Aeros Viper harness – experiences after one season.

I have had the Viper since January 2003 and flown about 36 hours and 50 flights with the harness, and consequently it is time to sum up my experiences. Hence, this is not a comparative review, it is a summary of my experiences with the Viper.

I would first start with the conclusion. I do not regret buying the harness and would have done the same again if I could have redone my choice. So even though the “Negative aspects”/”Improvements” section below is lengthier than the advantages section, the conclusion is that the Viper is a first class harness which I really love flying with.

Added January 2006: I still fly the Viper and is still very pleased with it. Further, I think that my initial assessment still holds.


First a short description of the Viper:
The Viper is a streamlined competition harness with a broad and long carbon back frame. This increases the harness’ comfort, but naturally makes it rigid and stiff on the ground. Still, the harness is relatively easy to launch with, and a pleasure to land. The hang loop/bridle is attached to the back frame by a metal slider. During flight the slider is locked in the far end of the slider by a rope from the foot plate to slider, but once the pressure against the foot plate is relaxed, the harness is easy to tilt into a upright position for landing. The harness can be tilting in flight by a butt-lever which is easy to operate. Both the shoulder section and the parachute container is faired by using flexible neoprene (two parachute containers are an option). The parachute container is therefore streamlined although it is partly external. The harness have a replaceable outer skin and a permanent inner skin or frame. The leg straps is T-shaped with a buckle on each end of the T. In addition it is a further buckle over the chest. One pilot did complain about the buckles from the T-shaped leg strops gnawing his hips, but I have not heard about anyone else with this problem. Actually most has commented that the Viper is an unusually comfortable harness. It is lots of storage containers but in the tail and internally.
An overall impression of the Viper is that it is quite sleek and streamlined, but is appears a bit more bulky than for instance the Skyline ZeroDrag harness. The tail section is not as narrow, and the Viper is quite wide in the hip section. Still, this section is just behind where it is natural to tuck the arms while flying fast, so this should not create any additional drag.

Advantages with the Viper:

+ First and most important, the harness is extremely comfortable. After two hours, I am equally comfortable as I was after 10 minutes.

+ The replaceable outer skin is a nice and practical feature.

+ So is the Velcro attached main zipper. Instead of several weeks and NOK 2000 it will take just a few minutes to replace the main zipper (once you get it from Aeros that is).

+ The butt lever tilt mechanism works really well, and is easy to operate. I love this tilt mechanism and use it a lot while flying.

+ Lots of storage rooms, especially in the tail, but also internally and in semi-external streamlined pockets (between the inner and outer skin).

+ The rescue chute container is half external and big (yet still streamlined) and the handle is easy to reach and pull with both hands.

+ It is very easy to get into a very upright position for landing (the slider works well).

Negative aspects:

– First of all, the zippers used on the harness are not good enough. The zipper used in the neoprene section over the shoulders was quickly destroyed, and at least two other pilots (of 4 or 5 in Norway) have had problems with the main zipper.

– Forgotten details on several harness’. Mine had no elastic bands from inside the external pockets to secure radio, camera, and other devices. Also other minor details seem to differ from harness to harness. Not a big issue, but not good enough.

– Where can I attach a static winch dual release mechanism? There are loops for aero towing under the neoprene over the shoulders (later models have a zipper just below where the neoprene stops and loops underneath these zippers) but there are no loops for static winching as far as I can tell. So I will have to work out a solution for this by my self.

– The fabric used and the elastic bands and ordinary bands for the tilt mechanism are not of the best quality as far as I can tell. They showed sign of wear quite early.

– The sew job on the harness could have been done a little better. For instance, on my harness the Aeros sewing shop has used a machine that probably has not been properly adjusted, as the machine has “jumped” some of the stitches on my outer skin. (section changed Oct. 31st).

– The Owner/Service manual was not available before early summer. Not a big problem, but it would not have been much of an effort to complete it and deliver it with the harness. Still, this is obviously not an issue any more. (It seems like a missing manual is sop [standard operating procedure] for Aeros. When I received an Aeros Target for my clubs flight school, also this was missing a manual. It is not much of an effort to print one from the Internet, but I think that the appropriate procedure would be to include it).

