AirBorne's Sting 3:168
Note to the reader; at the time of writing this I'm a relative low airtime pilot (25 hours). I clip in at 105 kg (230 lbs) and most of my flying hours have been clocked up on both an Airwave Calypso and most recently on an Aeros Target 16. This was a combination of inland hill and static winching.
The glider, top surface, leading edge and front panel of the under surface are white. 2 more strips on the under surface, coloured red and black complement the colour scheme perfectly. The batten pockets are black, a trademark of all AirBorne gliders?
The glider is equipped with VG (something new for me to play with), aerofoil uprights and king post. The base bar on my glider is round so I didn't need to purchase expensive wheels (wheels are compulsory for static winching). Aerofoil base bar options are available in aluminium and carbon composite (you pay more of course!).
The base bar is secured using pip pins at each end. This is very clean and simple, however, it was noted that after removing the base-bar (for packing) and re-securing the pip-pins that hold the side-wires in place, it's possible for the pip-pins to fall out along with the metal sheath that houses them. A pip-pin cap would be a nice touch here, however; please note: when fully assembled, this is all very secure!
This glider is easy to rig. Simply assemble the A-frame, rotate the glider so it sits on the control frame, raise the king post, attach the luff lines, spread the wings and start slotting in the battens. My particular favourite are the battens, gone are the days of using bungees! These plastic clips are simple, secure and very effective! Although it didn't happen, I'm sure over time I'm going to lose one or two of the plastic clips, but AirBorne have considered this and the glider comes with 4 spares – just in case!
The glider is easily tensioned (just make sure the VG is off!) and is secured using a shackle and quick clip on the keel. Once tensioned, the rear top-wire is attached and finally the nose wire is attached to the nose quick clip (I did struggle with this as the nose wires are quite tight – moving the nose of the glider around certainly helps!).
To my surprise, this glider doesn't have dive sticks (washout struts). Stability in this area is achieved using additional reflex lines. This again makes for easier/quick assembly.
Compared to the Aeros Target, the normal pack up length is a little longer (question the 5.7m published on AirBorne's website). For me this means short packing the glider to squeeze into my garage. Short packing was straight forward and just a case of removing the ends of the leading edges and folding the sail back on itself. Some extra padding to protect the sail would have been a nice touch here, but some careful use of bubble wrap and the tip-bags works just as well.
The side wires are pretty slack when the VG is off. This made ground handling a little different to what I'm used to with the Aeros Target but I was soon able to get used to it. In a moderate breeze the Sting is easily ground handled (gone are the nose up tendencies I used to experience on the Target) and despite its wing area, the glider feels much smaller.
I've only static winched the Sting so far but this glider is a little gem. It starts flying very easily. On the winch the glider is easily nudged to keep it on target, my first flight felt very natural and in slightly thermic conditions handled just the same or if not better than the Target.
I haven't yet experimented with the VG (one new thing at a time!), so all my flights were with the VG off. I have to agree with what everyone has said so far about the Sting; it handles beautifully. I found it turned best when a little speed is applied, followed by weight shift and easing the bar out. It also happily turns, if not a little bit more sluggish when flying close to stall – as expected then! Compared to the Target the Sting felt solid – I think the billow on the Target dampens some of the glider's feedback; I felt very confident on the Sting.
I was able to 360 the glider in some broken thermals and the glider felt very natural. I even let the bar go (well I held it gently) just to see what the glider does in a bank; it sat there quite comfortably. The glider does need a proper weight shift (not a sloppy twist or push of the legs to one side) to come out of a turn, but that's my technique again, there were no surprises with the glider.
Sink rate 'felt' excellent, the glider just didn't want to come down! Okay, I clipped in at 105 kg on the Target (5 kg over maximum), but on the Sting 3:168, pretty much smack in the middle of its weight range. Pulling the bar in you can feel and hear the glider accelerate, on easing the bar back out I was surprised to find the glider climbing again (I initially mistook the beeps from the vario as lift!); energy retention was almost non existent on the Target! Gone are the days of stuffing the bar to get down; brain acknowledges this and takes this into account on setting up landing approaches!
This glider definitely glides much further than the Target, even with VG off! Once down into ground effect, this glider happily floats along. The flare point is probably a little harder to find than the Target's, but still it's a very easy to land glider – let me say that again, it's a very easy to land glider! I don't know how AirBorne have managed it, but they have! All my landings were on my feet – if not requiring a little run off on some (more practice required), but that's me and not the glider!
In a positive way, I found the transition from the Target to the Sting 3:168 a non event. By that I mean all the stress and anxiety I was expecting was unwarranted, I took to this glider with ease and felt very comfortable on it. I don't think this glider is suitable for the very low air-time pilot, but for pilots with solid skills the Sting is a fantastic glider. My only minor annoyance is the attachment of the nose wires, it's a bit of a fiddle – but I'm sure there's a technique! I've much more to explore on the Sting and I know this glider will give me many years of excitement. My only regret; not having one sooner! Now, when can I fly it again?