Extreme Exxtacy: flying the Exxtacy in Australia

In mid-February I returned to the U.S. after spending two months in Australia flying my new Exxtacy. Of course, I had a great time going up against the best flex wing pilots in the world, in the Australian Nationals at Hay and the Bogong Cup at Mt. Beauty.

More details on the competitions held in Australia during this southern hemisphere summer can be found at the Oz Report web pages: OZ/OZ1index.htm, the 1998 Worlds web site: http://www.ozemail.com.au/~zupy/results.html, and the 1998 Australian Nationals results at http://www2.eis.net.au/~tim/hay98/hay98.html.

Last November 17th, after just a dozen flights in light conditions in Washington State, I packed up my new Exxtacy in its double-thick cardboard box and put it on a truck bound for Los Angeles. There it would be transferred to a container ship that would off-load it three weeks later at the strife-torn Sydney docks. I was able to rescue the Exxtacy from the warehouse just before Christmas closed every thing down. Breathing a sigh of relief after I watched it precariously balanced on a forklift and then lowered onto the racks of my just-purchased 1981 Ford Falcon station wagon, I headed for Stanwell Park for a test run in strong ridge lift.

Getting the Exxtacy to Australia was a chore because, at 20 feet in length, it only fits into one special cargo container on a 747. As they charge a lot extra for the privilege of using that volume, I decided to send it by boat ($500 one way to Australia). Combine this with the fact that it is almost impossible to get insurance against damage, the high cost of building an optional wooden shipping box ($400), the fact that you can't take the Exxtacy with you as baggage and it therefore must go through customs without you, and you might find yourself wondering whether it was worth all the hassles. It was.

Flying at Stanwell Park the first day after I unboxed the Exxtacy (leaving the cardboard box in a safe place for when I returned), was almost worth it all by itself. I immediately jumped the gap to the south while other pilots were stuck behind the launch. Soon I was cruising along the escarpment toward Bulli, 15 kilometers to the south, without another glider in sight. Later pilots from the Japanese team showed up down the ridge and the Exxtacy was able to climb faster, fly higher, and fly faster then any of their topless gliders. This little bit of ridge running got me psyched up for Hay.

Just before launching at Stanwell, I picked up the Exxtacy with my back to the launch and had it blow over onto its nose (the Exxtacy has a sacrificial whack tube that sticks out about a foot in front of the glider's leading edges). I found out then that it was quite easy, relative to flex wing gliders, to get a little wind under the back of the Exxtacy and have it turn turtle.

Unlike most of Europe, Australia is damn hot, especially out back in Hay and Forbes, the sites of the 1998 Australian Nationals and the 1998 World Championships, respectively. On the ground, Hay is hot, dusty, and windy. In the air it is pretty mellow, even in strong winds, because it is almost completely flat. The stick-on thermometer that Ernest Schneider placed on my Exxtacy's leading edge recorded a maximum temperature of 73 degrees Centigrade.

West of the "Great" Dividing Range, central New South Wales, showing both Hay and Forbes

The winds can be quite strong in the Hay tow paddock, often 15 to 20 mph. The paddock is huge, and you set up your glider in a mowed lane at the downwind end of it, rushing to get ready before the launch window opens.

Last year at Hay I had had trouble setting up my flex wing glider in the strong winds, but the Exxtacy was no problem at all. I didn't want the winds to directly hit the back of the wing, so I would turn the Exxtacy ninety degrees to the wind. I also secured it with a stake and never had a problem.

Setting up the Exxtacy at the tow paddock at Hay

We car towed at Hay with a fixed line (static towing), and as soon as I got to Hay I was taking my first static tows in strong mid-day conditions in a brand new glider of unknown characteristics. I was happy to find that in spite of the 95 lbs. on my shoulders it was easy to run and get off the ground. Once I was in the air the Exxtacy was remarkably stable. It did not yaw or roll in the slightest during any of my tows (including later aerotows).

Towing the Exxtacy at Hay

The Exxtacy's stability on tow was in marked contrast to the other topless gliders at Hay and Forbes. These often demonstrated their inherent instability with wild yaws right after launch. A number of times at Hay and Forbes these other gliders were quickly turned as they launched and smashed into the ground, destroying the gliders and sometimes injuring the pilots.

I assume that you've already heard that the Exxtacy is easier to launch, easier to land, easier to fly, and has better performance in both minimum sink and maximum glide than any high performance flex wing glider. All this proved to be true for me as I flew the Exxtacy in Australia.

Because of the dihedral form of its wings, the Exxtacy is remarkably stable and proved this over and over again on tow. With its aerodynamic control surfaces (spoilerons, in this case), it overcomes this built-in stability to turn with a modest amount of pilot input to the control frame. The effort required is significantly less than that required for purely weight-shift roll-controlled flex wing gliders.

Flying at the Australian Nationals

On the second day of the Australian Nationals our task was 120 kilometers to the north along the Cobb Highway. I got a taste of how fast the Exxtacy can fly (OZ/oz9.htm).

Everyone got up quickly at the paddock, and we were all milling about over the start gate 10 kilometers to the north, waiting for the other guys to get going first. I was really trying to be patient because I assumed that I would be fast, and if I didn't wait then I would be out in front of everyone soon. Unfortunately, I could only wait so long, and within twenty kilometers past the start gate I found myself with the lead gaggle.

I continued to hit moderate to good lift, pretty much following the highway and not making the shortcut west of Booligal. I found myself climbing at about the same rate as everyone else (because I was flying a bit too fast), but way out-gliding them, both in speed and lower sink rate. I quickly got to the top of the first gaggle, and stayed near the lead. The Exxtacy is just too fast.

You can find out more about Hay and Booligal at http://www.arts.monash.edu.au/ncas/gazetteer/list/hay.html.

I was flying with a Ball GC-98 that provides speed-to-fly and final glide information. At 30 kilometers out it told me to go on final glide. I finished fast, a bit too fast. I pulled the glider in to 70 mph, and it started "walking" on me. It had done this to me when I flew fast at Stanwell Park, and I still wasn't used to it. I was unable to stop this without slowing down. Later I would learn to fly the Exxtacy fast without PIO.

On a day that half the field made goal, I ended up fifth behind Guido Gehrmann (the '98 world champion), Steve Elkin, Joel Rebbechi and Tony Marti. Last year at Hay, flying a Moyes Xtralite 164, I never did anywhere near this well on any given day. You can check that out for yourself at: http://www2.eis.net.au/~tim/hay97/hay97.html.

The third day of the Australian Nationals was an out-and-return task that required patience and great performance, in order to come back against a 15 mph head wind as the sun was setting. Both Ernst Schneider (non-flying German team leader at the Worlds) in his Exxtacy and I were able to do it along with eighteen other pilots. Ernst, getting a much later start, was second for the day. I, leading the gaggles from the start, was twelfth.