– The quality of the harness bag is just not good enough. Actually it is bad, mine us already falling apart. Please, please improve these bags.

– Finally, the Aeros saw shop need to read their orders more thoroughly. I ordered a matrix outer skin, if possible in gray colour (this was once the harness was released so it was no order form available and I was not sure if the Matrix was available in colour). I go the gray colour, but off course the matrix was only available in white. Still, this was no problem as they sent me a matrix outer skin for free – good service. But in addition I tried to order the length of the hang strap to fit my existing hang loop from the glider. But as I did not know how wide the Viper would be (the butt lever mechanism adds a few centimers) I measured the length from the bottum of the gliders hang loop to the top of the speed bar and asked Aeros to adjust for the height (diameter) of the harness. Still, the length of the hang strap was, yes right, equal to the distance from the speed bar to the end of the gliders hang loop.

What improvements would I have liked to see?

=> First of all, I would have replaced the zipper in neoprene section over the shoulder with Velcro. Actually, I have done so (or my mum did it) on my Mylar/Matrix outer skin. There are multiple reasons for this. Easier as it is difficult to zip the tight neoprene, and safer and quicker in case of emergencies like a water landing or ground loop.

=> Second, I would have taken a closer look at the tail section. The leather on the tail is sewed on top of the harness fabric forming a small edge, which creates drag – not much, but this is a world-class competition harness isn’t it. So I would have done it the other way around, sewn the harness fabric on top of the leather, at least for the matrix version. I would also have reconsidered using leather in the tail, replacing it with for instance a hard plastic, which would be more durable against wear and tear, at least for the sections most exposed to wear. This would also make the harness stiffer and more difficult to fold, but this problem is “solved” below.

=> Third, Aeros should offer as an alternative a long harness bag, designed so that it would not be necessary to fold the harness during transport. This would make the matrix outer skin maintain it’s shape longer and the harness would also maintain a more streamlined shape for longer. And please, better sewing of this bag than the current one. I will (or again my mum) modify the 2 meter short packing glider bag for the Aeros Target and use this as a harness bag.

Any comments or own experiences with the Viper that you would like to share? Please send me an e-mail- bjorn@strategy-consulting.no

***

Added October 31st:

Here are a few comments from the Norwegian Aeros dealer Knut Johahsen related to my Viper “review” yesterday. Apparently he is a little worried that the “negative aspects” section would discourage potential buyers. So just to be 100 % clear – the Viper is a first class harness and as I stated in the first place, I would have bought it again – no problem. I have also promoted the harness to anyone that has bothered listening to me. The section “negative aspects” has a number of points, but if you look at them most of the issues are details, but still I think they were worth mentioning. Further, I am sure that also any other make or model of harnesses would have an equally long or longer list of details that would be listed as “negative aspects”. But instead of focusing on the “negative aspects” I would advise everyone to take a closer look at the “advantages” section. Here you will find a number of very convincing arguments for buying the Viper.
Below are Knut’s comments and my response to these.

Knut: There are 7 Vipers in Norway, and only one has complained about problems with the comfort related to the T-shaped leg strap. This pilot both got an offer offer to replace the harness and to have Oleg have a closer look at the problem. Still, the pilot chose to return the harness and did not pay anything for it.
My comment: I have not had this problem with my harness and have not hear of anyone else that have had this problem. On the contrary, the Viper is an unusually comfortable harness.

Knut: I have had Aeros harness for 10 year and have never had any problems with either comfort or sewing. My first harness bag only fell apart after 10 years.
My comment: Everyone I have spoken with has been pleased with their Aeros harness. The sewing problem on my harness was related to the finish on my outer skin, hence it is not a safety issue, and the stitches do hold. But my Viper bag, and a few others, is already falling apart. The suggestion for a long harness bag was just as an additional option and not related to the quality of the existing bag.

