From a credibility standpoint, it is important to mention that we have a unique relationship Kamron Blevins, the owner of Northwing & designer of all the wings & aircraft. We know his equipment from recreational as well as professional experience. We’ve sold over 100 strutted wings & use them religiously in our flight school regardless of the brand of trike we happen to be adapting them to. We also fly mid-day thermals, high winds & 1000+ mile excursions under his wings. On a different note, we also do a considerable amount of Northwing’s engineering & design work. I’m a partner in a small Design Engineering company & had the rare opportunity to use my profession to further my hobby biz by helping Kamron. After careful collaboration with Northwing, we used our state of the art CAD/CAM system to digitally model all of his aircraft, bolt by bolt, in the computer. It’s funny to mention that the software we used for this task is the same software used by NASA, General Motors, & Precision Dynamics.
Nobody else in the world of triking has this much technology involved in their R & D. After migrating all of Kamron’s equipment into the realm of virtual reality, we actually assigned densities to certain areas of the equipment & ran a program that predicts their strength under hypothetical loads. Aesthetically, we redesigned all of Kamron’s composite fairings in 2004 giving Northwing the new look it has. We achieved some things that no other fairing seems to offer without compromises; enough room for people & gear, easy on & off, actually blocks the wind & still looks great. Finally, we created all of his assembly drawings in 3D & posted them to his website; achieving the most user-friendly part-identification & assembly manual on the market. I’d venture to say that we know his aircraft better than anyone and it’s proved to be a great asset when educating shoppers on his equipment & wings.
Here are some comments taken from a recent email:
IN GENERAL: All wings are different. So are tires, headlights & carburetors. All wings, trikes & motors have good points & bad points; and that’s what makes the world go around. However, I believe Northwing is consistently the nicest flying wing on the market for the money. The fabric material is nothing special, 20oz Dacron, which is great for what we do. Why? Elasticity, Durability & Price. I’ll speak to that more in a minute. The struts are unique to Northwing and Kamron owns the extruded airfoil shape with an internal box-tube structure. They are finished with anodizing that makes them look like polished aluminum. Nice touch.
MATERIALS: Several brands brag high-end materials, advanced workmanship & robotic cutting. This is great & my job often depends on these technologies but in most industries, standardization & automation are a long term effort to reduce costs but frankly, I’m not seeing it. Most wings developed & manufactured with these technologies are actually higher in price. Regardless, the cabled wings & some new CNC-manufactured strutted wings from other manufacturers consistently cost about 40% more than the hand sewn Northwing wings. There is certainly more to a wing than the sail – but we must sometimes ask what our expectations are as they vary with the prices we’re willing to pay. Everyone is different in that respect but at the end of the day – we all leave our wings out in the weather, set them up, tear them down, and we’re simply hard on them. Cables are time-intensive to manufacture but struts typically cost more as a structural product. I’ve personally owned 16 wings & 12 trikes and I sincerely feel cabled wings are a waste of money unless you’re looking for extremely high speeds & performance flying. Yes, I sell them but it’s important to remember that the quality of musical instrument makes little difference if you don’t know how to play it – or can’t tune it. Most of us just want something pleasant to fly, forgiving, simple to setup/breakdown & great in the bumps. Combined with the stretchy 20oz Dacron, the topless configuration seems to allow more sail movement which is good, especially in the bumps. This stretch equates to shock absorption. All the Upper-Rigging/Cabled wings utilize a reflex bridle which has a purpose in dive recovery that the strutted wings don’t, period. Sprogs are not as effective as a reflex bridle. Stiff & tight materials (such as bi-axial fiber glass, Hydranet, and other directionally stable materials) are used in both strutted and cabled wings depending on what characteristics the wing designer is looking for. Sometimes, it might be conceivable to imagine these materials are too damn efficient. I know this sounds strange, but I’d sacrifice 3 mph & a better glide ratio to reap the benefits of a wing that rarely stalls, washes out 90% more turbulence & simply opens up more flying days. Your desires may differ.
