Is it a speed glider, paraglider or kite? It’s a Moustache! Seb Ospina and Luke Nicol flew one of the first production wings. Bastienne Wentzel finds out more
Curiosity, anticipation, confusion, skepticism. The launch of the Flare Moustache created quite a stir in the free flying community. What is it? Who needs it? And how does it fly? We found out from the designers and then took the Moustache to the test.
Flare is a new brand from the same company as Skywalk. In March they released their one and only new wing, the Moustache. They call it a parakite, and it’s designed for having fun in strong winds on the dunes or at soaring sites. It looks like a paraglider but Flare don’t call it that, and it’s not made for thermal flying. Beni Kälin, paragliding and speedflying instructor and part of the Flare development team says: “It’s a kite made to fly.”
Who is it for?
The target group for the Moustache is paraglider pilots and also kitesurfers. It’s marketed for speed flying and snowkiting as well. Flare are building a community of Pro Partners who sell the gliders but also need to provide specific training. Flare brand manager Daniel Ziemer explains: “In our sales model through our website as well as via our Pro Partners, no wing is sent out before we validate the skills of the customer. We need to know their experience and what they will use the Moustache for. Flying on the coast is easy, but in the mountains it gets tricky with turbulence and thermals.”
Beni adds: “Kitesurfers should not start to fly on a Moustache. We always recommend a paragliding licence.”
The main feature of the Moustache is the strong reflex profile which you can influence over the toggles. There is no speed system or trimmers. By pulling or releasing the controls you change the angle of attack and with that the speed and glide ratio of the glider. That is quite a different way of piloting for a paraglider pilot.
So how would two very experienced paraglider pilots get along with the Moustache? Cross Country’s Luke Nicol, who flies paragliders, hang gliders, speed gliders and kites, and Seb Ospina, a professional tandem pilot and accomplished competition pilot, went to a windy hill in Switzerland to give it a try.
The Moustache is built for harsh conditions at the dunes. Most of the canopy is made of TX-light fabric, used in many Skywalk wings, but important parts are reinforced with stronger material, the 44g/m² DLX+ fabric. This is not only on the leading edge but also the wingtip-topsail to protect them when tip-sliding over the sand. The normal cell openings are kept in shape by half-round plastic rods and it has no sharknose. The colour-coded Dyneema lines connect to the risers with regular maillons.
The riser set-up, made from 3.7mm Dyneema string, looks unfamiliar to paraglider pilots. The A, B and C lines come together at their own maillon and then to Dyneema string risers. The B-riser is on a pulley and connected to the A-riser and through another pulley with the C-riser. The set-up looks a bit like B/C-connectors used for C-steering, but on steroids. The comfortable soft acro-toggles with handle bars are connected to the B and C lines and brake lines that way the C-level moves with a ratio of 1/3 of the brake travel and the B-level at 1/6.
In addition, there is a red plastic handle on the B-lines. This is the so-called killer mushroom. If you want to kill your wing in strong winds, pull the mushrooms down hard and fast and your wing will be pinned to the ground. Seb noted: “The mushrooms are quite high up. As a shorter pilot I found them hard to reach, definitely when you are dragged over the ground in strong winds.”
Where the riser connects to the lines there is a ‘left’ and ‘right’ label. These not only indicate which goes where, but it also marks the height at which your hands with the toggles should be to fly best glide. Hands fully up is the equivalent of full speed. For normal, active flying your hands should be around the best glide position. Hands at the karabiners is the stall position, so don’t pull your hands down more than that.
There are four different sizes at the moment, which you not only choose for weight range or skill level, but mostly for wind speed and steep or shallow terrain. When in doubt, choose the bigger one, say Flare.
Groundhandling and launching
For their first flight with the Moustache, the Flare crew took Seb and Luke to a smallish shallow hill near Lucerne in Switzerland. The wind was howling around 50km/h (30mph). “I must admit I was quite nervous,” Luke said. “These were conditions where I wouldn’t get anything else out of the bag, even a speed glider and it was a site where I’d never rig a hang glider either.”
His first flight was a surprise. “I just wanted to groundhandle a little bit because I was too intimidated to go flying straight away. When I did fly I was shocked at how different it felt and I was surprised at the speed. I also realised that landing it wasn’t just a case of putting it in crosswind on the slope like a paraglider.”
Seb had flown a prototype before. “I didn’t even want to fly. I was on a mountain at 2,000m in snow with 45km/h winds. I just wanted to groundhandle and pulled the brakes and all of a sudden I was metres up in the air. And then you can’t just go hands up or pump the brakes to get down, it will speed up or create lift.”
