View Full Version : Slingsby T53B

25th Feb 2010, 13:13
Have been following some comments about early experiences with Slingsby T53B. I've got a T53B N1664 S/N 1688 which flys regularly. Find it a good performer, pleasant and undeserving of the slings and arrows. Welcom any and all comments, photos, stories, experiences and references anyone can provide.

Tom Holland
Serendipity Soaring
Baker Cuity, OR USA

25th Feb 2010, 15:43
I have to admit that I only flew the T-53B (XV951) once in 1971. It was a long time ago and I remember not a lot about it except that I wrote in my log book "dreadful aircraft".

It certainly was not a success and the rest of the military order (XV952-990) was cancelled. I don't remember anyone else lining up to buy them either.

One friend, who had a lot to do with testing the thing and who was one of the very few really natural pilots that I ever met in my long aviation career described it as being the most expensive method known to man for raising a decent canopy above the ground.

Mind you, if you are used to 10 knot wave conditions then it is probably fine.

25th Feb 2010, 18:02
I think you are being rather unkind, JW411. Possibly the ATC demo one was not typical of the few civilian ones. Terrible compared to the Cadet Mk III it was intended to replace? We operated an instrumented one for Met research at Reading University 1969-71. It was used more for developing the instruments and software than data gathering (the instruments then did several years serious research on a Slingsby T61 until the Research Coucil ran out of money the last time Labour drove the economy into the ground).

My logbook shows around 50hrs with a longest sortie of 3 hrs. Initially the 'bonk' noise the wings made as you pulled into a thermal was amusing but soon faded into background noise. The way the aerotow rope jumped from one side of the nosewheel to the other with the compromise hook and no nosehook. I wondered why the stick was about 50% longer than necessary for comfortable stick forces. Good view from both seats, and plenty of room for comfort. It seemed to perform better than the looks would initially indicate.

henry crun
25th Feb 2010, 19:13
I agree with you Fitter2, it certainly wasn't the nicest handling glider I have flown but it wasn't the dog that some make it out to be.

I once flew one in a formation display at an airshow as number two; the leader was in a Bocian. I think from memory the book numbers showed that the T53 had an edge in glide ratio and sink rate, but our two were virtually identical.

I had forgotten about the "bonk" noise. :)

26th Feb 2010, 09:40
Like JW411 I flew '951 for a couple of trips with Duggie King in the back seat. My main recollection was when turning, the slightest amount of aileron caused massive adverse yaw which required a bootfull of rudder. Eventually of course you learnt to 'lead' with rudder, but I accept this was an evaluation aircraft for Air Cadets and not necessarily representative of production T53s built for the civil market.
By the way, the story at the time was that HQAC really wanted to buy a batch of Blaniks which were readily available, but the Whitehall mandarins wouldn't fork out for aircraft built in communist countries so Slingsbys were asked to produce a 'copy' ie all metal with swept forward wings.

26th Feb 2010, 16:51
Fitter 21:

"I think you are being rather unkind".

Not really; I did say that I had only flown XV951 once and that I remembered little about it except that I had written in my log book "dreadful aircraft".

I never ever had anything to do with the Air Cadet movement (apart from getting my "A" and "B" in 1957 with the ATC) but I was afforded the opportunity to fly XV951 in my capacity as CFI of an RAFGSA gliding club. (I was also a long standing training captain in Mrs Windsor's 4-engined transport fleet at the time).

I suppose I was comparing it with the ASK13 and the SZD Bocian (which I loved - particularly for aerobatics). (I never really had a great love for the Blanik).

"Terrible compared to the T-31 that it was supposed to replace"

Now that cannot be a serious comment. I remember Chris Wills (son of Phillip Wills - the great grand father of British gliding) saying to me in the gliding club bar one night in the 1960s:

"The T-31 is not a glider old boy; it is a device" - how very true.


"Adverse yaw"; now that has jangled a bell with me. The controls were not at all well harmonised and you are right, XV951 suffered badly from adverse yaw.

I also remember the clanking from the wings.


None of the above really matters. If YOU are happy with your bit of kit then be happy with your bit of kit. In fairness, you did ask for comments so you must accept what comes next be it good or be it bad.