Knut: I have spare main zippers (with velcro) here in Norway, but have not sold anyone yet.
My comment: One pilot had to change his main zipper quite early. That the zipper is available from from Norway is a big advantage. If you order from Knut you will have the products in 2 or 3 days.

Knut: The misunderstanding with the colour of the outer skin should be attributed to the introduction of a new product.
My comment: Agree, and it was not Aeros that gave my the additional outer skin free of charge, it was Knut. Thanks, excellent service.

Knut: The hang strap should have had the right length.
My comment: It cost me NOK 200 to have it shortened, and was not a big issue.

Knut: I have sold about 70 Aeros harnesses and only one has been sent back to Aero because of problems.
My comment: Seems to be a very good quality record.

***

© Bjørn Hammer, Oslo – Norway, October 30th 2003.

Addition by Bart Doerts from Holland, received January 29th, 2005:

Hi Bjorn,

I’d like to add some to your Viper review.

I bought my Viper a year ago, so it’s a year younger then yours. Although 2004 has been a year with very few flying for me (caused by sickness of my wife, I haven’t flown so little since 25 years…) I have some remarks that might complement your review.

Towing loops
On my Viper, the aerotow loops are inside the neoprene top. The idea is, you leave the zipper of the top open when aerotowing; and after release you stuff the release inside the top and zip up. This works fine, although I admit that so far on all my aerotow launches I forgot to put the release away…

The winchtow loops are located behind small zippers on the chest area. This works allright. Only, after I had been winchtowing two weekends, I found that the inner construction, the straps that connect all structural parts of the harness, had been torn loose from the lining. Seemingly the lining had been sewed to the straps too tight. I had the harness sent back to Aeros and they did a good repair at no cost. I might add that the lining, the inner cloth, of the harness seems pretty flimsy and I am curious wether it will wear down quickly; but with the few hours I’ve used it so far I don’t have a problem yet.

Lost in space
In November, I flew with the harness, and some weeks later I could not find my radio. I knew I had it with me last time I flew, but did not use it then – I thought I had left it in my harness bag on launch and somebody had stolen it… I had searched through my harness and other places a number of times… months later I accidentally found my radio back: in the lining of the harness! It had been in the side pocket, and if it’s not attached to the security, it can slide in between the outer skin and the lining, and since there’s a lot of room there, even a relatively large item like a radio can be hard to find! (don’t put your small change in the side pocket!)

By the way, you say there is no security – but the bungee of the zipper retraction cord ends in the side pocket, and seems perfect as a safety.

Odds and ends
With my limited use so far, I must say that I’m pretty happy with the harness. I chose the shorter hangstrap (DHV style) and changed the hangloop on my WW Talon – the glider hangloop is easier to change over if I’d ever want to, and with this setup I can easier swop gliders with friends if I like, most people here using DHV size hangloops.

I was amazed my Viper was delivered without a carabiner – the first harness I bought in 28 years that had none with it!

The storage room in the aft end has a zipper in the outer skin, but stuff can easily get lost between the outer- and inner skin there too. A little velcro might solve that. Besides, if you look how this part has been made in a Tenax, that is really better.

The bag I think is better then what you describe – only the embroidered Aeros logo is coming apart 🙂

The little strap on the outer end of the neoprene flap that covers the parachute wat sewn a bit askew, which made the flap stand open in flight a bit. I re-sewed it myself so the neoprene was pulled tighter.

Another Dutch pilot was emberrassed with his Viper because when aerotow footlaunching, the butt lever would bump his behind and pull in the shoulder line; becoming airborne, it would be in the extreme head-up mode and he had trouble pulling back his control bar.

I told him he should trim the head-up position less extreme, but he sold the harness. I never had a problem with it.

The manual is still poor. I could add a number of things that should be mentioned there…!

But, me too, I’m comfortable with it and happy so far!

Good luck,
Bart Doets
Holland

© Bjørn Hammer, Oslo – Norway, March 24th 2005.

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