DESIGNED FOR THE TRAINING HILL
The Condor is a special purpose glider for use by instructors in a training environment. (The Condor is not intended for use outside of a flight school, nor for resale to end users.)
The idea behind the Condor is simple - a student's first attempts to solo launch a hang glider are easiest, and least intimidating if they occur on a small, shallow slope, at a very low groundspeed. Traditionally, the only way to achieve this low groundspeed was to have a moderate breeze present. The problem is that wind creates its own problems. It often blows from the wrong direction entirely, and even when the general direction is correct, it seldom blows from a completely consistent direction, or at a completely constant speed. Changes in either wind speed or direction cause problems for the student in ground handling the glider and balancing it prior to launch. Moreover, wind almost always involves at least some turbulence, which greatly complicates the student's attempts to learn control of the glider in the air.
The Condor addresses these problems by allowing for a very low groundspeed without wind, and thus without the problems associated with wind. The Condor is a very large area glider, which allows it to fly very slowly. At the same time, it is extremely light in weight, making it easy for the student to lift, carry and ground handle.
The Condor thus allows for training at very low ground speeds in little or no wind. This makes the initial training process much easier and less intimidating for the student. Another benefit is that a suitable training hill becomes much easier to come by. A hill that is appropriate in shape, but doesn't face into the normal prevailing afternoon wind might be useable in the early morning or late evening when there is no wind, with the added benefit that the air has no thermal activity and the heat of mid day can be avoided. All of these benefits of the Condor as a training glider serve to open up the hang gliding experience to a much broader range of people - people who may not have the athletic ability or the adventurous spirit necessary to try hang gliding in a more traditional training environment. Many instructors who have had the opportunity to use the Condor for first-flight training have subsequently refused to use any other glider for this type of training. During the re-opening ceremonies for Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles, numerous reporters who came expecting only to cover the event found themselves participants instead, flying the Condor from the sand dunes because, well, it just looked so easy and like so much fun.
The Condor comes in two sizes - the original 330 and the new, smaller 225. The 330 Condor offers the slowest flying speeds in true no wind conditions, but it also has the most restrictive limitations. Most instructors report that the 330 Condor is "blown out" in winds of more than eight mph, due to the difficulty in ground handling such a large area glider in any significant wind. In addition, the 330 has the most restrictive operating limitations in the air - it trims increasingly nose down in a turn as the bank angle is increased, and it becomes unstable in roll beyond about 40 degrees of bank. The 330 also has the most restrictive structural margin - the airframe has an ultimate strength of only a little more than three G's - less than half that of a typical utility class hang glider. Neither the Condor 330 or the Condor 225 is HGMA certified or certifiable, and neither is intended for utility class operation. Both models are recommended for footlaunch only (no towing) and for straight flight at low altitude, with minimal maneuvering, from a small, shallow slope. The Condor 225 has a bit more structural margin, is generally more stable than the 330, and could be used in a slightly expanded operating envelope. A first high flight in very light wind, very smooth, end of the day conditions - which would not be at all appropriate on the 330, could be done safely on the 225. Also, the 225 can handle a little more wind than the 330 before ground handling becomes a problem at the same magnitude, due to its smaller area and span. If you seldom have access to true no wind conditions, and typically train with some amount of wind and mild turbulence present, the 225 will work better for you than the 330. Having one of each, of course, provides the widest range of options.