My good friend DSB who invited me to fly XV951 was an extraordinary flyer of extremely modest proportions. For example, he was on 111 Sqn when they used to loop no less than 22 Hawker Hunters in very close formation, he flew Lightnings, he was the UK glider aerobatic champion and finished up as an L1011 captain. There was not much that DSB did not know about flying machines.

It was he that made the "expensive canopy" comment.

I have already told the story on another thread of the day that Slingsbys arrived at Sutton Bank (a hill site not far from their factory at Kirkbymoorside) with the first T-53 in a trailer. They started rigging it, and, to my and everyone else's astonishment, mounted the tailplane before they had even put a single wing on.

You have already worked out what happened next!

They dropped the fuselage with the tailplane attached with expensive results and that was the end of that for the day. Off they went back to the factory.

Come to think of it, perhaps that is why it suffered so badly from adverse yaw?

How many T-53s were actually completed?

26th Feb 2010, 17:37
How many T-53s were actually completed?

17 completed, of which 15 were T53B (1 protype T53A and 1 T53C)

4 under construction were detroyed by fire.

Yorkshire Sailplanes built at least 1 YS-53, with extended fin & rudder.

JW411 - would DSB have been Dougie Bridson? (I think OPSEC no longer applies to this). The most 'intrepid' pilot I had the pleasure to fly with. Quote 'It was a relief to go solo - my instructors seemed determined to stop me killing myself'.

26th Feb 2010, 18:43

Having recently been banned for a week from pprune for apparently "outing somebody" (who had already outed themselves) I dare not confirm your suspicions or I shall be banned for ever more.

However, DSB knew more about flying aeroplanes with finesse and flair than you and I will ever learn.

He owned the prototype Skylark 2 (especially beefed up for aeros). He never ever landed out in it and frequently appeared going past the gliding club bar, along the taxiway upside down at not a lot of feet, about one hour after we had closed the hangar doors and he would then set about doing a wonderful display having been gone for most of the day.

His aerobatic displays in the Bocian were beyond belief. I can remember him coming on after the noise and the razzamatazz of 4 Lightnings at a Battle of Britain display.

Despite the total lack of noise and razzamatazz of DSB in the Bocian, he got a standing ovation from around 25,000 spectators. His perfect square loops were a wonder to behold (not easy without an engine).

DSB was beyond the normal categories of "Above the Average", "Exceptional" etc. etc. He was one of that rare breed called "Natural Pilots". Whatever aeroplane he happened to be flying, he put it on like a "ratting jacket" (for our colonial friends, that means that he wore whatever machine he happened to be flying as if he had been born in it).

P.S. I quite enjoyed my week of being banned from pprune and so did my local landlord. My sex life improved also!

26th Feb 2010, 20:03
Yes, that's DSB. Square loops in the prototype Dart 15 at the South Cerney World Gliding Championships in 1965. As he disappeared at the closing ceremony display between the hangars (to land on the sport's field out of sight) Andy Gough was on top of the offices behind the hangar with a pile of scrap boxes to push over for a sound effect. Unfortunately at the critical moment a passer by stood underneath to ask what he was doing.

DSB had a splendid air-to-air photo of his Skylark 2 inverted with Cranditz in the background in his quarters loo.

I watched him from on top of an air raid shelter at MiddletonStGeorge passing by below in the Blue Diamonds solo Hunter.

I endorse your opinion above.

Sorry for the thread creep. Incidentally, the YS-53 prototype was modified from the first production T53B (previously XV451).

longer ron
27th Feb 2010, 05:16
Hi Tom
Have you got any photos of your beast ??
I had a half share in the YS53 back in the mid 90's !
I thought she was very pleasant to fly ,the added fin/rudder area probably helped.The wings were ridiculously over engineered LOL,from memory there was a rib every 9 inches...ooh my aching back !!
My syndicate partner always said we should remove half the wing ribs - I did not disagree but thought that the BGA might complain LOL.
She had been flipped over in the gales of 1987 so had been modified with a K13 ish canopy
sorry about the poor quality pics,I dont have any better ones.



