Skywalk CHILI4 (Paraglider Review)
I've finally managed to fly the Skywalk CHILI4 XS (70-95 kg) a good amount in spring thermic conditions, and thoroughly tested out it's launch characteristics, handling, pitch behaviour, ease of spin/stall, stalls, feeling of stability, the speed system, pilot demands, as well as trying to get an idea of climb rate, glide and speed against other wings.
I've had numerous flights on the CHILI4 XS in varied conditions, including a spring XC flight in the sea breeze convergence. In total 10 hours of airtime, and over 1 hour of ground handling time. Most of these flights were at 90-92 kg all-up, using my Lightness 2 pod harness. I also tested the CHILI4 using a standard upright harness, the SUCCESS 4.
This review completes our investigation begun in our first impressions of the CHILI 4, when we had limited airtime in winter conditions. We reserved judgment on aspects that related to handling in thermic conditions. Some pilots made the mistake of ‘reading between the lines’ and thought we didn’t like the wing. This was not true, we just weren’t prepared to make wild guesses about untested aspects. Now that we have flown the wing adequately, in three sizes (XS, S, M), and completed test flights, we have a more complete picture of the wing.
Review by Carlo Borsattino. Cover image by Mariusz Macias. Photo below by Nancy Elliott. All other images © Skywalk.
CHILI4: On the ground
I’ve tested sizes XXS, XS, S and M on the ground so far. Although my experience is that it's quite normal to find differences between the sizes of a particular model, usually subtle but sometimes surprisingly marked, even allowing for similar wing loading, I found the characteristics of the different sizes of CHILI4 I tested to be relatively well matched between them, which is a good.
After much testing, experimenting and generally playing around on our beautiful grassy slopes, I found that the Skywalk CHILI4 has a slight tendency to hang back in the first part of the inflation, and a slight tendency to overshoot at the last, but nothing untoward. I found that in moderate winds a slightly more positive pull (mainly with my body, rather than the A risers) at the start, with perhaps a gentle lift of the risers, if deemed necessary, followed by moving swiftly towards the wing at the appropriate speed as it approached 45 degrees, then a gentle check with the brakes (just enough, no more) as it reached the zenith, worked best. Overall I find the CHILI4 less demanding than the CHILI3 on the ground, which had more of a tendency to come up fast and overshoot (pluck, tuck and duck). Pilots with good handling skills should have no problems with the CHILI4. Those who are less subtle and a bit heavy handed might need to work on their skills. Overall, very good.
The CHILI4's unsheathed lines seem to get in a knot a bit more than others, especially where the main lines meet the upper cascades, around the loops. On inspection, this seems to be due to the thinness and type of line used. Since paraglider lines tend to be naturally hygroscopic, and unsheathed lines generally more so, perhaps this effect was exacerbated by slightly damp grass. This is only a minor point; careful management minimises any knots occurring.
CHILI4: Pitch behaviour
I did a few extended sets of pitching exercises. I made the pitches as big as I possibly could (without stalling the wing completely) and holding the rear risers at the top each time the wing pitched forwards so I couldn't put any input in. Try as I might, I couldn't make it collapse. In the end I was somewhat disappointed, as I was actually looking forward to having a big front tuck. So I induced a couple instead! All OK.
Pitch behaviour in active air (both letting the wing do its thing and flying normally, with appropriate pilot inputs) showed a good balance of not-too-dampened and not-too-active, with a slight tendency to hang back on entry to some punchier thermals, but not excessively so. This might be because the wings I fly tend to have a bit more 'bite' in their pitch behaviour (a tendency to pitch forward) than most wings in the XC class.
Even though I did fly the CHILI4 XS in some fairly active air, and purposefully let it do its thing when it got active, I didn't have more than the wing unloading (where some others, flying hotter EN C and EN D wings, had small collapses nearby). Of course I'm sure that, like all paragliders, it can and will collapse if the air is turbulent enough, but collapse resistance seems excellent.
None of the air I have flown the CHILI4 in has been extremely turbulent, but I'd expect the CHILI4 to behave well and be relatively easy to manage for its class if I did.
CHILI4: Ease of spin/stall
I tried a few point of spin/stall tests, from ginger to quite aggressive. The CHILI4's shorter brake travel means that you can stall or spin the wing without taking wraps, which I think is appropriate for this level of wing. Brake pressure increases progressively through the travel until it approaches the stall point, where the pressure increases markedly, and there is a good warning and resistance before the stall. The delay from point of stall to stall seems a little faster than some other XC class wings to me; this is not a problem as such, just something to be aware of (and something which I personally quite like). Perhaps this feeling is contributed to by the relatively short brake travel (the CHILI4 has relatively short brake travel compared to other XC class wings, where the CHILI3 had relatively long brake travel). Going hands up from point of stall/spin, the wing quickly recovers, pitches forward to fly, but didn't require damping. A couple of times the wing unloaded, but didn't collapse.
