Monday, March 16, 2009

Axis factory report

So I recently visited the Axis Paragliders in Brno in the Czech Republic. Brno is the Czech Republic's second largest city and has been home to Axis since the company was founded in 1990. They have recently opened a second factory twenty kilometres from Brno and manufacture some gliders in Sri Lanka.

The focus of my visit was to talk to Axis's designer František Pavoloušek about the design and construction of my glider for the X-Alps. However, the visit turned out to be much more than that. It was fascinating to learn so much about the gliders and get an insight in to the full process of design, testing and construction that results in a modern high-performance paraglider. Every detail is carefully considered: materials, profiles, processes and finish.

Axis have been using their own profiles since the beginning. Compared to other manufacturers', they are relatively thick and efficient. This means that Axis wings, for the same pilot weight, are comparatively small. Consequently the wings are solid, fast, agile and collapse resistant. For me in the X-Alps this means I'll get great performance from a small (and consequently light) wing.

Safety is a primary concern of the design team. This evident throughout the range, even in the company's flagship competition wing, the Mercury. It isn't a question of getting the hottest glider possible through the tests, but instead paying attention to safety characteristics beyond what the certification measures. For example, the profile and trimming is carefully designed to create a glider that wants to fly and does not remain in deep stall. For pilots, this means that if we're flying slowly e.g. to top land on a UK ridge or squeeze in to a small landing field then if the glider starts to stall then when we raise our hands the glider immediately starts flying forward again. Gliders without this characteristic would dump you on your back.

The design team are hard at work on a new tandem and developing the Mercury.

As for my X-Alps glider, well the specification looks like this:
  • Manufacturer: Axis Paragliders
  • Model: Venus II XR
  • Lines: Unsheathed
  • Colour: Fire
  • Upper surface: 36g/m² Skytex
  • Lower surface: 27g/m² Skytex
  • Risers: Custom ultralight
Without a doubt, she's the perfect X-Alps glider for me and I can't wait to fly her!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Axis Factory

I'm in Brno in the Czech Republic at the moment, chatting to Axis Paragliders about the details of my wing for the event. It's great to meet the team in person and it's fascinating to learn about all the details that go into making a top quality paraglider. Axis' designer, František Pavloušek has many excellent ideas for how to make the wing even lighter. I'll post a full report when I get back to Geneva.

The weather is looking very good for XC in the French Alps this Saturday. I can't wait to get out on my Axis Mercury!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Col des Verts

A forecast for strong winds and rain in the afternoon meant that flying was off the cards, but the morning was sunny. I headed for the Col des Verts (2499m) in the Aravis mountains on the touring skis with the Amis Montagnards. I'll let the photos tell the story.

Skinning up on beautiful snow.

The sun creeps over the summits, leading us upward.

A lone ski tourer heads for an unknown objective.

Refueling before the final slopes.

Natalie skins up the last few metres to the col. Behind her is the Point Percée (2750m).

Luc rips up the heavy powder on the descent.