By Dennis Pagen
The bible for all XC and competition pilots.
Performance Flying is an immense resource from Dennis Pagen on advanced hang gliding, with the emphasis on high-end distance flying and competition tactics. Few of the rules for success have changed since this book was first published in 1994.
Performance Flying has also found many fans in paragliding.
Author: Dennis Pagen
Performance Flying reviewed by G.W. Meadows
July 1993 issue of Hang Gliding Magazine
Helmut Reichman, a German sailplane pilot, wrote a famous book titled "Cross-Country Soaring". This book encompasses the entire realm of cross-country sailplane flying, and has been adopted by many hang glider pilots as the best book on the market about soaring flight for hang glider pilots. Well, things have changed.
It had to happen. There was lots of scattered information out there, but to get it all you had to buy a good number of books and cross reference them to cover any given subject thoroughly. If you think about it, however, the timing is right. An all-inclusive book for the intermediate and advanced hang glider pilot was due, but if it had been written just a few short years ago it would already have been deemed obsolete.
Dennis Pagen has done a wonderful thing with his newest hook, Performance Flying. He has covered every imaginable aspect of hang gliding as it pertains to the intermediate and higher skill-level pilot, plus he has done something some of us never thought possible. It is easy reading, with a minimum of the technical style his books are known for. No kidding! Anyone who knows me at all knows I'm not a book person. I don't have the patience to sit down and read a complete book. I even have a hard time reading this magazine in its entirety. Not so with Performance Flying. Once I started it I couldn't put it down! And there's more information packed into it than Carter has liver pills.
Chapter 1, "Perfecting the Pilot," covers everything from fear of flying to how to judge space. This is a three-part chapter which includes sections on how to become a "complete" pilot, how to judge conditions and various flying styles. Also included is detailed coverage of topics such as intermediate and advanced syn drome, fear of flying, decision making, using shadows to the greatest advantage, and "the other pilot." This chapter also covers determining condition thresholds for individual pilots, and gives us some extremely helpful pointers on looking for lift.
Chapter 2, "The Art of Flying," is also a three-parter. Part one (Techniques Touchup) covers takeoffs for experts, making consistently soft landings, judging spot landings and breaking bad habits. The second part, Flying in Different Conditions, covers in detail: high wind flying and landing, optimal flying in turbulence, flying in the rain, cloud suck and how to avoid it (and live through it if you didn't avoid it), flying at high altitude and escaping aircraft. This section alone is worth the price of the book. The third part of Chapter 2, Stretching Our Wings, deals with using different flying speeds, practicing techniques for when you really need them, and how to handle a high-performance glider (for those just stepping up). This section also offers advice on feeling more relaxed in the air. Lots of us can use this.
Chapter 3 deals with performing turns, and covers coordinated turns, adverse yaw, high-siding, when to use the VG in turns, flat turns, yaw turns, punch turns, pitching a turn, diving, slipping, spiral, skidding and stalled turns, and spins. Turning radius, wing loading, turn polars and turning in thermals are all covered in depth in this chapter. Everything you ever wanted to know about turns can be found here.
Chapter 4 is titled "Wings and Things." I found this to be an incredibly practical chapter. It includes a "hang glider buyer's guide" to help you pick an appropriate wing for you. The section Preening Your Wings includes some extremely useful information. It explains how to tune your glider for best handling or performance, and talks about sail materials and how to remove wrinkles. Perhaps the most valuable part of the book is in this section, and it deals with how to remove a turn from your glider. It includes a troubleshooting guide which will help you take a turn out of your glider by pinpointing the reason it's there to begin with. This chapter also contains a section on harnesses and choosing the right one for you, and how to take care of it once you're the proud owner. A section on instruments covers all aspects of varios, altimeters, airspeed indicators, flight computers, GPS systems, turn and bank indicators and more. Parachute parts, performance, sizes, bridles, rockets, and chute use and care are covered in the parachute section which includes detail drawings showing how to repack your own silk. A final miscellaneous section covers helmets, radios, oxygen and other gear.
Chapter 5 deals with Excelling in Thermals. Efficient thermaling, finding and detecting thermals, types of thermals and thermal theory are all covered in great detail. How to enter and center thermals, using your senses as well as your vario, cloud/thermal streets, blue thermals, locating a lost thermal, thermal distribution, thermals east and thermals west are just some of the topics covered here.
"Advanced Techniques" is the title and focus of Chapter 6. Dealing with tricky launches, flying in traffic, complicated landings and using lift are all covered. Also included is advice on flying in dust devils, copping a glide, windy launches, launching yourself, scratching, convergence, emergency procedures, landing uphill, downhill, in small fields, turbulence, vegetation and turbulent switchy conditions more very valuable information.
If you've been reading the "speeds-to fly" articles in this magazine you're probably pretty dang confused. Believe it or not, Dennis has addressed this subject and made it almost easy to understand in Chapter 7. Sections in this chapter include:
- Speed-to-Fly Basics
- The Performance Map
- Flying for Distance
- The Speed Ring
- Positions to Fly
- Altering Your Polar
- Flying for Speed
- Speed-to-fly Errors
- Plotting Your Polar
- Final Glide
I think the best part of this chapter is that which explains how Average Joe, who doesn't even have an airspeed indicator, can make his own speed- (or position-) to-fly ring or chart that is quite accurate and will improve his cross-country abilities.
Chapter 8 is devoted entirely to cross country flying. Everything you need to know from cross-country strategies, to finding lift, to going farther, to lauding out, to detecting wind direction is here. Also included is an incredibly valuable section on getting retrieved.
If you're currently flying competition or seriously considering it, Chapter 9 alone is worth the price of the book. You can't go wrong following the advice on competition preparation, attitude, strategy and tactics. Team racing, mental toughness, weather briefings, following leaders, ballast, dolphin flying, turnpoints and takeoff strategy are all covered and will help mold you into a formidable opponent.
Chapter 10 deals with towing aloft, and covers the History of Towing as well as payout winches, air-to-air, and static winch/static line towing. This won't replace a good clinic, but it will help you determine if towing is for you.
Chapter 11, "Further Adventures," is for pilots who have maxed out on advanced flying and may want to consider tandem, aerobatics, rigid wings, setting records, traveling or balloon drops.
No book by Dennis Pagen would be complete without a fair amount of technical stuff. Chapter 12, "Design Concepts," is for yon techies. Actually, to be fair it is quite readable, and is presented as additional material which can be skipped over.
The 13th and final chapter, "Aeromedical Factors," covers vertigo, balance, sight, the inner ear, hypoxia, hypothermia, alcohol and drugs, carbon monoxide, decompression, fatigue, nutrition and psychological factors.
I particularly enjoyed the scores of "pro tips" and quotes scattered throughout the rook extra hints on the subject at hand. Practically every page includes at least one of these welcome tips.
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|Model Status||Current model|