After flying the Dudek Hadron for the first time a mere six months ago, my only question to Dudek was “Awesome – so when are you going to update it?”
I was late to the party. The wing that was a “game-changer” for me had come out nearly three years prior to my first flight on it. The only model of it’s type, the Hadron had a high aspect ratio (5,9) providing efficiency that rivals modern traditional paragliders, with nearly the speed and stability of the fastest of competition reflex wings. I loved this combination – as a heavy guy who rocks high altitudes, I love the launch ability and climb rate that an efficient wing provides. Aside from that, high efficiency provides an added safety margin for low flying, a conceivably better life span for your engine, and of course my favorite; energy for maneuvering.
Over the past six months of being blown away by the Hadron; I didn’t know that Dudek had developed a more solid, maneuverable, and faster sequel – slithering through the grass slowly and waiting to bite the paramotor community.
We were perhaps first introduced to the Dudek Snake when the Polish Paramotor Team posted a somewhat crudely-edited video of them training with the 16m Snake on a barren, frozen wasteland in January of this year. Everyone’s reaction in the US community seemed to be the same – unimpressed, as these were not known athletes, and they were not demonstrating any measurable capabilities over other slalom wings.
Boy were we wrong.
Their early season training paid off, as five of the top 10 slots in the 1st FAI World Slalom competition were taken by their team, and seven of those 10 slots were on the Dudek Snake. Skill plays the largest role in any competition, but when seven-tenths of the leaderboard in a 60 pilot competition is one particular model – it warrants a look.
Looking at the data of the Snake, it’s interesting to try to imagine what it flies like. A 5,8 aspect ratio suggests that it should have near-Hadron efficiency with slightly more maneuverability. It also claims an impressive 65km/h accelerated speed, but that’s also what a Paramania GTR claims – so it’s top speed is nothing revolutionary. Where Dudek wins is in having usable speed, thanks to high efficiency.
Looking further at the data published by Dudek we see that they are achieving a 25km/h minimum speed, which is impressive because it tells us that this wing has the highest published speed range of any dedicated “slalom” wing. Now you have a tool that can smoke other gliders in the turns and win the slow/fast tasks and make picking up / dropping objects easier. Practical benefit: Easier to launch and land.
Speed isn’t everything, especially when it comes to this wannabees usability.
What allows Snake pilots to dominate the leaderboard is the maneuverability, speed, and stability of the best “slalom” gliders while not trading off it’s glide ratio for pitch-stability. Sure, your reflex wing can do 42mph in a straight line, but how far can you bank it while accelerated and not lose altitude? That is something that only a higher aspect ratio (or an insane amount of power) can help you with. Also with increased efficiency comes the ability to launch and fly a smaller size than you could in another model. Higher wing loading = more than published speed.
Top-tier reflex speed and precise handling make it great; but the efficiency to retain energy while exercising those traits is what makes this wing special. I predict that the Snake will dominate the comp scene as well as “advanced glider” market for the next few years. After pilots fly it and “see the light” about how important high-efficiency is, other manufacturers will hopefully shift focus onto what will essentially make their gliders more usable for every pilot.
This is a good thing for the industry.
My initial flights on the Snake were conducted at the Wings Over Winter fly-in over the course of a weekend where conditions made testing glide ratio and speed incredibly difficult. However during a flight with winds aloft gusting to 20mph, I was able to fly a few circuits with my variometer and come to some initial numbers that were extremely impressive.
I was consistently pulling 37mph at fast trim in level flight – cool. The stunner was my initial l/d test showing a 7.55:1 glide ratio. That’s 7.5:1 with a paramotor on my back at idle. That would be incredible. I don’t believe it either, maybe I was too sleep deprived. So I insisted that I take the Snake home with me and try the test a few different ways in smooth air.
What follows these initial impressions will be a comprehensive test of the Snake showing it’s most important innovations. Where hard data is not available to demonstrate traits e.g. “maneuverability,” I can only call upon my experience and give the most objective opinion while trying to use measurable substance wherever possible.
The next installment of this test will also include in-depth descriptions of the features of the glider, their intended application, and wether or not they are all they’re cracked up to be. Then we will get to the important stuff – the glider’s characteristics during advanced maneuvering!
If the winter temperatures warrant, I’ll try a third installment after completing a three-gallon cross country flight focusing on the features that will help go the distance.
I will be sure to record as much as possible with video, and publish the test procedures. I would also welcome any open discussion about the merits of this wing and how it may potentially change the industry.
By Shane Denherder