Spring on the Wasatch is quickly starting to change into summer, so I thought now might be a good time to pause, catch my breath and put together some quick thoughts regarding the new Chili 4 from Skywalk.
Before I dive in too deep here, it is important to understand a little about my flying style to help put this review into context. I am an advanced rated pilot and log about 150 hours per year in rougher mountain terrain. As such, I fly mostly hike-n-fly adventures or moderate XC flights. I do very little, if any ridge soaring. I enjoy the adventure of flying and to me searching for that beautiful high altitude view is much more rewarding than logging XC miles. I am a pretty conservative pilot compared to most, and therefore I often avoid the mid-day rodeo, and lean towards the late afternoon thermal flights in the high mountains. Over the last four years I have been flying the Skywalk Chili 3 and have roughly 500 hours on that wing design (and love it, love it, love it). Now that we have that out of the way, here are my initial thoughts on Skywalk’s new Chili 4.
So far this spring I have logged about 25 hours and about 250 km of XC flying through mountain terrain on this wing. I did spend about an hour or so ridge soaring in more laminar air. I know there are several technical articles and other reviews out there by dedicated test pilots, so instead of getting lost in the same mumbo jumbo, I thought I would instead share my practical thoughts on actually using this wing in the everyday paces of my flying.
The wing in it’s folded state is a bit more bulky than the Chili 3 design, likely due to the large amounts of cell reinforcements throughout the wing. It psychologically feels heavier to me, but the scale in my house shows pretty much the same practical weight; it just takes up a bit more room in my pack.
There are three more lines to deal with at the riser location than the Chili 3 (one extra A, B and D), but no big deal really. The brake lines have a single cascade from 1 to 3, which makes clearing my brake lines much more tedious. The lines are only sheathed in the lowest portion, then unsheathed through all the upper cascades. The upper cascades and brake lines are very, very thin. Dental floss looks thick in comparison to these lines. That may sound great, but since I am mostly launching from rocky terrain often covered in brush, these lines catch on absolutely everything. It makes the set up rather cumbersome and annoying trying to keep every little line clear.
I found that the wing comes up really slow at first, much slower than the Chili 3 until about the 50-60 degree mark, then surges quickly. Much quicker than the Chili 3, but similar to the older Tequila 3…only a bit more dynamic. I think the slow inflation and surge is mostly a result of the shark nose technology. So you need to be on your toes to ‘catch’ the wing when launching in any air with energy, otherwise it will overfly you in a hurry. I feel that is totally expected for a wing in this performance category.
Holy Smokes! I can say with some confidence that this wing is a thermal hunting machine! It is clearly designed for one purpose, and that is turning in thermals. As such, I have found it is not a very playful wing to fly (like the newest Tequila 4), but is more of a precision flying instrument. It flies much flatter than the Chili 3, but is extremely responsive, requires very little brake input and slices through the air like nothing I have ever felt before.
The shark nose technology on this wing generates a very high pressure throughout the wing and is immediately noticeable. Feeling that much pressure in the wing I was a bit nervous at first. After all, high pressure means high energy and high energy usually means that it ‘explodes’ violently when it collapses. So, I pushed it a little bit inducing some 30%-40% asymmetric collapses. To my surprise, the collapse was not violent at all, and recovered very quickly and easily with minimal course changes. Really? I tried it a few more times just to be sure, and found with a little controlled weight shift I obtained the same results.
When entering a thermal the wing does not pitch up nearly as much as the Chili 3, but instead seems to slice right into it. Flying into some of the more violent spring thermals I was amazed at how stable the wing is, so much so that my confidence in rougher air has increased significantly. I am finding myself much more willing to go into “the bear cage” with this wing. The wing tends to snake a bit side to side over your head while on glide, as if it is searching for lift, but it induces absolutely no drift or swinging under the wing. It was a strange feeling at first, but now that I understand the “language” of the wing, that feature is awesome! It makes it very easy to determine if you should circle clockwise or counter-clockwise.
One thing I feel I need to make crystal clear. This wing MUST be actively piloted. This is NOT a low end EN-B wing and requires a high demand of active flying. I actually feel it requires more attention to fly it correctly than the Chili 3. However, if you do actively fly it, the wing is amazingly stable, solid, precise, and very comfortable to fly. If you do not know how to listen to the language of the wing, and react properly, I think you could get yourself into a little trouble.
Flying (ridge soaring):
Like I mentioned earlier, this wing was built for a single purpose, and that is to circle in thermals. I did fly it at my local ridge soaring site (POM North Side). I do not fly that site very often, but felt I wanted to experience the wing in more laminar air. It was okay, but nothing that made me say “wow.” I took this wing to the ridge soaring site after I had about 15 hours of thermal flying, so when I landed I knew without any doubt that this wing was solely for climbing in thermals. I can only describe it like this. Driving a Nissan GT-R around town is just fine, and feels okay, but you will never see it’s full potential until you put it on the open road. This glider is a little bit like this car analogy. It’s just fine boating around in ridge soaring conditions, but you will never discover the magical potential of this wing unless you get it out the wind, and into the thermals.
Like all higher aspect ratio wings, I definitely notice the increase airspeed when landing. I am almost always landing in low to no wind situations, so the jet flaps (unique to Skywalk) intermixed with a swing through approach make the landing pretty easy.
I cannot say enough positive things about how well this wing flies in thermals. It is so freakin’ good! I have had a very hard time trying to explain it to friends, and have had an even harder time trying to put words to it here (obviously). The super thin cascades and unsheathed lines are a bit of a headache in the mountains, but in the end worth every challenge once in the air. For those who know me, know I was pretty reluctant to click into a Chili 4 as I absolutely loved the Chili 3 design. Honestly, since my first mountain flight with the Chili 4 I have not even had the desire to pull out the Chili 3. In conclusion, I would say that if you are a high-hour pilot, fly all the time, and are more versed in thermal flying, this wing will not disappoint. I have found that you do have to actively pilot the wing to take advantage of it’s stability and amazing potential. It speaks a beautifully clear language…and once you know how to listen and react, it is one sweet, sweet wing. Hope this review has been helpful, and I hope to see you high above the mountains soon.
Wing: Skywalk Chili 4
Size: XS (extra small)
My Flying Weight: 88kg (this includes the weight of the wing, required for all Skywalk weight ranges)
Certified Weight: 70kg – 95kg
Aspect Ratio: 5.65 (flat) 4.21 (projected)
Harness Used: Sup Air Delight II
I am a Skywalk Team pilot and do receive some benefits from Skywalk…However, this review has been honest and based on my own flying experience with the wing. If you are in the US and interested in a demo reach out to Jonathan at Utah Paragliding. If you are in other parts of the world, contact Skywalk directly for the nearest dealer.