Skywalk CUMEO Review (First Impressions)

Skywalk is committed to the development of lightweight paragliders, having produced a large range of light wings, mini wings and high performance ultralights. They also dominated the 2017 Red Bull X-Alps, which they sponsor. Building on their experience, they designed a lightweight version of the Skywalk CHILI4 (their XC Class / high B wing).

CUMEO: Construction

Skywalk CUMEO review: risers

The Skywalk CUMEO removes 1.1kg from your pack weight (the XS size I flew weighs only 4.1kg). If there have been compromises in strength, it’s not obvious: the wing feels well made and durable. Like any light wing, it’s important to take extra care when laying out and packing to avoid damaging the lighter components.

Like the CHILI4, the thin outer lines and all the top lines are unsheathed, leaving only the central lower lines with protective sheathing. The risers are well finished, with thin black webbing, brake poppers, and plastic locking inserts in the maillons. The enlarged loop at the base helps connecting into standard karabiners. The brake loops are small, with a comfortable spongy insert in the base.

Skywalk CUMEO review: layout

Leading edge plastic wires and long C-wires spread the load and clean up the profile once flying. On the ground they seem to be very flexible have little shape memory. This is good because when packing, if you line up the leading edge, the C- wires don't line up, so when you fold the nose over, the wires get bent. Some hike-and-fly pilots like to compress the wing really tight for better carrying.

I asked if the tight bend causes any problems with the wires. Arne Wehrlin from Skywalk replied: “The rigid foils we have are really no problem to fold. The radius can be less than 1cm. So just fold and enjoy.”

Skywalk CUMEO review: bag

The wing is supplied in a useful stuff-bag with mesh sides, which allows the wing to dry out somewhat when packed. You can compress this bag with the zips to reduce your pack volume, which you’ll want to do as the Cumeo takes up a fair amount of space, possibly due to the extensive reinforcing.

CUMEO: Launching

Skywalk CUMEO review: pullup

I launched in normal soaring conditions with a steady breeze of perhaps 15-20km/h, where the wing was easy to control, showing a slight tendency to wallow beneath 45 degrees, requiring continued guidance to lift it up. It responded well to As and Cs steering, or standard pullup techniques. In strong wind it can be pinned down nicely on the rear risers, and bounced up without using the As. It didn’t need any particular care on overshooting, making it slightly easier than the CHILI4.

In zero to light winds it came up slowly. Once overhead, it showed a slight tendency to drop back from 70 degrees if slowed on the brakes, so good timing and awareness of the wing is necessary for a clean launch – keep your hands up!

CUMEO: Handling

Skywalk CUMEO review: turning

In the air it reminded me instantly of the CHILI4 with the same short brake contact, giving an instant tight rotating turn without dropping the wing into the corner. It will be great for scratching up in narrow thermals.

Holding the turn in generated a spiral without excessive increase in energy, very easy to control.

Playing around with wingovers was very comfortable, not showing any tendency to throw ‘wild’ energy at the pilot.

CUMEO: Spin and stall

Skywalk CUMEO review: stall point

The spin generates a slipping turn as the wing peels back, which recovers instantly if the brake is released. The stall point in straight flight is soft, gentle, and entirely predictable, making it possible to mess around with stall point toplandings without concern.

On both the stall and spin, I felt the point it engages was a bit too soon for inexperienced pilots. On some wings in this class, the stall point is hidden beyond a long brake travel or big wall of brake pressure. On the CUMEO, the stall point is accessible with the brakes not yet below the pilot’s hips. This makes it better suited to pilots with ‘natural feel’, or those with experience. For these pilots, the soft and predictable slow flying makes for precise landings in tight spots.

CUMEO: Big ears

Skywalk CUMEO review: big ears

Big ears were simple to engage using the split A risers, yielding a moderate descent rate while being very stable. It was easy to steer the wing with weight-shift, without losing any yaw stability in the harness.

CUMEO: Pitch stability

Skywalk CUMEO review: pitch

Like the CHILI4, the wing glides with stable pitch due to its passive stability in that it absorbs some updraughts, but if the pilot mis-times his input it is possible to generate large pitch movements which keep the wing firmly in the upper part of the XC class in terms of pilot demands. It does not seem to dampen these pitches out on its own, so some input at the right time is required. It’s simple to do, and easy to anticipate, but you need to know what you’re doing, and some pilots that aspire to this class don’t yet have the matching skill set. Although I like wings to have some pitch freedom, the accessible pitch energy on the CUMEO limits its accessibility.

CUMEO: Speed bar

Skywalk CUMEO review: accelerated

The speedbar had a long travel, testing the limits of my harness setup. On full bar the wing felt solid enough, showing only minor puckering of the nose area. Rear riser pitch control and steering is possible to a limited degree, but it does crease the fabric mid-chord and probably shouldn’t be used too much. The speedbar is effective but not class-shattering: I gained roughly 10km/h of speed over trim (at 200m ASL, 10 degrees C).

CUMEO: Feeling

Skywalk CUMEO review: passing by

The wing softens the sharp edges of turbulence while providing useful feedback to the pilot. It flexes to soften the disturbance by absorbing some of its power, yet still transmits enough of this information through the lines. It felt like the CUMEO has an adequately tensioned leading edge that resisted glider wake and wasn’t disturbed much by flying into turbulent areas.

CUMEO: In Summary

Skywalk CUMEO review: swinging past

The CUMEO is good for hike-and-fly adventures in the Alps, and for general flying and XC. It has a fun, agile and reactive feeling in the air, which will appeal to pilots that value manoeuvrability and feedback. It has slightly improved handling over the CHILI4 due to softer, smoother and perhaps faster responses, and easier launching. Pilots best suited to the CUMEO will have mastered active flying but want the security of EN B behaviour in a lightweight package capable of taking them very far.

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