Airwave Paragliders

The Airwave Paragliders factory is situated at one end of the Stubaital valley in Austria, near Innsbruck. Just one of a number of western European paraglider manufacturers, it actually began as a hang gliding manufacturer. Airwave gained good success in that field, attracting some of the world's strongest pilots at the time.

Airwave's ability to produce safe, high quality equipment resulted in a notable success in 1997 with the World Paragliding Championships being won in an Airwave paraglider.

The current crop of Airwave wings are tested in Greolieres, France. The weather conditions at this location are flyable year-round, which is ideal for testing.

Airwave Paragliders are proud of the technical innovations that are incorporated in their current crop of paragliders. I'll give a few examples. A major one is the hybrid top surface employed on the canopies. The leading edge of the top surface wears quicker than any other surface for a number of reasons, more UV exposure in the sun, more tension in flight and so on. So Airwave have used Gelvenor, a heavier more hard-wearing material for the leading edge top surface only, resulting in longer-lasting wings that are still acceptably light and maneuverable.

I'll mention one or two more. All paragliders from Airwave come equipped with Kevlar lines made by Edelman and Ridder, a German company with an industry reputation for consistent quality over the years. To minimize weight and drag, the top lines which connect to the underside of the canopy are the slimmest and lightest. Next, since there are fewer of them, come the mid-lines which are slightly thicker and heavier. Finally, the small number of lower lines which connect to the harness risers are the most heavy-duty.

The Airwave Flite paraglider.

The strength required of all the lines depends on the flight loads of the paraglider, but even so, large margins of safety are built in. Nice to know when you're barrelling along fast and suddenly hit some rough air! Tests are done at up to 8 times the normal flying load.

Finally, just to show that this company pays attention to detail, they use triangular links from Maillon Rapide, in France. These are stainless steel links that do not rust, and have been subjected to very stringent quality control. That's good, 'cos you might one day be hanging from these things at 3000m (about 10,000ft)!

Manufacturing paragliders these days is truly an international affair, with the best components sourced from all around the world. For example, the heavy Gelvenor material comes from South Africa and some of the pulleys are Riley pulleys imported from Australia.


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