27th Feb 2010, 10:53
You can see a short film promoting Air Cadet Gliding showing pictures of the T53, and the aircraft it was "designed" to replace on YouTube here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9n1FJP3yBM).

Those were the days! Enjoy.

longer ron
27th Feb 2010, 14:12
Just been doing some memories in me old log book,we had a fun flight in sep 95 (my synd partner + me) of 3h 40m,my last 2 flights in sep96 were 2h 16m and 3h 17m,so easily soarable even in britain.
Istr that because she was a heavy old girl - you didnt want to get slow on finals because she would 'mush' at the flare if you let the speed get slow.
She glid quite well at fairly high speed but back in the circuit the airbrakes were pathetic (mounted way too far back on the chord) and one got used to 'discussions' about low approaches LOL.
But as to general flying she was pretty good,I dont recall any unusual adverse yaw etc - very comfy cockpit - great vis !!
As fitter 2 said - I could never figure why the stick was so large either ??
We used to leave her rigged from march to october,the effing wings were just too heavy for regular derigging,a Hawk canopy cover 'borrowed' from work covered the whole fuselage from nose to base of fin L/E.

longer ron
27th Feb 2010, 14:23
Found this pic of the YS53 - copyright Martin Pole,looks like she still has same paint but with some added lines etc.
Shows to advantage...loads of headroom with the K13 type canopy,but not as sleek as the original !
I believe taken at Haddenham


India Four Two
28th Feb 2010, 00:51
When I first saw pictures of the T53 in Flight, I remember being very impressed with the visibility from the rear cockpit, but not with the non-tapered wings. What were Slingsby thinking of? I presume the cheapest possible manufacturing costs.

I see from the pdf attached to this page - http://www.apss.org.uk/projects/APSS_projects/T53/history/index.html (http://www.apss.org.uk/projects/APSS_projects/T53/history/index.htm) - that they put servo-tabs on the T53C to help with the aileron stick forces. Servo-tabs on a glider? :rolleyes:

longer ron
28th Feb 2010, 08:08
Same with the Skylark 3b...I flew a 3b fairly extensively in zimbabwe ,this a/c had original ailerons without tabs...result the ailerons were pretty ineffective.- istr that the 3f had aileron tabs fitted (also larger ailerons ?) to make roll control easier,i believe many 3b's were modified to have tabs retrospectively.
I know people tend to call them servo tabs but of course they are good old fashioned balance tabs,a true servo tab is directly connected to the wheel on large a/c.

longer ron
28th Feb 2010, 08:33
Just had a quick look in the sailplane directory to compare the T53/Blanik !

T53b empty wt = 354kg/780lb
Blanket L13 empty wt = 292kg/644lb
I would guess much of the wt difference was in the wing design,big shame and missed opportunity there for slingsby,i think if they could have reduced the empty weight then it could have had sales potential esp usa/australia.
The T53 fuselage design (my opinion LOL) was much superior to the blanik,lets face it - for a fairly tall person the blanik rear seat was not a comfy place to be !!
As to the wing shape,slingsby did a fair bit of research/liason with american manufacturers...the T53 looks pretty much like a 'Hershey bar' type -built for ease of manufacture rather than form.

edit...could not get these links to work earlier,but ok now

http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&ved=0CAYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.flightglobal.com%2Fpdfarchive%2Fview%2F 1967%2F1967%2520-%25200805.html&rct=j&q=1967+0805+flight+global&ei=7zmKS_KXNI300gTz4ujOCw&usg=AFQjCNExhCQVqpIJjWdTcrcNauDK6JZoBQ

http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&ved=0CAYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.flightglobal.com%2Fpdfarchive%2Fview%2F 1967%2F1967%2520-%25200934.html&rct=j&q=1967+0934+flight+global&ei=azqKS5-DH4a80gTv5sXPCw&usg=AFQjCNENWPE8eMOiBBgI9HAnSo11vQVOsQ

great cutaway showing why the wing was so heavy (how many ribs ? LOL) and why the airbrakes were so ineffective.
I loved the comment about the airbrakes being as good as a skylark !!...yeah right !! more in the standard libelle class I would say.

