B or B+: how to find your way around?
On the paragliding market, there are more and more gliders and different types of certification: A, A+, B or B+, also called B sport... But what does this really mean?
As you know, the EN (European Norms) certification system for paragliders divides our gliders into 5 categories:
School glider for Beginners
High performance glider
This certification helps us to know the level of piloting required for each glider and therefore to orientate our choice of material.
However... How to interpret a certification level that is divided into several sub-categories?
Everyone understands what this means: a B+ will be more demanding to pilot than a standard B. But why? How do you know if you have the level to fly a B+?
If you feel lost when choosing your next EN-B, then this article is for you!
To illustrate this, we will use the comparison between the LEAF 2 light (EN-B) and the STEP light (EN-B+) in size M.
EN-B or EN-B+: more or less the same?
How can we explain this difference between two gliders that have the same certification?
To understand the differences between the two gliders, we need to look at their respective certification reports. This report is a document that summarises the results obtained by the glider during the certification test for each criterion evaluated.
You can find many certification reports on the websites of certification centres such as Air Turquoise.
The certification centre evaluates the gliders on 23 criteria, which are divided into several sub-criteria. Depending on the results obtained, all are given a grade (A, B, C, D or CCC). If only one sub-criterion is in the higher category, the whole criterion is given the higher certification rank. The same applies to the final certification of the glider: if only one criterion is rated higher, the glider is upgraded.
Example of certification criteria from A to C
For this reason, two gliders can obtain the same certification without requiring the same level of piloting. For an EN-B sport glider, the more criteria there are in B, the more demanding the glider will be. The risk of going outside flight envelop is then more important and more technical to control than for a standard B with more criteria in A.
The certification report is a tool that serves as a first step to get an idea of the behaviour of the wing.
B or B+, why does it exist?
The wide range of B-certifications and advances in paragliding design allow manufacturers to develop different gliders with completely different characteristics, both in terms of performance and handling.
The different glider designs in the B category serve to orientate the gliders towards different practices. While a standard B is suitable for progression, first cross country or even for pilots wishing to learn freestyle, a B+ is geared towards recreational cross country.
Thus, when the manufacturer decides to qualify its glider as B+, it is a way of positioning its glider on the market. It makes it clear that the development of this glider is aimed at performance, and that it is therefore intended for more experienced pilots.
Similarly for the B category, it allows us to communicate to the pilots the will to create a glider with a maximum passive safety in this homologation, perfect to follow up after a glider school to gain in performance while keeping a safety adapted to this level of progression.
These sub-categories (B-, B, B+...), although not official, are a way for the manufacturer to make it clear for which type of pilot their gliders are intended. They can thus offer several gliders for different pilots and practices in a single certification slot.
And so... How to choose?
It all depends on your experience, the number of hours you spend in flight per year, the regularity and type of flying you do, the glider loading, but also the terrain you fly in, etc. In short, as you will have understood, it depends on many things.
If you are still flying A, it may seem ambitious to aim directly for an EN-B+ as your next wing, the step between the two being very important. Indeed, some EN-B+ can behave like real Cs "in disguise"!
On the other hand, if you are already an experienced pilot, an EN-B may seem too close to an A and quickly bore you.
To help you choose, there are various tools available to you:
The advice of your usual retailer or instructor:
They are the most valuable source of information and advice you have. They will be in the best position to guide you in your choice, so don't hesitate to turn to them if you have any questions.
The manufacturer's website:
The manufacturer is in the best position to define the type of pilot for whom their gliders are intended, so this is one of the places to go for information on the product. The technical data table and a lot of basic information are listed here to get a good idea of the product.
Magazines such as Parapente Mag, Cross Country Magazine or even some YouTube channels offer tests on many models, describing their behaviour and for which pilot each paraglider is intended.
The certification report:
Knowing how to read it will give you an initial idea of the glider's behaviour. It is not clear what type of pilot the glider is designed for, but it can be used as a comparison point between the different models that interest you.
However, the best source of information on which glider to choose is still a professional such as a retailer or a school. Only qualified professionals can provide you with sound advice on your choice of equipment.