On the fifth day I finally got a somewhat later start than the first set of pilots. The goal was Ivanhoe, 160 kilometers to the north along the Cobb Highway. With the start gate again 10 kilometers north of the paddock and good lift, pilots milled about the start gate waiting to see who would go first. Fortunately, I got low right after starting the task, and after getting back up, went back for another start gate photo. This put me behind the lead gaggle. I noticed that Oleg Bondarchuck and Guido Gehrmann did that same thing.

The Exxtacy takes off

As we got 20 kilometers out of Booligal (60 kilometers from the paddock), the lift got a bit more coherent. For the first time we could see the next gaggle up in front. This did turn out to be the lead gaggle.

Oleg had joined me, and I decided to stick with him as he was in second place. Little did I realize that Guido was there, too. We caught the lead gaggle just past Booligal. I'd been pressing to fly as fast as possible, and we had been leaving pilots behind. I was often out in front finding the lift.

We gaggled up 30 kilometers north of Booligal with about forty pilots. The lift was still light, but we did run into patches of 500 fpm for a couple of thousand feet. Given that the Exxtacy was performing so well, I decided to leave each of the thermals early and look for lift. I was trying to leave the gaggle behind, but it was much easier to catch the gaggle than to leave it behind. As soon as I would find something, all the pilots would all race to catch up with me.

As we neared the goal (and I heard from our driver that the goal was in fact about 4 kilometers closer than announced at the tow paddock), and as the day wore on past seven o'clock, the gaggle got smaller. Ten pilots now slowly circled up about six kilometers from goal, and I decided I would leave at 3000' altitude no matter what. Somehow I hadn't put the right goal co-ordinates in my Ball vario, so it didn't tell me when I should go on final glide. I was hoping to break away from the gaggle with this last quick act and make it first into goal. Our driver had said that there is no one at goal.

I still wasn't sure whether I could make it, but I had left the gaggle and there was no one in front to help me gauge the distance. Half way there I heard a loud noise on my left -- it was Guido with the bar stuffed, diving for goal. Just then I heard a loud noise over my head -- Oleg dove over my nose cone, racing Guido to goal. I pulled in on the bar to catch them, but the Exxtacy started to PIO and I had to slow down.

I had hoped that Guido and Oleg would stay with the gaggle for a few more turns and wonder where I was going, as I obviously wasn't headed toward the announced goal. Perhaps they saw the goal, perhaps they figured I knew what I was doing.

We raced into goal. Guido came in with just enough altitude to turn and land. Oleg beat him by half a second. A little bit behind, I was third for the day. Starting with this day, I gained a reputation for being out in front, leaving early, and always being willing to find the next thermal. Given the higher performance of the Exxtacy I would be embarrassed to hold back and wait for some other pilot to take the lead.

On the final day of the Australian Nationals, I was able to guide the Exxtacy into another third place finish. The task was short and the day was completely overcast, but the lift was plentiful and I raced it to the goal.

Flying the Exxtacy I did much better then last year at the Nationals. While some of this was due to greater experience and perhaps more determination, a lot of it was the enhanced performance of the Exxtacy. My best glide speed was 5 to 8 mph better than the other topless gliders. I was consistently able to get out in front of the lead gaggles and find the next thermal. I would stay high and still get to the next thermal first. I almost always had the advantage of being on top of the gaggle.

Ernst Schneider, who flew the other Exxtacy at the Nationals, did well there, making goal every day that anyone made goal. Ernst often flew less aggressively then I did, in order to be sure to make goal. He hadn't flown in a competition in six years and came in 18th at the Nationals.

Flying at the Bogong Cup

Flying on the first day of the Bogong Cup shortly after the Nationals, I had the great experience of getting off in very weak conditions, climbing out when most pilots were unwilling to launch or already in the bomb-out paddock, and then winning the day. This occurred on the first day of the Bogong Cup, and what made it even more special was that I was the "pusher." (OZ/oz18.htm)

Starting far back in line at the Tawonga Gap launch, I pushed in order to get the pilots in front of me to launch. After about ten did, the rest declined, forcing me to the front, to the unconcealed glee of those who had declined to go. After I took off, turned left, and came back in front below launch, there was a roar of delight at my comeuppance. But I was not through yet.

Putting the Exxtacy on the trees to the right of launch in little bits of broken lift, I started ever so slowly working my way up. This was the first time I had flown the Exxtacy in the mountains close to the hillside. As pilots continued to refuse to launch, I continued to find stronger lift until I was 7000' MSL and ready to go on course.

Flying by myself the rest of the day north up the Kiewa Valley to Gundowring and then back to the Mt. Beauty airstrip, I was the first pilot to the goal and won the day. Only Nelson Howe, Paul Murdoch, and Oleg Bondarchuck were able to make goal that day after launching (and landing at goal) much later.

I had to pull off a low save as I came back toward goal. After getting extra high I got a chance to pull in the bar and get the Exxtacy up to a sustained 82 mph coming across the finish line without any PIO. I guess I had finally learned how to control the Exxtacy at high speeds.

Through out the Bogong Cup, Nelson, Oleg and I played games with respect to start gate photos and time. On the second day I was able to get my photo after Nelson and Oleg, and to win the day (over Nelson) by twenty minutes. On course we found strong lift, lots of clouds, and a good stiff head wind into goal. It was a day to race.

I caught Oleg on course and got out ahead of him. I never caught Nelson, but I started far enough behind and flew quickly enough to get a much better time.

I went on to have other good days, and to really enjoy flying the higher performing Exxtacy against pilots who had a bit of a handicap. Even though I know I have this advantage it still feels great to do well against the World's best flex wing pilots.

Gilbert Griffith flies the Exxtacy at Mystic

I found the Exxtacy easy to fly, great for towing and foot launching, and a joy to land. It sure lived up to its hype and helped put a smile on my face almost every day. After I flew the Bogong Cup, I had an opportunity to let Gilbert Griffith, a pilot at Bright, fly the Exxtacy from Mystic launch. This is what he had to say:

URL for Gilbert's web site: http://www.home.aone.net.au/gilbert/]

"Once above the hill, lift was plentiful and I was able to play with the flap settings and crank into a few turns to get the feel of the Exxtacy. Very easy to turn and responsive in pitch, necessitating a very light grip in the control bar. The other hangies climbed quicker than me at first, I was probably flying way too fast to thermal efficiently. Later I topped out above them but by then I'd figured out that it wasn't going to stall when I pushed out in the turns. Some tight climbing turns were easy in the strong but narrow thermals.

Gilbert Griffith launches the Exxtacy for his first time

"Davis and I topped out at about 9200' and then followed Belinda to Mount Buffalo. This is where the performance showed. I let up the flaps and pulled in to achieve a fast and remarkably stable glide at about 60MPH, overtaking Belinda and leaving Davis for dead. I didn't bother to stop for bubbles along the way and arrived at Buffalo take off dead level and found good lift. Belinda was a thousand feet lower scratching along the little buffalo spine for a while before she landed at the Porepunkah strip.