India Four Two
28th Feb 2010, 14:41
good old fashioned balance tabsThat makes much more sense, but still, having to put tabs on a glider's ailerons indicates a pretty serious basic design flaw.

Reading the Flight article you posted, it looks like Slingsby were influenced too much by the HP-14 design. The Blanik's ailerons are much larger and the forces quite reasonable.

I was amazed to see the empty weight - 150lb more than a Blanik - and the correspondingly higher minimum sink speed - 48 kts compared to 39 kts. Also, the wing loading is 23% higher!

Politics aside, Slingsby and the ATC would have been much better served by license-built Blaniks. There are many L-13s still providing basic training all over the US and Canada.

longer ron
28th Feb 2010, 15:04
I think many of us involved in ATC gliding at that time would have been extremely happy to get K13's !!what a fantastic all rounder that is - much superior to the blanket in my view.

India Four Two
28th Feb 2010, 15:29
I've never flown a K13 but I have often heard complimentary things about it. I was offering the Blanik as an alternative all-metal aircraft

I have a few instructional hours in Bergfalkes and 2-33s, but quite a lot of time in the backseats of the Lark and the Blanik. The Blanik has the worst backseat view of the lot, but you get used to anything after a while. Just make sure the towplane's wings are sticking out of the student's ears. :)

longer ron
28th Feb 2010, 15:43
Hmmm yes Istr that the Bergie seat wasnt all that comfy either LOL.
The K13 really was (almost) a 2 seat K8,and still a very widely used club 2 seater over here.
The blanik was strange because the front seat was like sitting in a tin armchair (very comfy) but the back seat was cramped and uncomfy.
Some of the students in zimbabwe had trouble converting from the Blanik to the Slingsby Swallow,one minute in a tin armchair - the next ...in a little wooden thing with (seemingly) no nose,a few just could not cope with the change,but the 2 seaters were too valuable to risk on early solos.
Much easier to use the german system of Ka7 or K13 and then into a Ka8 where you felt quite at home.

rgds baz

28th Feb 2010, 15:44
Notice you are online now..
I've had a heck of a time getting pics posted- Happy to send e-mails til I can get the ^*&^@@ website updated and able to post photos-

e-mail me at [email protected] maybe you can post photos I can send.

Tom Holland

28th Feb 2010, 15:50
The "bonking" noises are what I call "character".. Enjoy having those groans and oil-canning. Kind of nice to have the glider talking. We also hear "mooing" from the bakelite guide blocks on elevator push-pull tube in the aft fuselage.

Mine has a nose hook as well as CG hook so there's no rope cutting on takeoff aerotow.


longer ron
28th Feb 2010, 16:02
Hi Tom
I always thought the Blanik was worse for 'oilcanning' noises but yes I agree that it is the aircraft 'talking' to you,I would be happy to post a couple of pics for you - I usually use photobucket because its easier and you get a bigger image.
Will email you now

rgds baz

longer ron
28th Feb 2010, 16:10
email sent tom,wish I had known about you back in 2003,I drove within about 50 miles of where you are...

rgds baz

longer ron
28th Feb 2010, 16:23
Here are some pics sent by Tom...




28th Feb 2010, 16:29
Thanx for the offer. Maybe others would like to see the old girl still flying.

The pix show the terrible replacement canopy that the previous owner installed- I'm in the process (yes, expensive canopy is the right term) of drape molding replacement near original one piece compound curved front canopy. Should have it installed this week. I'm absolutely certain that pesky yaw string will stay centered with my "improved" canopy. My control stick is of normal length. Some adverse yaw but not unmanageable. No aileron tabs are installed. I wonder what the difference is on mine vs the stories I'm reading from the early days. Control forces are quite normal for this heavy glider. BTW mine stays rigged year round! Those wings are BUILT!


longer ron
28th Feb 2010, 16:35
Yes Tom those wings are BUILT,if you click on the first of my 2 links on an earlier post there is a cutaway drawing of the wing structure,reminded me of why we left ours rigged all 'summer',they look like they were built by John Browns shipyard on the Clyde !
edit...yes I saw a pic of your a/c some years ago,i remember the odd canopy - she will look really nice with a new canopy.

