[Headline: What makes a good sailplane?]
When I asked several Slope Soaring aficionados two questions about sailplanes, I received a variety of answers. I hope their responses can be helpful to modelers of all skill levels, and maybe even generate a chuckle or two. Maybe you’ll see yourself in the remarks of these fliers.
The first question I asked is this: What flight characteristics make for a great-flying Slope sailplane?
Michael Gantner of Ohio responded with, “A refined, efficient design that is perfectly weighted and balanced.”
“I want aerobatic capability in light lift. I want a low wing loading,” said Dave Sanders of California. “It’s easy to make the plane heavier, but when you’re too heavy to fly, you’re just stuck with shopworn dirty jokes to pass the day.
“The most valuable characteristic of an excellent Slope plane is the ability to convert upward air flow into high forward speed under the widest possible range of slope and air conditions,” added Bill Del Hagen of California.
“Versatility combined with simplicity,” said Ohio resident Tom Nagel.
Some of other modelers had unique answers.
“What I want most is a plane that dances through the light air and then screams like a falcon when the winds crank up,” Jeff Carlton of Ohio said.
“It is an extension of my thoughts and does what I am thinking,” Doug Blackburn of California said about his ideal sailplane.
Alex Paul of the Bahamas added to the discussion. “It goes from floater to rock-and-roller with added ballast.”
Michael Richter of California said that appearances are also important. “Good or bad habits aside, the best design to me is flying art—the one that the pilot has purposefully crafted using his own ingenuity and creative passion.”
California resident Carl Maas also believes that visual appeal is essential. “It’s fun to fly. It looks really cool with a unique design. It has an interesting paint job and is visually pleasing. I like responsive controls—fast roll rate, but stops on a dime and tracks straight and true,” he said.
Mark Mozo, New York, said a sailplane should fly “like a dream.”
Ohio resident Don King summed it up with “Looks good, flies better, and durable.”
I also asked the fliers/philosophers to name their favorite Slope sailplanes. Some of them named specific aircraft, others had favorites in common, and the rest came up with some unexpected responses.
Common on the list of favorite Slope sailplanes are the classic Charlie Richardson Renegade, the GEMS F1 Racer and the GEMS flying wing, and the Frank Cavazos Boomerang
“Like my wife, I can take it almost everywhere without it embarrassing me,” Tom said about the Boomerang.
Doug also prefers the Boomerang. “My favorite plane will always be the now-defunct Frank Cavazos Boomerang,” he said.
“The Renegade by CR has been my favorite plane of all,” Larry Blevins of Tennessee said. “I got so comfortable with that plane that I knew exactly what it was going to do before I told it to.”
Don said that he favors the GEMS F1 Racer because it has “better wind speed range.” Michael Gantner and Jeff also like the GEMS aircraft.
“For great handling and looks, Jack Cooper’s foam Slope jets [by Leading Edge Gliders] set the bar for others to match. Have to add the all-time favorite ‘don’t travel without it’ DAW [Dave’s Aircraft Works] 1-26,” Alex said.
Other aircraft mentioned as favorites include the first-generation Weasel, the Leading Edge Gliders EPP Le Fish, the P-93 Airacobra, the F3F sailplane, the Magnum Models Bad VooDoo and Duster, the Bob Martin Talon, K&A Models Mini-1, a KnifeEdge Wing, TUDM Freestyler, and a Pat Bowman Sonic.
K&A Models Mini-1 fan Dave Sanders said, “I can still see ‘Ken Williams’ on the drawings, in that old-school Leroy lettering. Good times! If you built it light and used mini gear, that thing would tear it up, even in really weak lift. Roll rate was insane!”
Wayne Flower of California, and Michael Richter like the Hobie Hawk. “If I could only have one plane, it might be a Hobie Hawk; a ton of fun in a wide range of lifts, and great looks,” Wayne said. “[It] can thermal, and [is] still a blast in heavier lift. And it also has the nostalgia of a classic glider with an interesting story. What is not to love about that?”
“Designs that have left a lasting impressions on me over the years: Bob Martin Talon, Charlie Richardson Renegade, Hobie Hawk. These aircraft are a nice synthesis of form and function,” Michael Richter added.
Wayne also had a comprehensive answer to my question about what makes a great-flying sailplane.
“Ha, ha. That is a trick question. There is no one ideal Slope glider. To me that is one of the great things with aircraft; there is never a single do-it-all design. Every plane is a series of compromises the designer selects to best meet a given need.”
“With that said, I always trend toward aircraft that offer a wide range of performance. I love a plane that can float around on a light day and perform gentle aerobatics when many other ships are left sitting on the ground in the hopes of better lift. I really love it when that same plane can keep flying when the lift picks up. These tend to be the planes that are always going to the slope with me. They are the most versatile,” he added.
“I love specialty single-purpose planes also. EPP, moldy, a classic woody; they are all near and dear to me. Each has a use and a purpose. Why be limited to just one?”
Carl did not name a specific aircraft, but said, “You will know which plane is your favorite, as it will be the most worn out!”
I decided to also answer the question about what makes a good Slope aircraft.
Sailplanes that fly like they’re in a groove are good. Also, controls that feel smooth, natural, and effortless are a plus. I like airplanes that turn and burn, and I favor the smooth-flying turners and burners.
My favorite aircraft is the DAW 1-26 in light lift, Leading Edge Gliders warbirds in medium lift, and Slope Scale warbirds in booming lift.
The survey returned more material than what can be presented here. If this becomes a popular topic, I will later share more in-depth replies from sailplane designers.[dingbat]
League of Silent Flight (LSF)