"Davis arrived about 400' below my arrival point and successfully scratched up from fairly low in the gorge in front of buffalo launch, not an easy task most times. Meanwhile I climbed out high over the Buffalo chalet and watched Davis climbing up to meet me. I practiced a few steep turns and tried different flap settings, getting the feel of how the glider reacted at different speeds and settings. Totally awesome!

"After a while I pulled on some speed and headed back towards Bright, watching a few gliders landing on the Porepunkah strip while passing over at 6000', closely followed by Davis.

"We found plenty of lift on the ridges past the airport, but I decided to land at the strip, rather than fly back to Mystic, because the airport is a much safer LZ. I did a few wangs to get down, while Davis chased me, trying to take pictures, I only learned this later.

"With full flaps the glide was much steeper than my Xtralite (SX4) and to complicate matters there was a boomer of a thermal taking off at the downwind end of the strip, just as I went into upright position and started to fly on the uprights. A few S turns eventually got me down to a long final in the light (5MPH) wind and the landing was a simple no-stepper. (I had been a bit worried about the landing;-)"

Gilbert told me later that I had ruined him as he couldn't fly his truck of a glider anymore after flying the Exxtacy. I have had an opportunity to fly a number of flex-wing gliders after flying my Exxtacy. You can't believe the difference until you do this.

Overall

The Exxtacy is not a sailplane. Its performance is a few points (probably 4 points) better and at higher speed (8 mph) than the best topless hang gliders. It does not completely outclass these gliders, but it is markedly better. Just because you fly an Exxtacy against flex wing gliders doesn't mean that you are going to win every day or even keep up with everyone every day. It just means that your odds have improved enough to make a startling difference.

The handling of the Exxtacy is vastly superior to a conventional high-performance flex wing hang glider. It rolls easier, lands easier, and stays steady in thermals with much less pilot input.

Issues with the Exxtacy

All this good news doesn't mean there weren't some problems, it's just that they couldn't overpower the great advantages, at least for me. Many pilots are concerned about this new technology, so I want to go into detail about all the little and not-so little issues that arose during my flying time in Australia. You can then make your own judgement about whether these concerns out weigh the benefits for you.

The set up time could be shorter

I have had an opportunity to set my Exxtacy almost 100 times now, and I can't say that I'm a big fan (especially in the heat of Australia). It takes me about half again as long to set up the Exxtacy as it does to set up my Laminar ST. The ribs on an Exxtacy are permanently attached to the back of the D-cell spar and only have to be swung around to align them. I have added a string connecting all the ribs that allows me to pull all but two of the ribs on each side into alignment with one pull. Even with the string, it still takes too long to set up.

To get the outer two ribs on each side in place requires that you open the Velcro trailing edge that secures the top and bottom surfaces for about three feet. You then reach in and align the outer rib that is connected by small bungee cords into sockets on the spar, and make sure that the back end of the second rib is free to swing back. I don't like having to open the Velcro this far every time, as it requires that you properly realign it every time. Reaching inside, you unpleasantly scrape your upper arm on the Velcro.

The longer set up time is the accumulation of little slow-downs throughout the whole process. The sails must be hooked to the keel and then zipped together. Attaching the sail to the tip wands requires a bit of extra effort and finesse, as one double-purchases the wand's batten string pulling the sail tight. It takes a while to align the leading edges so that you can connect the turnbuckle at the nose to the ring on the free leading edge. You have to install the two spoilerons and the two flaps and then connect the wires going to the spoilerons to the corners of the control frame.

(Actually I tried putting another Exxtacy together later, and it was quite a bit easier getting the two leading edges connected to the turnbuckle.)

Inserting the carbon fiber flap panels into their sailcloth pouches gets difficult as their triangular shapes become bound where the cloth narrows. This can be overcome by adjusting the cloth's Velcro attachment to the wing's trailing edge.

(Again, on another Exxtacy this was much easier.)

It is often difficult to insert the whack tube, an 18-inch piece of aluminum tube with a pop pin, into the front of the keel. It is difficult to get it lined up and it often requires a good deal of force to get it correctly inserted.

(Not true on another Exxtacy.)

Response from Flight Design:

[Felix Ruehle, the Exxtacy's designer, has provided the responses from Flight Design.]

There are several reasons why the nose piece may be difficult to insert.

The webbing where the sail is fixed to the keel could be either too lose or too tight on one side. If you look from the nose above the sail and keel you should see if the keel is parallel to the zipper.

Another reason could be that the nut of nose fitting (turnbuckle) is not fixed in the middle (the tube usually more friction on one side). This can be adjusted by screwing out one side of the turnbuckle and screwing in the bolt on other side. The stop nuts and the string have to be fixed correspondingly. It should be easy to insert this tube without friction at the nose fitting.

There are other tricks that you can use to reduce the set up time.

If the flap is difficult to insert, separate the flap bag completely from the sail. Insert the flap into the bag with only light tension. Attach the hinge bolt at the keel. Attach the Velcro at the rib hinges. (It is easier if you have somebody to help).

I need about the same time as I need for my flex wing. Maybe you are twice fast than I. [Author's note: In Australia, in the heat, I get a lot slower.]

It is a bit heavy, bulky, and hard to handle without a friend

You can't get around the fact that the Exxtacy is 20 pounds heavier than an equivalent high performance topless hang glider. It is also two glider-widths wide in the bag. This makes it difficult, although not impossible, to carry alone on one's shoulder when in the bag. It also makes it difficult to load the glider on a rack that is higher than normal, or doesn't have a separate front rack.

I have always been able to get help from other pilots when unloading my glider, so it hasn't been a great problem. I have also unloaded it myself a few times and carried it a couple of hundred feet without great difficulty. I can't store it in my basement as I can my other gliders, and so have had to build a separate storage shed in the back yard. The shed requires two people to place the Exxtacy in it.

I have not had a problem launching the Exxtacy, and as it starts flying right away, it seems to be easier to launch then a regular flex wing glider. I have also had few problems carrying it to the edge of a field after landing. It balances well on my shoulders and while I notice the extra weight, it is not burdensome.

The newest Exxtacies can be separated into two halves at the nose, allowing them to be more easily placed on racks and stored. There is a retrofit for existing Exxtacies.

Response from Flight Design:

Some people are very happy with this new solution, because it is easier to carry one spar. We will have XC bags available in April for each spar. The weight of two bags (one for each spar) is about 1.5 kg less than the weight of the existing standard bag. Many thanks to Migg Lenz, our Swiss dealer, who has initiated this solution. At many sites in Switzerland there is a long walk to the launch area, or you may even have to transport the Exxtacy by cable car. In either case, making one trip with your harness and a spar (16kg), and another trip with your other spar and keel, is easy to do.