longer ron
28th Feb 2010, 16:56
Here is a link to the APSS website who have a T53 C at Portmoak in scotland,I found this beautiful picture taken by Wallace Shackleton (copyright) at Portmoak

edit ...oops forgot link...actually IFT has already linked to it but there are some more pics on the website

http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=2&ved=0CAoQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.apss.org.uk%2Fprojects%2FAPSS_projects% 2FT53%2Fhistory%2Findex.htm&rct=j&q=apss++T53+&ei=b8mKS_PsM5Oy0gS0-PHHCw&usg=AFQjCNGIwW4zOqlPeSj7twSs361e_9NjKQ


longer ron
28th Feb 2010, 17:17
I found another lovely Wallace Shackleton (copyright) picture taken at Portmoak


longer ron
28th Feb 2010, 20:56
Hi Tom
I found this pic of the YS53 just after we bought her...talking canopy stuff...this a/c had been flipped over in the big gales in 1987,the main canopy had been replaced by a K13esque affair,but as you can see the rear canopy had been replaced by a plywood cover with 3 portholes.Over the winter I cut away the front half of ply and replaced it with 3mm acrylic sheet,you can see that in the other pic i posted earlier,the remaining ply was still silver primer at that time,my syndicate partner was impressed by the vis improvement :ok:


28th Feb 2010, 21:43
My memory of this machine is based on having some aerotows in it at Swanton.At the time i was still a staff cadet with a P2 or C cat, and may well have been there for an upgrade.
Up to that time i had only flown the MK3 T21 Prefect and Swallow.
The briefing consisted of making sure the canopy was locked,and this was to be my first a/tow.
I therefore could only compare it with what the ATC were operating at the time.
These flights were to be "my handling" for my appreciation, as the upgrade flights in the Fretwork Fighters would be the normal "hands off".
I do not recall any really negative points from t/off to landing including stall/spin and any a/drag was easily compensated and although some changes in operations would be needed i looked forward to seeing it replace the MK3 at least.Also not having to "dress up" for the cold would be nice.I agree that we did not "push the envelope" with these flights but it should be remembered what it was replacing.Any "fine tuning" would have taken place in the normal course of ATC service and it certainly would have made a good interim machine before the glass ships arrived.It also would have been far better for "Air Experience" work as the schools were being tasked for more of that.
Ok not a Blanik,but in the end we got nothing and the Fretwork Fighters soldiered on for nearly ever. (boring everyone to death)

Pobjoy (Dart 15 amongst other toys) (yes i know it does not do the "weak thermal" thing like a K6E, but it has crisp handling,and is fun to fly) (and its British)

longer ron
28th Feb 2010, 22:08
Hi Pobjoy
Nice to get some more input,I think some of the problems with the T53 for the ATC were also that the normal winches and cables struggled with the weight of the a/c - and also I believe (bearing in mind how many years have passed) that it was flown (at Halton ?) the whole length of the runway with the airbrakes fully open ( they were that bad !!).
As I said previously - I think if they had managed to redesign the wing and reduce the weight then the ATC might have got them ,but I think they genuinely worried about letting 16 yr olds loose on them.
When we bought ours -my partner had asked me about the a/c characteristics...I just said ''they are heavy with [email protected] airbrakes'' but he was told by the previous owner that the brakes were ''as good as a K13''...anyway he did his first approach 'K13 style' and actually had to 'go around' and try again 'libelle style'...I did not resist saying ITYS !!

1st Mar 2010, 15:02
I refer the honorable gentleman to my earlier post...........


