound will soon recognise the warning signs of being on the limit and know exactly when to take the foot off the speed-bar. During the tested extreme flight manoeuvres, particularly during induced collapses, the all-up weight plays an important roll. The size 24 wing was flown at the upper-weight limit and we were amazed that non-accelerated collapses were completely manageable and easy to control.  Induced asymmetric collapses at trim speed without a folding line were straightforward, with turning and diving only moderate. During this manoeuvre the wing is very easy to control/correct. Re-inflation of the collapse is varied,but mostly the opening will be delayed and gentle. Unaccelerated frontal collapses are generally unspectacular. The wing always opens without delay and completely symmetrically, and there is hardly any diving of the wing. Accelerated asymmetric collapses will quickly induce a turn, if it is not controlled in time. Occasional collapses on the opposite wing tip remained uneventful. Also, accelerated frontal collapses (which the manual says have to be induced in a specific way!) are clearly more demanding. The wing may re-inflate asymmetrically and may pitch more.

DESCENT TECHNIQUES

Spiral dive
Very few sports class wings are as easy, effective and unproblematic to spiral as the Elan 2. Without delay, but not abruptly, the wing enters the spiral and is soon  in the downward position. When in the spiral the wing is solid and can be perfectly controlled. After releasing the inside brake, the Elan 2 exits the spiral independently, even at high sink rates, and doesn't then continue to turn thereafter. After the exit the wing only pitches a little - overall it is excellently suited to a fast descent in turbulent conditions. Definetely five stars.

Big ears
The separate A1-riser makes big ears simple. At trim speed the ears don't flap and release themselves after a short delay. When fully accelerated, the outer tip will flutter and the ears will need an extra pump of the brakes to release them. They will release completely rapidly and reliably. Efficiency: mid to high.

B-line stall
Inducing the B-line stall requires an average amount of effort, but is then pleasant to hold. The canopy only has the tendency to twist or yaw if the B-risers are pulled very strongly. After release, the wing reliably starts to fly without any dive. Completely suitable for a fast decent. Efficiency: high.

Conclusion

Like its predecessor, the Elan 2 is a comfortable wing, but it has a bit more "power" and "responsiveness". At the same time, the "good" was preserved and the positive, tried and tested aspects of its predecessor maintained. Especially the excellent handling and a manageable extreme flight behaviour.  This means any owner of an Elan 1 will feel immediately at home on an Elan 2. With respect to the overall flight behaviour and the pilot target group, the new sports class wing from Mac Para is placed in the middle of the C-class, so that the Elan 2 is suitable for B-class pilots who want to go up a class. The new wing will especially inspire performance-hungry XC pilots, who can convert the higher trim speed as well as the great top speed into many real kilometres. The bottom line is that the Elan 2, with a plus in performance flies somewhat faster than its predecessor, although still with the usual comfort. It is doubtless a worthy successor!

PILOT COMMENT

I would also have liked to test the Elan 2 in size M using a race harness. Unfortunately, for a quick test only size S was available and this meant despite my lightest gear I had to fly it towards the top of the weight-range.
With this load, the size 24's punch and dynamics really excited me. Flying into a headwind at speed was a welcome challenge for the Elan 2. Weather and time constraints meant I was denied a really big flight of 150 or 200 km, but with this sports class wing you really can munch the kilometres - and still thermal comfortably and feel great!

What we liked: great handling, high top speed
What's different about this wing: well-functioning, generous C-handles
What we don't like: nothing

SUMMARY
Launch characteristics
Forward launch
****
Inflates well, climbs reliably, generally has to be braked when overhead.
Reverse launch
*****
Generally easy, even in nil wind launches safely after a consistent pull on the A-risers, short take off run.
Strong wind handling
****
Easy to correct, slight overshoot tendency, may lift asymmetrically in strong winds, canopy remains on the ground, occasionally may yaw or inflate asymmetrically.
Flight characteristics Agility/manoeuvrability
*****
Always agile and nimble, fine-tuned roll moment, in turbulent air more pitchy than the Elan 1, then occasionally has to be braked more.
Braking characteristics
*****
Short brake travel, pleasant brake pressure, responds to inputs directly and immediately.
Collapse behaviour
****
Accelerated front and asymmetric collapses manageable, wing rotates faster, but wing can be controlled very well; collapses when accelerated: increased turn and class-typical dive with occasional tendency to collapse on the opposite side.
Accelerated flight
*****
Short speed-bar travel, pleasant bar pressure, very directionally stable, generous C-handles, great top speed into headwind.
Dampening/Stability
****
Stable tips, always good internal pressure, when well loaded hardly any tendency to turn, sometimes a tendency to lift asymmetrically.
Descent techniques Big ears
*****
Simple to perform using  A1-risers, ears do not flap, at trim speed releasing the ears is automatic, when accelerated release is delayed.
B-line stall
****
Initiating the manoeuvre requires average effort, comfortable to hold, no tendency to twist, can slightly yaw, releases reliably without diving.
Spiral dive
*****
Quickly enters spiral, can be perfectly controlled, wing will exit automatically, even after high descent rates it does not continue to turn, average pitching back on exit.
Target group experienced, ambitious cross-country pilots
Score * poor ** average *** good
**** very good ***** excellent