You need a good repair kit for the carbon fiber D-cell

On the fourth day of the Australian Nationals I smacked my Exxtacy into the top of our tow vehicle while pulling it on a dolly around the tow paddock to change lanes. After making the turn at the southeast corner paddock, the strong wind caught the Exxtacy from the left and a bit behind. Because I was standing in the control frame to steady the glider, and not holding down the keel from the back, I couldn't stop the Exxtacy from immediately rotating over and smashing into the car.

The leading edge was pushed in, in two places about three feet from the nose where it hit the top of the car. The elliptical-shaped areas were about 4 inches long and three inches wide and showed cracks in the thin white fiberglass coating and a slight indent. There was a deeper x-shaped cut a bit further out where the outer skin of carbon fiber was punctured by the glider rack on top of the car.

This is the scenario that all flex wing pilots fear when they contemplate moving to a carbon fiber D-cell glider. What happens if the D-cell gets badly smacked? Never mind that the aluminum leading edge tubes of a flex wing glider would have been destroyed and have had to be replaced under similar circumstances.

I actually flew the Exxtacy that day without making any repairs. The D-spar appeared to be unaffected and I was able to fly 80 kilometers. In retrospect, it was not a good idea to fly, and I should have waited until the integrity of the D-cell was restored.

I hadn't had an opportunity to learn how to fix a carbon fiber structure before, although I had some experience laying up a large fiberglass-foam-sandwich trimaran. Martin Oelkrug, a German world team pilot, was willing to help me. Martin works building Pegagus gliders, and although there is no love lost between these competitors, Martin was quite happy to help. Felix Ruehle, designer of the Exxtacy, had provided Ernst with a repair kit including 5-minute epoxy and carbon fiber. We were able to purchase longer setting epoxy at the local hardware store.

Borrowing a drill, and purchasing a disk sanding attachment, Martin sanded off the carbon fiber layer at the cracked and broken areas. He tested the interior layer of carbon fiber under the honeycomb core, and found it to be intact. He then filled the area with the worst damage with 5-minute epoxy. We could have added micro balloons to build it up a bit more.

After it dried, Martin placed pieces of carbon fiber over the affected areas and dabbed them with a small paintbrush dipped in the longer setting epoxy. We placed plastic over the wet carbon fiber and taped it down with packing tape. It is best to place a piece of Mylar over the carbon fiber, then a thin layer of ethafoam, and then tape it down. This makes for a smoother surface.

We didn't have time the next day to smooth the surface with wet sandpaper and then add a layer of thin white fiberglass to highlight any cracks that result from damage to the carbon fiber. I will be doing this later, now that I am back in the US and not flying every day.

I was flying the Exxtacy two days after we let the repairs set in the hot Australian sun. Flexing the leading edges showed us that the repairs returned the D-cell to its original strength and coherence. It was great to have such help from Martin because I was confident in his experience and skills, but now I feel that I could make any other repairs on my own.

Mike Eberle of North American Paragliding, the US Exxtacy distributor, and Dave Sharp went to Germany to learn how to repair the Exxtacy, and are bringing Felix Ruehle, Exxtacy designer, to the US in the spring to teach others.

It was good that we inspected the spar and didn't find any damage, The spar is protected by the curved part of the D-cell, which you expect to take the initial damage. If the spar is damaged, it may be difficult to repair, especially on the inside.

The cost of repairing the leading edge was minor and a great deal less than would be the case under similar circumstances with an aluminum leading edge. It required in-field knowledge and experience, and a few days of warm sun. Getting a new aluminum leading edge would have cost a great deal more and taken at least as much time.

Repair kits don't come as part of the package when you buy an Exxtacy. They should. You should also get a lesson from your dealer in how to inspect the D-cell, how to repair it, and how to know when you won't be able to repair it in the field.

The repair kit should include:

Here's my best understanding on how to repair the carbon fiber leading edge:

Use a rotating disk sander (perhaps on a drill) to sand down to the carbon fiber layer in the affected area. You can sand through some of the carbon fibers that appear affected.

Check for damage to the underlying honeycomb and interior layer. You can use a pair of tweezers to pull off bits of carbon fiber and poke through the honeycomb. If there is no damage to the interior carbon fiber, you can repair the exterior layer.

Smooth the surface with 150, 400, or 800 wettable sandpaper. If you have small areas that are depressed, you can fill them with a bit of 5-minute epoxy and micro balloons.

Cut the carbon fiber cloth to match the layout of the existing threads ,and about three inches wide around a crack. Mix the long-drying epoxy and using a small paintbrush dab it on: just enough to wet the carbon fiber. No need to use painting-type strokes, just dab. There will be areas on the edges of the carbon fiber that you won't need to place epoxy on. They will be sanded off later.

When the carbon fiber is completely wetted, you can place a piece of the white fiberglass over the carbon fiber and add a bit more epoxy. The purpose of the fiberglass is to more easily display any damage to the leading edge.

Place a piece of Mylar over the fiberglass after you have finished adding epoxy. The Mylar is used to shape and smooth the resin. You can use brown mailing tape to adhere the Mylar to the fiberglass. Tape the whole surface of the Mylar.

Remove the tape and Mylar after a day. Let the epoxy cure at least a day if not two. The warmer it is, the better.

Sand the fiber glass with 800 sand paper to smooth it and get rid of the edges of carbon fiber (you can use a coarser sand paper for that). Martin and I didn't use the fiberglass layer as we didn't have any, so I am assuming that you can put both layers down at the same time.

You may need to let the first layer of carbon fiber cure first and then do the fiberglass later. You may want to sand the carbon fiber first, then put down the fiberglass.

Response from Flight Design:

To patch a hole in the D-Spar, use two layers of 160g/m2 carbon fabric. Cut the first pad large enough to overlap the hole with a 20mm. The second pad should overlap the first pad by 20mm also. After glueing with your epoxy, press it well with Mylar and foam to avoid sanding and filling afterwards.

You can save a lot of time (because there is no sanding) when the Mylar is pressed well. When the lay up is ready I first attach the Mylar with tape to the spar. After the Mylar is taped, I attach a peace of foam (at least 150mm bigger than the repaired area) and press it by winding the tape around the spar. With this foam you get a better distribution of the pressure.

We also recomend that everyone attends an Exxtacy clinic in order to be proficient at basic repair, care, and maintainence. These clinics have been a great sucess in both Europe and North America

You need to cushion the glider during transport

I purchased 4"x4"x18" pieces of foam to cushion the Exxtacy when it was on the roof rack. Flight Design recommends that you cushion the Exxtacy with extra foam or padding and not stack gliders directly on top of it. I had extra foam that I used to separate the Exxtacy from any other gliders that were subsequently stacked on top of it.

I didn't really want to carry the extra foam pieces with me while flying, so I made sure that every possible retrieval vehicle had plenty of foam pieces, in addition to well-padded racks. It would be possible to place a couple of pieces of foam in the leading edges, just in case.

