Self-build gliders: a question for the glider pilots
As we all know, there are numerous powered aeroplanes (many of them very good) that can either be bought in kit form or, for the purist, built direct from plans.
However I've never heard of gliders being built in this way, yet to me this seems to be an obvious possibility.
(Actually, there is an exception to this. When I was at London Gliding Club in the sixties they were building a thing called the 'Osprey'. As I recall, it took about twenty years to complete! Does anybody from LGC know what happened to this creation in the end. I seem to remember it did finally fly)?
Am I right in believing that kit-build and plan-build gliders are non-existent, and if so why has some form of home-build never appeared on the gliding scene?
There are four main reasons for the lack of homebuilt gliders in the UK:
There is no shortage of 'hangar queens' gathering dust and unused gliders sitting in trailers which can be had for a song. You only need to look on gliderpilot.net and eBay to find them. The vintage glider club provides support to people who keep the older machines flying.
Modern composite glider construction is not conducive to homebuilding from scratch, and if you are going for older wood or metal costruction, see 1 above.
The BGA has quite a rigourous airworthiness process which deters all but the more experienced aircraft engineers from attempting it.
If you are going to pay the insurance and storage costs for a glider, you would probably want a reasonably high performance one, and join a syndicate if you can't afford one outright. If you prefer going it alone you can get a hang glider which can be stored on the stairs (if you're single) or in the garage, or even a paraglider which you can keep on top of the wardrobe.
John Edgley, who designed the Optica, built a glider called the EA-9 Optimist, largely from folded honeycomb panels. It was displayed at the Farnborough airshow one year, and was later tested with eight model aircraft type electric motors for propulsion! Probably for the reasons above, it did not catch on.
Earlier there was the Manuel Wren? in the 50s or 60s, but I don't know much about it.
There are various self launching gliders which come under microlight & ultralight regulations. Ben Ashman's 'Flylight' company is the agent for one. See his Alatus,whcih is available as a pure glider or SSDR self launcher Flylight Airsports Ltd. - Gliding
There is a German plans builtdesign called the ULF-1, which weighs 70kg and can be foot launched with the pilot's legs going through 'bomb doors'. It can be found here: ULF-1 foot launched sailplane glider homebuilt aircraft plans and can be seen having an auto tow here (except that the 'auto' is a horse(!)) It looks as though it only has a front-mounted aerotow hook. A more rearward winch hook position might have got a better launch:
In the USA there are various 'Airchair' designs, Mike Sandlin being one of the main proponents of them. These are primary glider style designs built largely from alumiunium and Dacron and intended for slope soaring (although one did a 60 mile cross country). Mike offers plans free on the internet if you would like to recreate one (at your own risk). In the UK you would probably still need to involve the BGA to get it in the air legally, as SSDR (single seat deregulated microlight) doesn't appear to cover unpowered aircraft and they are not foot launchable, so can't be classed as hang gliders. Basic Ultralight Glider
According to Wiki, a few AC-4s were built in Britain; I recall one of them experiencing flutter during a test flight & the pilot bailing out. Apparently kits are available again. Handicap of 85, the same as a Grob 102, so you can almost certainly buy better performance second hand for less than the cost of the kit.
The first HP-24 has just flown. He's pricing kits at US$30,000 (no trailer) & claiming an L/D of 42.
There's plenty of 'homebuilding' in the vintage scene.
In the 1970ís, I met a German glider pilot who had built his own house as well as his own glider. The latter was not unknown in those days, but the former was far more unusual at least in the UK. It was a very impressive house.
He then told me it took fewer hours than the glider, an SB5 (V-tailed I thought mainly wood and fabric glider, but Wiki says "Structure GFK") which at the time was a fairly modern design.
The Jonkers brothers in South Africa could also once have been described as "homebuilders" but are now very professional.
The Akafliegs (university-based gliding research departments) in Germany could also be defined as non-factory based builders but as with the Concordia project shown previously they are all going to extraordinary lengths to produce "better" gliders than are commercially available. Nothing like a kit aircraft!
Some Germans have gone to enormous lengths to recreate examples of pre-war wooden gliders (e.g. the Habicht and Reiher III) which became extinct in 1945 but that's just an offshoot of the Vintage Glider moverment.
