First flights with my new Orbiter

Last week of May 2016 I flew my new hang glider (an Orbiter from Icaro) for the first time, above lake Annecy in the French Alps.  Please see here a short movie that I made. On my way back home Radio538 called me for a short interview. Below you will find this funny and spontaneous interview at Radio538 in the Saturday afternoon radio show of Barry Paf (in Dutch). Next to this, you will find some nice pictures at the bottom of this blog.

Two weeks before my trip to Annecy (Friday the 6th of May) I picked up my new Orbiter at the Icaro factory in Sangiano, North Italy and brought the glider to my hometown in the Netherlands. I was very happy with the personal attention from the Icaro staff. Specifically Manfred Ruhmer, who helped us (we also picked up the new Orbiter from my hang gliding friend Bob) a lot to explain our new gliders in all possible detail. Manfred really took the time to give us a good level of comfort to fly with our great new flying devices.

An Orbiter is an intermediate hang glider with double surface wings including a VG (Variable Geometry). The VG helps to fly much further due to changing the shape of the wings (the wings become much stiff). Technically this happens: Tightening the VG increases the span wise tension which the airframe places on the sail, reducing the span wise twist and the sail elasticity. The result is an increase in L/D performance and a reduction in roll control authority and roll control response.

When pulling the VG, you have to be aware that the glider reacts a bit less on your input to turn.

Please read a hang gliding glossary here to learn more about double surface wings and the VG. Compared to my previous glider (a Relax, also from Icaro) the Orbiter has a much better “angle of attack”. This means that you are able to fly more distances (over 50% more) compared to a Relax. Last year I was lucky to cross Lake Annecy with my Relax, but this is very rare. Normally these kind of cross country flying is not that easy with a single surface glider.  With my new Orbiter I hope to do this again and maybe even fly completely around the beautiful lake.

There are also some disadvantages as the Orbiter is a bit more difficult to fly compared to the Relax. Specifically the take-off and landing are different than flying a Relax. You have to be cautious on your base leg for the significant additional distance in the ground effect on your final. The decision to move to your final has to be lower or further away than flying a Relax. The Orbiter is also much more reactive to your handling. This means that possible overcorrections are an easy mistake (which I of course have made too  🙂 ). Just like steering a boot you have to be careful and stop timely.  If not, the Orbiter will start moving from the left to the right and back.

During take-off and landing it’s very helpful to pull the VG in for about 25 to 30%. This was also advised by Icaro.

Due to bad weather conditions at the beginning of the week, I was only able to make 6 flights that week. The last 2 flights proved that I made good progress to control and fly better with my great new glider. This gave me enough comfort that I am on the right track and that I will enjoy to fly with the Orbiter in the future even more.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to know more about my experiences with my Orbiter.


2 thoughts on “First flights with my new Orbiter

  1. Hello
    My name is Graham and I’m also ready for my next step up on glider.
    I live in cape town and I am the only person that has an icaro in the club of about 25 guys.
    I bought a RX2 and have been very happy with it but now need more penetration as winds are mostly 40Km/h or more here when we fly on the coast.
    what is your opinion on icaro compared to other brands like ww,moyes, etc
    I,m thinking that the orbiter should be my next glider but cannot find any opinions on its comparison to other gliders and would appreciate some guidance as to making the right decision. Thank you.

  2. Hi Greham,

    Sorry to react so late.

    Together with my hang glider friend and in close contact with several hang glide instructors we have made the decision to (both) buy the Orbiter. The Orbiter seems to be one of the best intermediate gliders and we are happy with the decision made. Of course we had to get used to the new way of flying as “the Relax is quite relaxed” 🙂 Especially we have to avoid over corrections and to be sure that the glider flies perfectly straight before the landing. Just like the Relax, but with the Orbiter it’s even more important.

    I hope this will help you in your final decision.

    Blue skies!