This spring I will be flying in the Sandia Classic in Albuquerque, New Mexico. All the contestants' gliders are stacked up together in the back of a large flat-bed truck and separated every two layers by 1 inch square tubes. I'll want to be especially vigilant when putting my Exxtacy on this truck, that the foam pieces are used and that there is plenty of clearance between it and the next layer.

Response from Flight Design:

The D-spar is very strong. The skin is much stronger than is necessary for the flight. If you don't have gliders above or under the Exxtacy where the other glider's control frame is in contact with the spar without foam you should have no problems. We have made a special waterproof transport bag where you have foam pads which are removable. You can attach a pad around your Exxtacy at the place where it can be in touch with unpadded control frames.

The base bar is not of the highest quality

The base bar looks like the one that use to come with UP's TRX: just a bent piece of aluminum with a thin rubber tube over it. Pretty cheap for such an expensive glider.

I found that the base bar easily bent and that the rubber tube rotated when you held on tight, even after I put rubber cement inside it.

The control bar is connected to the down tubes using standard plugs and clevis pins. The holes in the plugs on a number of Exxtacies that I have looked at are elongated. Even on new Exxtacies right out of the box. This means that the base bar can rotate through a few degrees while you are in flight. This is not a great feeling.

I found after a few weeks in Australia that it was difficult to pull the base tube out of the plugs. I had to extensively file down the plugs and smooth the interior of the base bar. The plugs seemed quite cheap.

I currently have an aerodynamic base bar on order from Avian (avian@hanggliding.co.uk), so I will be able to replace this poor base bar. Flight Design is also investigating producing such a bar. I will also want to replace the plugs so that the aerodynamic bar doesn't wiggle.

The base bar doesn't have an interior cable as a backup, but then it doesn't need one. The Exxtacy doesn't have side wires, except those to the spoilerons, and the limiter line after the spoilerons are deployed. The Exxtacy doesn't rely on the integrity of the base bar to remain structurally intact. In this case you can think of the base bar as just a control mechanism.

Response from Flight Design:

We are doing a better job with the new base bars, drilling them with more exact dimension and without any slack. I would like to have a different base bar for the glider this spring. I don't like the shape of the base bars that are available. It should be still possible to fly the Exxtacy if the control bar if broken, but I haven't tried. [Author note: I have also heard this, and considering that there are essential no bottom side wires, it sure seems like it should be the case.]

The stick-on Velcro glue melts in the Australian heat

As I recall, I've said that it gets hot in Australia. It especially gets hot in a closed bag on top of a car roof in the sun in Australia. Seventy-three degrees Centigrade, at least, to be exact.

The first few days in Australia I had my Exxtacy in a home-made, black, lightweight XC bag. I didn't have the thermometer on the leading edge until after I quite using this bag. On about the third day, I found that the left sail had pulled all the Velcro from the end of the D-cell at the nose. Each sail is attached to the D-cell at the nose with Velcro, and now the left sail was no longer attached.

Upon closer examination, I found that under each of the six pieces of hook Velcro that were formally attached to the D-cell, there was a little roll of glue about an inch from the end. The sail pulling on the Velcro pieces had rolled up the glue.

Attempting to fix the problem with contact cement wasn't very successful, as it melted also. Felix Ruehle did send me some new Velcro and this has held.

At first it seemed as though the sail had shrunk in the heat. Dacron can do that. The edge of the sail is now about an inch from the edge of the D-cell at the nose. The other sail is only inch from the edge of the D-cell. I can't really tell if it shrunk or not. The sails don't have to be even, and I may just be that I haven't tightened it enough, but I don't want to put any more tension on the already suspect Velcro and glue.

Hopefully I will get Felix himself to look at it when I meet with him at Wallaby Ranch in April.

Response from Flight Design:

I haven't had this problem here. But will change this solution as soon as possible. Possibilities are: fixing the Velcro with screws to the spar or glue it with an other glue. As soon as it is decided which solution we will use, I will tell you

The edge tape curls and peels in the Australian heat

Flight design has placed tape on all the edges of the carbon fiber surfaces, the back of the D-spar, the flap and spoileron panels. Unfortunately this tape separated from the carbon fiber surfaces, most likely do to the high heat that it was subjected to.

Hopefully Flight Design can replace this tape, which is a good idea, with one that can handle the heat.

The glider bag shrinks in the Australian heat

Turn up the heat, and the Dacron glider bag shrinks so that it is difficult to pull it around the tips of the Exxtacy. It sure would be nice if they had added a couple of more inches of material. Also, two sliders on the zipper would have been nice.

The sail is thin and can develop a few tears

As you can imagine, I developed a few small tears in my sail after I smashed the Exxtacy into the tow vehicle. Luckily they were easily patched.

The sail on an Exxtacy is much different than what flex wing hang glider pilots have some to expect based on their previous experience. To conserve weight it is quite a bit lighter and more easily damaged than what you more typically find on a high-performance flex wing hang glider.

The sail develops wear spots along the bottom surface near the bottom edge of the spar, where the down tubes can touch it when the glider is packed up. There is not a full cover for the control frame.

Little tears have appeared at other areas on the sail, one when the end of a broken down tube contacted it. The sail is just too thin to resist damage as well as what we are use to.

As a pilot I have a much different relationship to the sail on my Exxtacy than I do to the sail on my Laminar ST. The main components of an Exxtacy are the D-cell leading edges. The weight, form, and size of these carbon fiber structures dominate everything else. The main component of a flex wing hang glider is the sail. The sails on an Exxtacy are just the skin that covers the leading edges and the ribs. If you hurt the sail, you can fix or replace it.

Flight Design tried other thicker sail clothe, including Mylar, but found that the thinner cloth best conformed to the leading edges.

Response from Flight Design:

To get less twist in a flex wing glider you need high tension mainly in the span direction. Thicker sail cloth is needed to handle this high tension. In a rigid wing glider the influence of the sail tension on flying characteristic is much less than in a flex wing. But because of the more exact shape of the airfoil it is important for the boundary layer, to have a sail with a smooth surface.

When we tried out Mylar, the drag of the Exxtacy airfoil was the same but the flying behavior with a wet wing much worse. Thicker sails are heavier and their surfaces were not as smooth. With our latest models we have added more protection.

Tightening the turnbuckle with a too-tight sail gives one pause

The two leading edges of the Exxtacy are connected at the nose by two beefy hinges on the spar, and a turnbuckle at the very front. After you position the wings and connect the turnbuckle to the right-hand leading edge, you turn the turnbuckle to tighten the connection and tension the sail. To ease the tension on the turnbuckle as you turn it, you press back and down on the front end of the keel, which is behind the turnbuckle. Because you haven't placed the stinger on the back end of the keel, the force is transferred to the tip wands, which are on the ground, pushing the wings closer together at the nose.

The only tension on the turnbuckle when you are tightening it is the sail tension. You can discover this for yourself by unhooking the trailing edge connections of the sails at the keel, loosening the straps that hold the hooks that make this connection, or unzipping the sails.