Past attempts at homebuilts in the UK were back in the days of wooden gliders - e.g. a few T21's and Swallows were homebuilt and some "kits" exported to Australia and New Zealand to save on shipping costs.
As others have correctly said, you can pick up vintage wooden gliders for next to nothing (in some cases free) and early glass gliders (1970's ish) for a few thousand, plus the paperwork alone on a home build would be a nightmare so why bother.
The Americans have done a few kits of glass gliders in the past because their domestic glider production is very poor and I think they can use the EAA "experimental" system relatively easily.
Anyone remember the story about 15 years ago about a Hong Kong based commercial pilot who built a glider in his apartment ? As I recall, on competion the wings had to be craned to the ground floor from his balcony, as he clearly wasn't going to get them in the lift....
Further detail on this tale must be out there somewhere
Broomstick Pilot Actually, there is an exception to this. When I was at London Gliding Club in the sixties they were building a thing called the 'Osprey'. As I recall, it took about twenty years to complete! Does anybody from LGC know what happened to this creation in the end. I seem to remember it did finally fly)?
Not sure if it is the same 'Osprey' you mentioned but one of our Prune members used to own/fly an Osprey...it was based on a Slingsby Dart 15 I believe and was unique (ie one of a kind),I will contact him and see if he has a photo !
chrisN, I remember meeting Frank Costin a few times in the early 80s when he lived in Ireland. He had built his own house, very innovative and interesting wooden roof structure and also built a basic glider he called the Scud 2. I think that the Scud 1 must have been one that he had built in the dim and distant past. For those of you too young to know, Frank Costin had worked for years od wooden aircraft structure at de Havilland including the Mosquito and the Vampire nacelle. Later he moved to cars like the original Marcos and did a lot of aerodynamic work on race cars. A great character.
Frank Costin was Mechta Senior's gliding instructor at Portsmouth in the war, when the latter was an air cadet. There was still a civil gliding club operating there and they shared aircraft, so the air cadets were some of the few who had access to a two seater glider for training. Presumably Frank Costin was working at Airspeed, who were on the same airfield?
The housebuilding thing must have rubbed off, as Mechta Senior designed and built two in his spare time. The second having a basement designed to accomodate the full span of a 15 metre glider wing. The house got built, but not the glider!
Interesting about the basement being big enough for a 15m glider. When Costin built his house he first built the jig for the roof trusses from concrete blocks. The trusses were then used as simple trusses for his workshop and paired for the house to give a sort of Dutch barn effect. A great believer in wood for structures, he held the view that plastics were for fairing and fillets. The last man I've ever seen who carried a slide rule in his pocket.
I never heard him mention Airspeed and I don't recall him being mentioned in Nevil Shute's autobiography, 'Slide Rule', although it is a long time since I've read it.
Family base consultancy towards the end of his life.
I'm not altogerher surprised that Neville Shute doesn't mention him, when you consider that Frank Costin was 25 at the end of the war, whilst Shute had left Airspeed to work on special weapons for the Royal Navy fairly early on, and the company had been sold to De Havilland in 1940.
The roof trusses you describe sound not unlike those of a Bessonneau hangar. Ours were built in situ, which considering how Mechta Senior, like many in aviation, does not like heights when attached to the ground, must have been an undertaking. The most unusual feature of our house was the woodwool slab roof to the basement, These were wood shavings coated in concrete dust and fused together. Under the garage they were supported on concrete pillars cast in circular oil drums which were then cut away afterwards.
Pardon my saying but the Scuds 1,2 and 3 were designed by a gent named Baynes. The Scud 1 dated from 1931, Scud 2 was built in 1932 (to correct instability in the Scud 1). One Scud 2 is still airworthy
The Scud 3 was a remarkably advanced (for 1935) glider with a "pop up" engine. It was frowned-on by gliding purists and the engines removed. Both examples are still in existence.
(ref "Sailplanes 1920 - 1945 by Martin Simons)
Mr Mechta's link to the Chapman museum says that Mike Costin's glider design was called the "Condor" (There are also German designs called Condor though)