atos hang glider
[ h a n g
g l i d e r s ]
A study of excellence
The hang glider practically reinvented the idea of flying
for fun and it remains a hugely satisfying machine to
fly. This applies whether you just want to feel like a
bird or are determined to break a world record, for this
class of machine includes examples which can fly as
slow as 25km/h and high-speed variants with a Vne of
120 km/h, capable of flying an ambitious closed circuit
of several hundred kilometres.
n the years between its invention in the mid-60s and the
appearance of the paraglider, the hang glider was the only
option for those seeking unpowered flight from unregulated
launch sites. The classic delta shape originated by Rogallo, with a tubular frame covered in fabric, has always dominated the genre, but right
from the start there have been fixed-wing alternatives. Some, like the
Fledge, used the same materials but added moveable control surfaces,
while others like the Mitchell wing dispensed with tube-and-fabric altogether in favour of a rigid wing, which could be folded to simplify transport.
Nevertheless, the main advances were achieved with the Rogallo: easier
to rig, lighter, simpler, more easily available, less expensive and – bit by
bit – offering a performance equal to that of a fixed-wing.
The biggest single leap came in 1980 with the famous Comet, the first Rogallo to use a double-surface.
Enclosing the cross-tube made for less drag, and allowed designers to hone the wing section with more
battens, a development process which has seen glide ratios rise from 8/1 to 14-15/1 over the last two
But the dream of a truly high-performance hang glider had not gone away. The desire to foot-launch a
high-performance rigid wing led directly to the creation of the extraordinary Swift, whose sink ratio of 27
at 75km/h is equal to that of 1960s wooden sailplanes and is still without a genuine challenger.
This was followed by the fabric-covered rigid-wing with integral leading-edge main spar, such as the
Atos VR, which has a sink rate of 20. However, although takeoff is by foot-launch, aero-tow or winch,
from flatland or mountain, just like any other hang glider, these performance improvements were associated with a number of constraints. These proved unappealing to some older pilots, who switched to
ultralights or even paragliders.
Today, the hang glider remains an extraordinary compromise between performance, simplicity and safety; in sensible hands, these machines are virtually indestructible. In 2001 Manfred Ruhmer established
a current distance record of an astonishing 700.4km, saying much about the potential of the flexwing in
the hands of a skilled pilot. Aerobatic pilots push these machines into extremes of the flight envelope, to
the amazement of onlookers.
In 2008 guise, the rigid-wing hang glider is more user-friendly than before, but with virtually no loss in
performance, as typified by Félix Ruehle’s Atos VQ. It is much simpler and faster to rig and derig than
its competition big brother, the standard class glider.
In recent years there has been another development in the shape of three-axis ultra-light sailplanes
such as the Archæoptéryx and XXtherm. However, like all rigid-wing designs, they require a container
or trailer for ground transport.
Whatever their design, all these gliders have one thing in common: the prone flying position. We should
not be surprised that there are no supine hang gliders in current production, for the bird-like flying position is the hang glider’s special magic, the thing that keeps the passionate pilot coming back for more.
Hang glider aerobatics: modern
wings are remarkably strong.
> Remember! This is an international
publication, so all prices exclude
local and national taxes, eg VAT and
> For a full list of abbreviations and
metric / imperial conversions, see
> Manufacturers, importers and
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A B B R E V I AT I O N S
Model of aircraft
Wing area, square metres
(1m² = 10.8ft²)
Min/max pilot weight range,
kilograms (1kg = 2.20 lb)
WS Wing span, metres (1m = 3.28ft)
Nose angle, degrees
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Atos VX Bi
8 823 €
11 331 €
11 584 €
9 773 €
11 109 €
Introduced in 2007, the Atos VQ – Q for Quick – is much quicker to assemble than its predecessors and has also been on a strict diet, such that it now only weighs 40kg. It splits into two parts
for transport. None of these changes are detrimental to performance, as was demonstrated in
2008 in Namibia, when the aircraft set a world record in the expert hands of Carlos Pugnet. Its
high-performance brother, the VR, remains very much available: it is faster and more efficient and
remains the competition pilot’s mount of choice. Most Atos models can be equipped with aluminum
A-frames instead of the more expensive carbon.
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