The Exxtacy comes with a string around the turnbuckle that limits how far you can loosen or tighten it. It also serves as a check on whether the unfettered bolt on one end of the turnbuckle has been turned. I found that the string made it difficult to fully open the turnbuckle, which would have made it easier to connect the two leading edges. The string was also fraying after a week in Australia. I decided to cut it off.

Even after I cut off the string, I still had a problem opening the turnbuckle enough to attach it to the other wing easily. Later, after I pounded in the Exxtacy after trying to launch unhooked in the tow paddock at Forbes (more on this below), I bent the bolt on the unfettered side of the turnbuckle, and decided to remove and replace it. It turned out that this bolt had been binding inside the turnbuckle all along. After removing the string and replacing the bolt, that the turnbuckle was much easier to adjust correctly.

There are two limiting nuts on the turnbuckle bolts that act as guides to how far to tighten it. These bolts are glued to the turnbuckle screws. The glue melted enough in my first week at Hay to make the original placement of these bolts problematic. I could no longer use them as a guide to when the turnbuckle was tight enough, and had to rely on my feel for the tightness of the turnbuckle for proper adjustment.

I found that turning the turnbuckle against the resistance of the sail gave me the feeling that I was going to strip the threads. If I stripped the threads, I wasn't going flying. If I pushed on the end of the keel, the perceived force pulling on the turnbuckle was reduced, and as was my feeling that I was about to screw up. Still, the last revolution of the turnbuckle was a fight between my desire to get everything tight, and my feeling that it is too tight. I often stopped one revolution short, or so it seemed.

Later I had an opportunity to set up another Exxtacy. It was quite easy to turn the turnbuckle. This glider, like mine, was stock from the factory. No changes. It was also easy to insert the whack tube.

I also used Phils bicycle grease on the turnbuckle and on all the steel pieces on the glider. The steel is not stainless steel, but is said to be much stronger. It does need to have some grease on it.

Response from Flight Design:

The turnbuckle is made out of high quality stainless steel. In the future all the glider parts will be made out of stainless steel. However, it is still possible to damage the turnbuckle if your sail is adjusted too tightly. A bit of grease will help, but additionally, you must be sure that not more than 1.5 turns are required to connect the wings.

In the air, my mind too often brought up the thought that the glider was being held together by the threads of a screw (OK, a turnbuckle and two honking pieces of steel at the hinge on the D-spar). I imagined the threads of one of the bolts in the turnbuckle, weakened by the repeatedly assembly of the glider, giving way. This image wears on the mind, at least it did on me. I hate having to deal with more doubts when I'm flying.

Other American Exxtacy owners have overcome this psychological problem by adding a safety over the top of the turnbuckle. It works for them. Actually, after I was able to turn the turnbuckle with less resistance by pressing on the keel, I felt a bit better, and I wasn't as preoccupied with morbid thoughts about my wings folding up in flight.

It is the turnbuckle that keeps the wings of the Exxtacy from folding. On a flex-wing hang glider, the equivalent piece would be a bolt on the keel that holds back the crossbars.

It is nice to feel and see the big hunks of steel that connect the two wings, and how far they go down into the carbon fiber spars. It's a little strange that the bolts on the back hinges are hollow, but I didn't feel too bad about that.

Response from Flight Design:

In light aeronautical construction you will usually find hollow bolts. The only reason they are not used more often is their high price. These special aronautical bolts are extremely strong and you can feel confident in their reliability. Another example where you find such a bolt, is connecting a gudgeon bolt which is used to fix the piston to the connecting rod in an engine.

Because I received a spare turnbuckle, I was able to replace one of the bolts when I bent it. I bent this bolt when launching unhooked at Forbes. The Exxtacy rose and then was pulled nose first into the soft ground. The nose/keel piece took in a full six inches of soil.

The tow bridle was connected both to the Exxtacy, near the hang point, and to my shoulders. The glider was pulled into the ground. I broke a down tube, bent one of the bolts in the turnbuckle, and mashed in end of the whack tube.

I would say that the damage was pretty minor given what I had seen at Forbes. Bending the turnbuckle bolt gave me pause though, because it was hard to assess how much force was placed on the D-cells. I couldn't see any damage. It appeared as though the whack tube did its job in absorbing some of the shock.

Response from Flight Design:

The carbon parts are designed with a higher strength than the turnbuckle because of damage control. E.g. if the turnbuckle is overloaded with pressure it will buckle. If the tensile stress was to high the elongation before braking is about 15mm. The elongation starts at less than the half breaking load.

I have tested fitting with damaged and scuffed threads. There was no influence to the breaking strength. But, never the less any turnbuckle which shows wear at the thread should be replaced. The main problem is the trim of the sail. The new turnbuckles are fitted with a steel cable. With this cable it is not possible to turn the fitting more than 1.5 times. The sail is usually adjusted that you don't need more than one turn at the turnbuckle to tighten it.

I've also designed a new fitting with a lever but it is not tested it yet.

The control frame is small, making it hard to first attach your harness to your hang straps

The down tubes are quite a bit shorter on an Exxtacy. No need to make them long, as the pilot controls roll for the most part with aerodynamic surfaces, and not with weight shift.

Three problems arise with the short control frame. First, it is easy to knock yourself on the forehead with the extended keel piece at the nose when climbing into the control frame while the glider is on the ground. I wasn't the only one who did this.

Second, it is hard to climb into your harness if you first attach it to the hang straps. To put on your harness, you now have to pull it forward and duck down under the whack tube. Quite a bit more difficult than in a larger control frame.

For a short while I quit attaching my harness to the hang straps first, before I got into it, because of this difficulty. Then for the first time in my hang gliding life, I launched unhooked. From now on I will continue with my standard method of attaching the harness first to the hang straps, and continue to struggle with getting the harness onto my body after it is hooked in.

Third, it is hard to lift 95 pounds when you have to start so low. It is possible, and there are a number of tricks you can apply, like raising the glider up on its stinger, but it isn't easy, unless you don't have you harness on. It's just hard to get everything low enough to get good leverage on the control frame.

Response from Flight Design:

The risk to tumble is much less if you hang high. Also the drag is less. [Author's note: the first reason is very cool.

The easiest way to lift the glider is if you first lift the control bar, then move the shoulders as close as possible to the wing and then turn the glider. This works only if the wind is not too strong. {Author's note: I'll say.]

Ninety five pounds is a lot. The reason the Exxtacy weighs this much is because we lay the glider up by hand and end up adding too much resin. The strength is the same. I'm currently working on the process that will reduce the weight and also make it more uniform.

The spoileron pockets shrink in the Australian heat

After a month in Australia, I found that the spoileron pockets were now too small. The carbon fiber spoileron panels are placed in cloth spoileron pockets that are sewn and hinged to the main sail. At first the carbon fiber panels fit just fine, but later they proved to be about of an inch too long. I couldn't fold the Velcro edges of the pockets around them as easily as I could at first.