COST: In a current snap shot of the market, strutted wings cost an average of 40% less than Cabled/Upper Rigging wings. The 17m Northwing, my favorite for recreational flying, is a very controlled, yet forgiving feeling with high roll-stability. (Roll-Stability is basically a measurement of the wing’s tendency to stay on a heading vs. rolling into or away from the bumps). You sacrifice about 4 to 6mph by flying the 17m vs the 15m. I only recommend the 19m for floats. I believe Northwing builds the best value for the dollar, especially considering the 32% decrease in the American Dollar exchange rate vs Europe (where most wings come from). Let’s not even talk about foreign shipping & crating issues jacking up your price by at least $1000 to $2500. Northwing Parts & Accessories are only two days away & there are no international shipping or customs fees. And, we happen to think that a select few of his dealers offer pretty darn good service too.
WHERE TO BUY: The dealer & price issue is easy. Buy from your local guy if you can as long as he/she can trouble shoot issues. Few dealers can solve problems while all of them can charge you to experiment with your wing. I feel we get pretty good service from Kamron because we’ve done so much for him in respect to engineering & large volume sales but I think he’s pretty responsive to most all of his dealers.
MOUNTING NORTHWING WINGS ON OTHER BRANDS OF TRIKES: Yes – with small but important modifications. The hanging point is the same on all the wings but the keel is longer on each wing to support the extra square meters of the sail on the wings. For example, we can only fit a 15m on the AirCreation (other than the Tanarg) because of it’s smaller airframe & short distance between the hanging point and the prop arc. But, we can fit all the wings on Aerotrikes, Apex, Cosmos, Aerotrike, DTA & Pegasus with their longer airframes but we need to know prior to ordering which Model you have.
MID-DAY FLYING: Are you in a Coastal environment or Arid? Coastal should be no problem with predictable & stable ocean winds. I see a lot of press coming from Florida where the winds are laminar & lack substantial convection. However, I personally live in an Arid and Mountain environment where the thermals pump all day. As a matter of fact, they hold the world championships of hang gliding 80 miles from my airpark, so you can probably imagine the ‘washing machine’ effect we get here on a daily basis. Sometimes, flying has as much to do with the pilot’s experience & confidence level as the equipment but there’s no such thing as a good carpenter without good tools… In my opinion, the 17m is the best wing for the bumps & we’ve proved it in recreation as well as competition over & over in the last decade. Let it be noted I’ve owned almost every wing on the market. I don’t mean I’ve test flown one at an airshow – I mean I’ve owned them.
LIFE OF A WING: If you take care of your wing & keep it in your hangar, it can last you a lifetime. Leave it outside in the rain & sun and it will die within two(2) years.
PORTABILITY: Can the wing stay on the trike for transport? Yes. 15 to 30 minutes will be sufficient time to completely store or setup your trike/wing. If you’re flying floats or leaving your plane at a windy airstrip or dock, it’s the only way to go. You release the haul-back cable, remove a few battens, install a few straps & your safe to leave it. We’ve sold wings for this purpose alone, regardless of the previously described flying performance.
COLORS: You can get almost any primary color combination you want but custom designs available with the higher end wings are not available on Northwing. There is no extra charge for your color choice as there sometimes is with foreign wing manufacturers.
DELIVERY TIME: 1 week if you’re within the US and we have it in stock. Typically 4-6 weeks if we don’t have it in stock. 12 weeks is the maximum I’ve seen when Northwing gets really busy in the Spring time.
HOW TO ORDER: 50% deposit by Credit Card over the phone, Check, Bank Wire. And, the final 50% due on the day of shipping. Sometimes there is a credit available if you pay in full up front. Just ask us about it.
ANYTHING ELSE: You’ll get an owner’s manual, batten chart, tuning kit, stickers & a free t-shirt or cap. All wings are test flown & nicely crated for shipping to terminal or airport near you. Shipments are typically insured but you should inquire about it.