Their point is: no matter your skill set, you really need to watch the training videos on Flare’s website and then get a proper introduction before you try a Moustache. “Even though we are experienced on paragliders, hang gliders, speed gliders and kites, we still needed to listen to them,” both Seb and Luke stressed.
The main difference with paragliders is that during inflation, you can’t and don’t need to stop the wing overhead with the controls. The reflex profile prevents overshooting. Beni explained: “If you are late with stopping the overshooting and then pull the toggles, the canopy can collapse because you take out the reflex with pulling the toggles.”
Flying the wing
When flying a Moustache, you not only control left and right, but also lift and glide ratio. Much more than a paraglider, you can control up and down as well. The wing needs active piloting, you can’t just put your hands up and relax.
The Moustache won’t collapse easily, although Flare warn that this feeling of stability can also be a danger and any wing can collapse. “Flying it feels weird and amazing,” said Luke. “We were flying in turbulent and gusty conditions and it just didn’t want to collapse. In flight it really feels very solid, the reflex is very strong. The internal pressure is really high, so it bounces around like a go-kart without suspension.”
What happens when the Moustache does collapse, we don’t know, said Luke. “I imagine it could be a problem.” The correct reaction for a paraglider in that case is hands-up. Since that equates to full-speed for the Moustache, this will make the problem worse.
When you understand your hand position, steering the Moustache is intuitive, Seb and Luke said. “Pulling left you go left, right you go right,” Seb said. “I used quite a bit of weightshift. But you can also put your outside hand up which is like pushing speed bar on one side. That creates less roll.”
In addition to high-wind soaring, the Moustache is also meant for speedflying, speedriding and snowkiting. Daniel explained that the Moustache fills a gap between speed gliders, which have much more roll, and paragliders which have too much glide to fly close to the ground. “I think it opens up new lines and possibilities.”
Luke said: “Staying close to the ground was not as easy as it looked. It has much more lift than I thought. It is surprisingly efficient. Also, most speed flyers are not familiar with active piloting, which the Moustache needs.”
Our pilots as well as Flare advise finding a large landing area for your first landing with the Moustache. You need to land into wind and you can’t flare for touchdown, that will just lift you up. Beni advised: “The biggest problem is the high stall speed. When the wind speed is less than the stall speed, top-landing can be super difficult.”
Luke said: “It’s really tricky to land. The key is you have to think like landing a hang glider. You have to land with an approach. You can’t go crosswind and flare it. Make your last leg as long as possible, don’t turn at the last moment but fly into wind. Then don’t bury the brakes but kill it slowly.”
If it looks like a paraglider and flies like a paraglider, isn’t it a paraglider? Yes and no, said Luke. “Paraglider pilots definitely have a good basic skill set to fly the Moustache. But you need to re-learn many skills as well. For me, it’s not a paraglider. I didn’t believe that either, but I recommend flying it to find out for yourself.”
Seb added: “The conditions in which we tested were borderline, I would never have thought that I could fly a glider in these conditions. It now feels as if less extreme conditions will be very easy with the Moustache. I felt really connected. You just have the two controls, it is very pure. You can control your altitude with such finesse it’s amazing.”
Luke said: “This is all because you don’t have brakes but controls and they are very long. The way to pilot the Moustache reminds me of hang gliding. On a hang glider, you pull the bar to speed up and push it out to dive. You can’t slow down by pulling the brakes like a paraglider.”
He added: “The Moustache was so much fun to fly! We can’t wait to get our hands on one again and take it to the coast into some nice laminar air.” Seb agreed: “It’s my dream glider to use at any beach site, Canoa Quebrada, Newhaven, Dune de Pyla, The Netherlands, Wilderness. Potentially the most fun you can have at the beach with your clothes on!”
It looks like the Moustache is indeed a new type of toy, a parakite. Their verb for operating it is ‘flaring’ instead of flying, but the future will tell if the flying community adopts this term. In any case, the Moustache is definitely fun for soaring in high winds, so watch the tutorials, get proper instruction and try one yourself.
Flare say: “Born to create a new world of flying – now called flaring. A true gamechanger.”
Use: soaring, speedflying, speedriding, snowkiting
Pilot level: paraglider pilots willing to skill up
Sizes (flat area m²): 13, 15, 18,22
Recommended take-off weight (kg):
65-120, 50-120, 65-120, 80-120
Glider weight (kg): 3.1, 3.4, 3.8, 4.4
Flat aspect ratio: 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 5.8
Certification: EN 926-1 load- and shock-test
Published in issue 231 (July 2022)