The Single Skin: What is it?
Single skin paragliding appeared in the world of free flight a few years ago. Between the ideal of the hike and fly and sometimes unjustified controversies, here is a quick overview of these wings which allow a new approach to mountain flight.
1. A Single Skin wing has only one surface, the upper surface.
There is only the "top" of the paraglider leaving the internal structure visible. Unlike a classic paraglider which has a "top" and a "bottom", a lower underside surface, thus trapping air in the pockets. And yet single surface paragliding flight is possible!
2. With a lower surface on the leading edge of the paraglider only.
Modern single skin wings generally have a very small lower surface. Previous generation models had pockets on some wings. There is a lower surface on the front part to create a leading edge.
3. The volume of a folded single skin wing is reduced by approximately 30% to 50%.
To get an idea, the volume is about half that of a classic light mountain wing, thanks to the lower fabric consumption. In addition, the surface of the single skin wing is less than a double skin paraglider wing for an equivalent pilots weight. In Hike and Fly it is therefore perfect for a small backpack.
4. The weight of a single skin paraglider is generally reduced by between 1kg to 2kg.
Thanks to the low fabric consumption and the use of very light materials for the lines (Aramid/Kevlar), the risers (Dyneema) and light weight fabric. The reduced weight of these paragliders make them very popular for hiking.
5. Inflation is very easy.
Thanks to the low weight, very little wind speed is required to inflate the structure. The wing tends to recentre on its own above the pilot (in pitch and roll). This type of paraglider requires less piloting than on a classic wing, making it ideal for beginners and provides more safety during the take-off phase. Support (the ability to support the weight of the pilot) happens faster than on a paraglider of equal surface area.
6. The flight and landing characteristics are a little different from a classic paraglider.
This is a wing that flies a little slower than a classic paraglider, requiring a suitable flight plan and braking to allow specific energy dissipation to land smoothly. However thermal flight is still possible.
7. How does a mono surface work? A little flight mechanics...
A wing is made up of an intrados (the "underside") and an extrados (the "top").
On single-skin wings the upper surface stops just after the leading edge.
In terms of flight mechanics: the air flow linked to the movement of the wing generates lift: by depression on the upper surface (approximately 70% of the lift) and by overpressure on the lower surface (approximately 30% of the lift). So even without a lower surface most of the lift is generated: it flies!
The behaviour of this type of wing is a little different from a classic paraglider. This means that learning to fly with it has it specificities. This is an excellent first step into the world of free flight with paragliders, they are easier to inflate and take-off than standard wings thanks to their very light wing weight, between 1kg to 2kg (a "classic" mountain wing would weigh between 2kg to 4kg).
8. How to learn to fly with a single surface paraglider?
Alpwind: the first mountain flight school
"More fun, faster!"
Recently arrived in the paragliding galaxy, monosurface paragliders are getting a lot of attention. Consequently a lot of myths and legends are circulating about these strange wings. So let's talk about elements based on facts. Philippe and Martin have been flying for 6 years with these new types of paragliders.
Philippe has tested all existing models.
Examples of models tested, including: Tensing (Independence),Sir Edmund 1 and Sir Edmund 2 (Skyman), XXlite 1 and XXLite2 (Ozone), Ufo 1 and Ufo 2 (AirDesign), Skin 3 (Niviuk), Hybrid (Apco), Run&Fly (Dudek)….
Our leadership is based on educational experience: Philippe was one of the first to have created single surface paragliding courses and has thus taught beginners. Martin has also been teaching mountain flying with light wings and single skin for several years.
Therefore each "single skin" wing has a different audience because each wing has its own program and behaviour style, it would be risky to ignore this or pretend the opposite.
A clear educational objective
At Alpwind we have determined a clear program: our single skin courses are aimed at hikers, trail runners, climbers, mountaineers, etc. who wish to discover paragliding through these wings to descend mountains while still having fun, whilst avoiding constraints on the knees and the back. In addition to a specifically developed pedagogy based as much on people as on technique, essential for any student enrolled in a progression framework, we have chosen equipment that meets 4 essential criteria for any pilot:
Ease of use
Clear suspension (avoid straining your eyes to check for knots or "keys")
Simplicity and tolerance of piloting
Alpwind is a French Federation of Free Flight School (EFVL) affiliated to the Fédération Française de Vol Libre (FFVL). In this context, we follow the progression recommended by the federation and we supplement it with the particularities linked to single skin paragliders and mountain flying at altitude.
Flight over the cliffs and the Parmelan refuge with Air Design UFO 1
Beliefs and Reality
Many stories circulate about these wings often peddled on the internet or by pilots having sometimes misunderstood the interest or the spirit of these wings. Let's break the myths a bit:
Yes, a single skin sail is easy to access, there is nothing "extreme" or complicated.
Yes, a monosurface wing, by its behaviour, offers piloting pleasure to those looking for a simple tool.
Yes, you have to fly your wing because it's a flexible structure, so you can't just do anything.
Yes, a monosurface wing can land correctly as shown in the video below. In case of a poor landing it is often the pilot who does not have the know-how or has misjudged the conditions.
Yes, we can do thermal flights with it and it is very efficient.
Images taken during our courses
So what are the constraints? Performance in transition is poor. But hey, this is a tool intended for hiking, mountain flying, simple thermal piloting, hiking: it is not for cross-country or distance flights. In the wind it will be necessary adapt gestures to avoid untimely inflation. Exits from the flight envelope require very precise piloting (for example when stalling), they are not suitable paragliders for learning advanced aerobatics.
And above all, your wing is only a tool: it is your analysis and decisions which will guarantee your safety. Hence the need to be part of a thorough learning process.
AlpWind, a natural state of mind
We are a high mountain guide and mountain leader… mountain, hiking or bivouac flight courses are a specialty of ours. In short, we like to be outside!
So during our courses, after a period of teaching at an FFVL approved site, we try as much as possible to get you as close as possible to the open air terrain that you will subsequently visit. A little walking therefore will be on the program. Likewise we seek to train pilots responsible for their choices, not sheep! We have therefore specifically developed a decision support tool that will be offered to you during the lessons. The evolution of our courses is as follows:
Beginners Single Skin: allow you to calmly discover the activity: the wing, take-offs and landings, how to move in the air... in short, simply fly.
Single Skin Progression: help you up a notch on more complex take-offs (mountain, winter, strong winds etc.) as well as analysing the weather and improvise landings.
Beginners Thermal & X-Country: is intended for both classic and single skin paragliders. It allows you to improve in thermal flights, increase your flight time, prepare for cross-country flying and prepare to validate your pilot's license.
Intermediate Cross Country: to switch easily from single skin to classic paragliding and be able to fly further. Because, again, let's break the myths, even if they both fly, a classic paraglider and a monosurface behave very differently. A bit like a bike and a motorcycle!
The incredible compactness of these wings allows them to be transported in a trail running bag. Shown here the Dudek Run and Fly
Innovative and friendly educational paragliding adventures
Passionate about nature and mountain walks, we also offer innovative and friendly educational paragliding adventures: from courses in Bivouac Flight, Hike & Fly and Mountain Flying, our courses are suitable for both single skin and classic paragliders. The idea being to project oneself on altitude peaks, to carry out superb outings and/or to discover the conviviality and the way of organising a bivouac flight. We like to combine flying with mountaineering, climbing, trail running, ski touring, walking, etc. and we would love you to join us in the fun.
And there you have it! A great program to enrich yourself with new sensations, new horizons and to have fun. So come quickly buckle up your harness and let's fly!
The possibilities are limitless!