I checked this against another Exxtacy that was purchased one month after mine, but wasn't taken to Australia. It's spoileron pockets were the correct size.

Response from Flight Design:

If you remove the tape you can sand the spoiler till it fits. It is the first glider that this is necessary as far as I know.

The sail gets dirty

It's not pretty out there in those tow paddocks, especially at Hay. Although I really like flying at the place, I could do without the time I spent on the ground.

The Exxtacy sail seemed to get dirty pretty fast relative to my experience with other sails. Flight Design says that the sail material is treated like all other manufacturers' cloth, still it seemed to get pretty dirty pretty fast. Also I noticed that the bright orange/red cloth faded in the sun.

One way to cut down on the dirt is to place the tip wand rope inside the sail when breaking down.

The flaps can be a nuisance to install

I already mentioned that putting in the flap panels was a bit of a pain and slowed things down. While it was possible to adjust this, I found it difficult to get the hinges into the clips on the keel, or to get the panel to pass to the back of the last hinge on the trailing edge. I also had trouble keeping the panel to the back of the trailing edge hinges, and in general inserting these panels without a little bit of help or extra muscle.

I also noticed that the clevis pins that lock onto the flap panels at the keel would overlap and interfere with each other. I assume that I can place the flap pockets out a bit and fix this.

Perhaps with a few adjustments, I will find this to be easier.

I check this on another Exxtacy. None of these problems had appeared.

Response from Flight Design:

If these parts overlap then you have too much sweep back. One reason can be the shrunken sail The Velcro and webbing connection has to be adjusted. Or the new nose fitting is longer than the old one. This can e higher trim speed and higher bar pressure at high speed. [Author's note: I do have higher bar pressure then others have reported.]

In earlier models the keel is a bit weak where the flap clevis pins come out

There is an opening in the keel to allow bungees to connect to two clevis pins that attach to the flap panels. This opening in the keel is a weak area. My keel is double sleeved to overcome this weakness, and Exxtacies produced a month later have an aluminum reinforcement riveted around it.

I have found that there is a very slight bulging in this area of my keel. Nothing to get too upset about, but it sure would have been nice to have the extra reinforcement. Flight Design did send out an aluminum reinforcement, but declined to put it on as it would have required drilling and riveting which would have required bring quite a few extra tools to Australia or a stop at the Air Borne factory.

Response from Flight Design:

Yes, the early Exxtacy were found to have a spot on the keel that needed reinforcement. By late last year, all Exxtacy came with this standard upgrade and all prior Exxtacy owners were sent a retro fit in order to eliminate the problem. Since this time, there have been no reported problems.

On my Exxtacy a pin on the spoileron actuator came off

A hinged actuator that is connected to one of the ribs raises the spoilerons. They are held down on the actuator by a pin and a clevis ring. In Forbes I found that found that one of the pins had broken off at a weak point where it was welded to the plate below it. I had to tie the spoileron to the actuator to keep it lifting in flight.

It was still possible to fly quite safely with this jury-rigged connection to the spoileron, since there is little pressure on the pin and it is just used to keep the spoileron down, not to pull it up. Still, I didn't feel great about the fact that it so easily fell apart.

Response from Flight Design:

This is really bad and I am very happy to have this called to my attention. Although, we have not see this problem in the past, I will now pay special attention to this connection during production and annual inspections.

You have to be sure to disconnect the spoileron wires

If you fold the wings of the Exxtacy together without first disconnecting the wires that go from the corners of the control frame to the spoilerons, you will stretch and kink these wires. Flex wing pilots don't automatically remember to do this, so it is important to remember this vital step. You will be reminded of it if you do in fact try to put your wings together.

My wires have a bit of a kink in them from the three times over the two-month period that I forgot. Not a big deal, but a bit of a bother.

Response from Flight Design:

This is a important point to remember when you disassemble your Exxtacy. But, it is very difficult to change and I don't have a solution other than to make sure that it is emphasized in the manual and in customer training.

The sacrificial whack tube could be designed to absorb shock with less damage to the keel

I had two landings where I whacked it in and put my whack tube into the dirt. This did not include the time that I launched unhooked and did likewise.

For the most part it is extremely easy to land the Exxtacy, but on these two occasions in no-wind landings, I just didn't jam out the down tubes with enough force.

The whack tube is supposed to take the force of the whack and protect the D-cells. In all cases that is what it appeared to do. The whack tube slides into the keel, and is held there by a pop pin. The first time I whacked in, the pop pin shredded through an inch of aluminum in the whack tube. The plastic piece at the end of the nose was pushed back a couple of inches and the rivet torn out: just what you would expect from a sacrificial piece.

Unfortunately, later I noticed that two of the rivets on the keel behind the whack tube were slightly pushed back. One would hope for a little more absorption from the whack tube to keep the keel in perfect shape. Some of us have fantasized about a spring.

Response from Flight Design:

If the upper tube is still straight and without damage the part can be replaced [Author's note, it is]. A spring is heavier and doesn't absorb enough energy. I will think about an improvement.

Its difficult to completely adjust the sail in the field

I really didn't have an opportunity while in Australia to make anything more than the most minimum sail adjustments. It is just not possible under the conditions of the tow paddock at Hay, for example.

Because the left sail pulled out the Velcro, and because the turnbuckle seemed so tight, I was concerned about sail adjustment. Also, by adjusting the sail you can set the nose angle, which affects pitch pressure.

The sail can be adjusted in a number of ways. There are straps at the trailing edge of the sail where it connects to the keel, which can be lengthened or shortened. Velcro attaches the zippers that connect the sails to the sails, and you can move the Velcro pieces. The batten strings can be changed.

Measuring the nose angle to set the proper sail tension requires a tape measure, a long string, and a set up glider. Unless you are in a casual situation, you most likely won't engage in this activity. Adjusting the sail, then, means playing with the turnbuckle and the straps at the back of the sail a bit to make sure that you can turn the turnbuckle easily.

Because one sail was now an inch from the end of the leading edge, I had to adjust the trailing edge straps, and the Velcro on the zippers to balance the tension on the sail. No time for careful measurements, but it seemed to work out OK. I never noticed any turns in the glider, or undue wrinkles.

The last rib on the left side is too tight, though, and I have yet to loosen it. The string on this rib is starting to fray and I will have to replace it as soon as I can get replacement string.

Its hard to know what to do about rain and getting the glider wet

Flight Design asks you to keep the inside of the D-cell dry. No problem most of the time in Australia; anything that gets wet dries out in about thirty seconds.

But when it does rain, and you are driving in your car with the glider on top, and you have the nose of the Exxtacy forward, as is the normal case, the rain gets driven right inside the D-cells. I have a somewhat waterproof bag (not the one that comes with the Exxtacy) but it still leaks on the zipper.

