Supair LEAF: First Flights (by Nancy Elliott)
Many manufacturers these days have a ‘high B’ (XC Class wing) for top performance and a ‘low B (Progression Class) catering for school-leavers. Sup’Air have aimed for the middle ground and designed a wing for everyday use in all conditions. The LEAF is a ‘mid’ EN B glider (Progression Class) for pilots who want flying to be simple and safe.
I found the Leaf to be very forgiving on the ground; easier than the ‘high-B’ and ‘mid-C’ wings I mostly choose to fly. Building a wall is effortless; the sail fills promptly in lighter conditions, ready to launch, but isn’t a struggle to hold down in more of a breeze. It’s easy to use the C risers to hold the wing down. I didn’t notice any tendency for the trailing edge to lift up and flap around like some lightweight wings do.
The Leaf inflates and launches easily, with a tendency to come up straight, even when I experimented with laying the canopy out and pulling it up in a sloppy manner. If I pulled it up very badly, so that it came up skew, I found it easy to correct in the usual way (step under the wing, apply brake if necessary). I didn’t find any tendency to either hang back or shoot up; it launches in a predictable and controllable manner.
IN THE AIR
I flew the LEAF S (75-95kg) at 87kg. I found the Leaf’s handling easy and fun. I really enjoyed flying it! Neither too dampened, nor too lively. It had enough energy to make turning the glider easy, even in a rather crowded sky at times, but not too much so as to have to keep reining it in. Well balanced for the kind of pilot it’s designed for. It doesn’t feel like a beginner’s wing, but has a reassuring, easy feeling about it.
I had a few top landings and some tricky slope landings and felt very confident with the Leaf looking after me, the stall point was predictable and smooth, giving me soft landings every time!
Performance is always hard to judge, but the Leaf seemed to be generally doing well against the rest of the pack. It climbs well, turning smoothly and progressively in the thermals, keeping flat and efficient. Comparing it against other current wings in its class, it didn’t seem to be losing out in terms of speed and glide either.
Having played around for a while, soaring the ridge and climbing in some thermals, I gave the speed system a try. Slightly higher pressure to what I’m currently flying, but by no means heavy, giving approx 10 km of speed gain and feeling very solid while accelerated. Big ears went in well, were stable, and popped out on their own.
The risers of the Leaf have a wider base with good-sized loop for easy attachment to the karabiner, which pilots who like to disconnect and reconnect the wing from the harness will particularly appreciate. The upper part of the riser is thinner, for a more streamlined look, but are still easy to handle (some thin risers can be less user-friendly).
The lines are fully sheathed, meaning fewer snags and fewer knots – and easier to sort a knot when you do get one. A, B and C lines are different colours – making it easy to tell them apart when you need to grab them. Similarly, the A and B risers have red and blue covers respectively, matching their lines.
The brake handles are held on with stud-poppers, rather than magnets, which it seems individual pilots seem to prefer roughly 50/50. Magnets are easier to clip on, but also easier to accidentally knock off, I find.
Little details I rather like on the Leaf include the brake handles themselves, which are wonderfully comfortable, and easy to get your hands in and out of. Also where the brake line attaches to the brake line swivel there’s a reassuring extra bit of sheathing for added protection, which I think is a nice touch.
The package the Leaf comes with is exceptionally good, and pilots will surely appreciate Sup’Air’s generosity: Trek Backpack 130L (great quality), Rolling Bag (fully featured concertina packing bag), compression strap, speed system (speed bar, lines, Brummel hooks), a large document wallet made from paraglider harness-like materials with repair kit (large sticky-back rip-stop patches, lines, O-rings), user manual (USB), individual printed line plan with date that particular glider had its lines checked, glider card for the rucksack (with glider model, serial #, certification, size and colour printed on one side, and space to put your name and contact details on other), Sup’Air keyring and stickers.
I’d recommend this wing to pilots looking to step up from their first wing, or experienced pilots wanting reassurance and confidence building. It fits nicely into the higher end of the Progression Paragliders, a fun yet reassuring mid-range performance B!