As I arrived at this summer’s fly-in, I was greeted by Simon and one of the first things we did was to scoff at the nearby Zenith which had lamels fitted to the netting. Both of us sneered in the only way two arrogant know-it-all paramotor pilots can, asking the obvious question “How could that possibly work?”.
Fast forward forty eight hours and as I drive away from the fly-in I cast a glance over my shoulder into the back of my van to admire the Maverick with its collection of lamels strung about its netting.
Hypocrite? It seems so.
Having settled into the fly-in, and being camped next to Barry Rood (Baz), I took the opportunity to take a closer look at the lamels he had installed on his Zenith (the very same machine I had been pouring scorn over earlier with Simon). It turned out that Baz had researched lamels and decided to make his own version.
I had been struggling slightly with the torque from my Maverick - it’s an awesome machine but, with me being only 73 kg, when doing a macho take off the torque literally tips me sideways meaning a straight ahead launch was not an option - and as I fly from several sites which require navigating out of, this had become a problem. It was also an issue in the air, where when going to full power I would be put into a turn. But I love my Mav and was very happy to live with that … but when Baz started explaining to me that he’d found the lamels had made a big difference to his machine, I decided that there really was nothing to lose to give them a try - apart from showing myself to be the butt of my own earlier sneering.
So Baz very generously started fitting his lamels to my netting. My first reaction was that they were going to fall off and go through my prop, they just hung there looking loose and vulnerable. But each one connects on two axes, so they were more secure than they looked - or at least I hoped so.
So, what is the principle on which the lamels work? Each lamel has an aerodynamic surface over which air is drawn by the prop and which produces a force in the opposite direction of the torque. The idea is to attach sufficient lamels to ensure that this force is close, or ideally identical, with that of the torque. The trick is to use the correct amount to cancel out the torque steer.
I had assumed that you’d have had to fly the machine to gauge how close you’d got it, regarding the amount of lamels needed, although I was pleasantly surprised to find that the difference was immediately noticeable when running the machine under power on your back. However, the real test is by flying.
So I went flying. The previous day I’d flown and gone into my usual lift off and bank right without trying, so I wasn’t sure what to expect now. I launched and as I applied a good handful of power I found that I continued to fly straight. No right bank. I went for a trip down to the nearby motorway - by flying in a straight line with no corrections. I went to full power for thirty seconds and was still heading in my chosen direction, with just a little right drift at WOT.
I was seriously impressed. I looked over my shoulder to check that the lamels weren’t hanging off and waiting to do an impression of the the old kid’s game of pegging a piece of card into the spokes of your bike. But they were fine, happily sitting there and it was clear that they were secure under the pressure of the air being drawn over them. I was smiling and very happy to be a convert and a hypocrite. These things are amazing.
I was keen to test the lamels in one of my tighter launch fields back home in the Brecon Beacons. It’s only flyable if you can actually properly control the machine, as it has power lines on two side and trees on another. If you get torque steer on launch, then it’s too iffy to use as a site. And I was amazed and delighted to find that in a light wind the Mav took off in what must be the most direct and straight launch I’ve even known, it was flying to my launch visual target without deviating.
I was left with one or two questions - firstly, I cannot understand how enough force to counter the torque of the paramotor can be delivered through something attached to flimsy netting. I’ve wracked my brains but it’s beyond me. All I know is that it works, and, as far as I can see so far, there is no stress or damage to the netting.
The second question is whether the lamels make a noticeable increase in drag. I think they do, it’s not massive but I can feel a very slight reduction in power when climbing. Or can I? The Moster delivers so much oomph that it could all be fantasy and I’m just looking for something to balance the amazingly positive results.
Finally, I’d like to thank Baz for taking the time to show me the lamels and to show me how to fit them on the netting (It’s not complicated). I’d also like to thank him for letting me take them away and use them whilst refusing to take payment. He put a lot of time into making these, so he is my hero of the month.
Obviously, the lamels are commercially available but, to my knowledge, they are only available from the USA where you can buy them from Aviator PPG for about $200 for a set of 20 lamels (you use as many as you need with it being unlikely that you’ll need more than 20 - I used 12).
All paramotors develop torque and all modern motors have designs to cancel this out to some degree. However, for lighter pilots with powerful motors more can be needed, and these lamels appear to be the answer. They have taken my already awesome Maverick and moved it even higher in terms of being the ultimate lightweight paramotor, in my opinion.