Flight Design doesn't provide very good guidance about what to do in this situation and what problems come about through getting water into the wings. They ask you to be sure to get all the water out from the inside of the D-cell.

Response from Flight Design:

In the future the Exxtacy will have only stainless steel parts. The carbon fibre composite structure is not particularly sensitive to moisture, at least no more than sail cloth or aluminum parts. But, with the water also dirt gets into the bag. I recommend that to everyone who travels often, that they use a water proof bag.

Do the spoilerons rise on their own?

The wires that go to the spoilerons are given a bit of slack to keep the pilot from incessantly raising the spoilerons by jiggling the control bar side-to-side. After the base bar is moved a reasonable amount, the spoilerons are engaged.

Ernst Schneider said that he witnessed both of my spoilerons raised at the same time while I was in smooth level flight. While I was sorry and surprised to hear that Ernst ever got above me, it caused me to worry a bit about the prospect of spoileron deployment.

The spoilerons are always being pulled up when the Exxtacy is in flight. They have attached bungy cords that are supposed to keep them flat against the top of the sail. If the low pressure on the top of the sail is pulling the spoilerons up against the bungy cords, then the tension provided by the cords should be increased, perhaps with another cord. I will have to look more closely at this situation in less harsh conditions, perhaps at Wallaby Ranch.

Response from Flight Design:

I haven't found a difference in spoiler deflection in straight flight, flying with one or two bungees at the spoiler lever. But very important is, that the cables to the A-frame are not too short. You should have about 10mm slack at the A-frame to each side. During the flight, the dihedral of the wings is a little bit higher than at the bottom. If you fly straight the slack at the A-frame is less but you should still have it.

A further reason why the cables should be longer is: When you fly fast the cables are not straight because of their drag. Watch the cables at high speed and you can see the arc. You can stretch the cable with an additional bungee but you never will get the cables straight.

If your spoilerons are deflected at high speed you have a higher bar pressure. It is not uncomfortable to have about 20mm slack (at the bottom and a little bit less in the air) to each side if you have some hours at the Exxtacy. With such a slack you have a better feeling when the bar is in neutral position. You have always little movements at the control bar witch deflected the spoilers. It is very difficult to recognize this without slack at the control bar.

The rope on the tip wand wears out quickly

Actually this hasn't been a problem yet for me, as the dirt was soft in Australia, but it is clear that it will be in the future. The knot at the end of the tip wand is clearly worn and it will only get worse. It comes in direct contact with the ground, and there is a lot of pressure on it when you screw in the turnbuckle and before you put on the stinger.

Response from Flight Design:

Do you have had the slot at the tip end in horizontal position? [Author's note: Vertical actually, as it was easier for me to double purchase the cords in this orientation.]

We will change to a lever connection as it is used at hang gliders.

We need some guidance on how to launch the Exxtacy on a windy cliff launch?

That's right, there aren't any side wires to hang on to. So far I haven't had to check this out personally, but a few folks have mentioned it. The recommendation is to have the "wire" people place an arm over the wing at about its center.

Response from Flight Design:

One major advantage the Exxtacy has while launching is that it has a greater nose angle thereby giving more clearance between the end of the wing and the ground. This gives an additional margin of safety. Additionally there is a very small pitch up moment while launching. However, if someone wants some extra care on a  turbulant launch, we find the best "wire man" solution is to have one person with his hand on the upper surface of the leading edge offering some resistance if needed.

It is easy to adjust the hang point

It is quite easy to adjust the hang point on an Exxtacy. This is because the hang straps are positioned forward and back by a piece of Velcro attached to the hang straps and the top of the keel. If you feel that you are in for a day of pushing out in light lift, adjust the hang strap back. If you are going to be racing to goal at strong conditions, move it forward.

Response from Flight Design:

I prefer to have a trim speed of about 40 km/h (110 kg hook in weight).

If your trim speed is too fast you have to push too much while turning. In a flex wing glider you experience much more pitch pressure when you turn because the increase in twist. With the Exxtacy you have to push more at steep turns because the twist change is much less.

Is a rigid wing too rigid?

Last year flying in the Australian Nationals and the Bogong Cup I felt that the air was unusually mellow and that the thermals were more friendly than anything I had experienced outside of flying in Florida. I couldn't believe how much fun flying in Australia (for the first time) was.

I never felt the Moyes Xtralite 164 shake or twitch. I never felt like it was going to pitch over. It never rattled back and forth or side to side, never shook. I attributed it all to the flat countryside at Hay or the relatively weak conditions at Mt. Beauty. I thought that Australia was blessed with usually smooth thermals (like Florida).

After a month I switched from the big Moyes Xtralite 164, to new Laminar ST. Things got decidedly more twitchy. The feeling that I was going to be pitched over (not a particularly realistic feeling) came back.

Hang glider pilots hope that their gliders will absorb some of the shocks of turbulent air and not transmit them to the control frame. It does no good for one's state of mind to be continually shaken. Unfortunately in my experience this year, the Exxtacy was not nearly as good as the large Xtralite was in removing this constant reminder of my frailty. It stood somewhere between the Xtralite and the Laminar ST.

Of course, if you relax your grip on the base bar, you have a better chance of calming down your mind. The Exxtacy does make this quite a bit easier, as it requires only light pilot input for roll control. You can just envision the strong wings above you flying through all the bad and not be worried by the conceit that you have to do something drastic with the base bar to get things under control.

Response from Flight Design:

Especially if you fly fast, the turbulence feels hard. One advantage is that you can have 100% control as long as the load on the Exxtacy is not negative. With a flex wing glider you lose most of your control when the acceleration decreases and you have to wait till it increases in order to have the control input that you like. This positive control is also a reason why it is easier to keep the glider flying straight or at the same bank angle.

Summary

I had a great time flying my Exxtacy in Australia. Nothing could replace the thrill of flying right with the best flex-wing pilots in the world. I have had a better time flying on the Exxtacy then I have had flying any other glider (although the Moyes Xtralite 164 was darn close, even if it left me way back in the pack).

I do wish that I had been a bit more careful with my expensive little wing. I would have been easy to wait for a better transport to get it around the paddock the day I smashed it into the car roof. I sure wish I hadn't tried to launch unhooked. I wish that I had taken my time and concentrated a bit more on a couple of landings in no wind conditions. Hopefully Flight Design will continue to improve the Exxtacy as they have in the past and we can put the niggling little problems behind us.

Flight Design is a year ahead of everyone else but Pegasus in rigid wing design and manufacturing. They are constantly working on new ideas and improvements. I expect that they will keep they lead for a while longer.

A new update to this article can be found at Exxtacy_Update

Davis at Mt. Buffalo

Davis Straub
co-author with Brian Livingston of "Windows 95 Secrets, 4th Edition," IDG Books
"The Jaws of Life for Windows 95 Users"
www.davisstraub.com/secrets
Seattle, WA