I did some stalls on the CHILI4 XS to see how it behaved. No wraps required. The wing behaved well. I didn't manage to get the CHILI4 into a nice stable back-fly; it was rotating slightly, one way or another. The exit was fine each time.
CHILI4: Feeling of stability
Very good, no issues here. The wing feels solid, no tendency to front or tip tuck. Not moving around on any axis excessively; it has perhaps a slight tendency to roll. It also inspires confidence that it doesn't have any tendency to deep stall. All in all, a wing that you feel confident wants to fly and stay in the shape it's intended to.
CHILI4: The speed system
Light. Effective. Efficient. Very usable. At full speed there's a small amount of indenting on the leading edge, more so on the larger cells near the middle, as to be expected for a wing with this number and size of cells, but the wing remains solid and it feels very usable.
The build quality and choice of materials is excellent. As with all Skywalk wings, the CHILI4 features "Jet Flaps" which Skywalk say: "... extend the green arc as you approach the stall point, which substantially increases safety and also improves climb performance." Other technologies include c-wires (nylon wires sewn into the glider over the anchor points of the C-level lines), mini ribs (doubling the number of cells at the trailing edge), rigid foil (nylon wires on the leading edge), 3D-shaping, 3 line levels and the now ubiquitous shark nose.
The risers of the CHILI4 are made from high quality materials, and very nicely put together. Slim enough to be low drag, but not so much as to be hard to handle. The A risers are clearly marked with red material at their tops, and split for big ears. Skywalk have chosen high quality, decent-sized pulleys for the speed system; these reduce pressure and increases sensitivity, which improves control. The brake handles are padded, very comfortable and fitted with high quality metal poppers and brake line swivels. The brake lines pass through a small section of protective clear tubing, which has been threaded through the brake line swivels, to reduce wear. A nice touch, showing great attention to detail. Skywalk have chosen low friction rings for the brake line retainers. I personally much prefer these to pulleys for this purpose, since they are lighter and don't squeak.
It's not realistically possible to scientifically compare performance in active air, but as an experienced pilot and wing tester I feel like I can get a pretty good idea. Flying in crowded skies, often in close proximity to others, including some of the World's top pilots flying the latest hotships, also helps to draw a clearer comparison.
Climb rate. When the CHILI3 first came out, it soon earned a reputation for an exceptional climb rate compared to other wings in its class, even many wings in higher classes. Therefore this is probably one of the main criteria which CHILI3 fans are wondering about. Since then, others have caught up with a bit more speed and glide, and sharper handling. So to satisfy CHILI3 fans Skywalk needed to keep the climb rate, and improve other areas where it was now being left behind by newer wings. Compared to all similar wings I flew against, the CHILI4 XS loaded at 92 kg can hold its own very well, soaring and thermaling in a variety of conditions.
“Its good feedback and nimble handling meant that I could feel where the best part of the thermal was and easily adjust my turns to make the best of the lift whilst negotiating traffic.”
Glide. This is the hardest thing to measure or compare against others - especially as soon as there is any kind of movement in the air! It's easier to make comparisons by repeated glides in still air however this has limited value and doesn't tell you how the wing performs in active air.
Gliding next to others current top performing models in the XC class the CHILI4's glide felt very good, as good as the best of the rest (Iota, Ikuma, Mentor 4).
Top end speed. Gliding next to others in the XC class it seemed as good as the best of the rest.
CHILI4: Comparing Classes
Relative to its peers in the ‘high B’ arena, the CHILI4 is very competitive.
Compared to Sports class wings (Artik 4, Delta 2, Cayenne 5), the Skywalk CHILI4 had similar glide but at a slightly slower speed. Compared to 3-liner Performance class wings, I was getting left behind in terms of speed and glide. Compared to current 2-liners, more so. Top speed comparisons showed a similar separation between classes.
As half of a cross country flight is spent thermaling, it’s wise to choose a good thermaling wing. When it comes to climb rate the Skywalk CHILI4 has an advantage in its class, able to turn remarkably tightly with better agility than many wings, whilst also producing an excellent climb rate shared with its predecessor. It is possible to thermal very efficiently on this wing, allowing a CHILI4 pilot to keep close to the lead gaggle.
The Skywalk CHILI4 sorts out some of the limitations of the CHILI3, improving the brake travel, launching, feedback, stability and performance. Skywalk has produced a wing that feels refined, complete and ready for action. If you have experience on an EN B wing already and are wanting to extend your cross country horizons this is a good match for pilots with an understanding of active flying. It has a reassuring nature with enough feedback to offer a connection with the air, and performance levels at the top of its class.
“The Skywalk CHILI4 is an excellent all-round XC class wing, with appropriate pilot demands for the intended pilot group.”
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