Arc :}

1st Mar 2010, 21:24
Whilst it is easy to find fault with what in effect was a prototype (possible replacement trainer) for the Air Cadets i have to say that there was no lack of interest in the staff instructors (or cadets) at Swanton to fly it on a regular basis.I believe that the final "nail" was when it went to Boscombe for evaluation,and was "frowned upon" due to stall recovery in certain "trim" conditions.It should also be remembered that at that time a cadet could go solo after 19 launches + 2 (check rides) and on a continous course (Centre and Schools) would do so on a regular basis.
They did so in a machine that was an upgrade from the "single seat" tutor.
At about the same time the RAF was doing (all jet) training and therefore the introduction of a basic glider that had a better performance and looked to be slightly modern was not such a bad idea.Apart from anything else it would have been able to give "AE trips" on windy days when the barges had to stay indoors.Poor old Slingsbys had relied on the ATC for so long they had never needed to "look to the future" and the sport (and the manufacturers) in the UK were never supported (subsidised) to enable a competitive industry to expand.Given time Slingsbys would have caught up and no doubt produced a satisfactory product,but with a workforce used to chisels and glue it was not going to happen overnight. So the ATC eventually went from an all British equipped system to not even able to produce the Winch.(at least the Landrovers survive).
In fact the system worked well as with such basic machines it meant that very few people did not go solo, plus also having a huge amount of fun at the same time.Even roaring around in Landrovers on retrieves was a big improvement on parades back in the Squadrons. So RIP T53 you tried to bring us up to date and at least sowed the seeds for the future (no shame in that)

2nd Mar 2010, 07:17

I think you have made a load of valid points there. Sad about the T53 but as you say, maybe it sowed the seeds for the future.


4th Mar 2010, 00:12
Just before we put this one to bed a little thread creep is called for.
When you look at a picture of a T53 in its original "civvy" scheme and a proper canopy against a Mk3 (the defence rests its case m'lud)
As for "handling" well, is someone going to suggest that a MK3 had pleasant "fingertip" control, so no contest there.
With adjustments in both instructor and cadet training it would have been quite safe to take over the MK3 role.
We then would have avoided the FARCE of the "intercom" mod and the waste of huge sums of money on a useless piece of kit (and headsets) that cost more than the aircraft they were fitted to.
The Wild winch was more than capable of being "upgraded" as the basic structure and "winch gear" would have taken an increase in power with ease.
The usual "in service" use would have bought out ongoing modifications that would then be incoporated into new machines.
The ATC would have then provided the civvy clubs with a flow of members that had been trained on similar types.
The British glider industry would have had a chance to improve their capability and provide an "in house" product suitable for the clubs.
I suspect the flying hours in the winter would have increased.
The MK3's could have been raffled off to misty eyed luddites that loved them so much and kept on the schools for old times sake.(having gone back to a proper training command "silver & yellow scheme" )
We could have then settled down to a proper all weather operation with some soaring, the odd loop and even some "mini" cross countries, sounds ok to me
Pobjoy (very slightly TIC)

longer ron
4th Mar 2010, 06:53
I havent got time for a long post this morning,but just thought I would add on the handling front that certainly the YS53/later T53 had pleasant handling characteristics,much better in my view than the Twin Astir we had at one of my clubs.
Personally I do not think the T53 would have been a very good glider to take over the Mk3 role...the K13 would have been ideal,being easy and safe to fly and with good vis from the rear seat and also would have fitted in ok with the standard launching gear then in service.
But I agree the 53 would have been good for the AEF role.
rgds LR

4th Mar 2010, 16:32
Definately K13 every time - but then I'm biased as Longer Ron knows............

T53 is the only glider I've derigged with a copper hammer !!!! :eek:

Mind you we had fun in the T21 at Kenely didn't we Baz :ok:


longer ron
5th Mar 2010, 18:04
Yes open cockpit gliders are fun Stu (on a warm day LOL),shame I didnt visit Kenley more often !
Only ever did a couple of thermal rides in my ATC days,but I wasnt doing the flying ...I was out of gliding 1972-83 and even when I restarted ...I struggled to master the 'art' of thermalling,then one day it just clicked and after that it was easy ...funny old world innit !!

6th Mar 2010, 16:41
I ws sure I had some old T53 pics, but the only one I could find was in the family photos.


Time moves on - the dark haired 'instructor' is now the father of my 4 year old granddaughter, and the fair haired 'pupil' is one of the British Team at this year's World Gliding Championships.

7th Sep 2010, 19:55
Hi chaps-whilst googling a few of my childhood memories I came upon this forum and this thread. My father designed the T 53 and as he has pulled the plug on the internet, having better things to do with his time he suggested I could join on his behalf. I have printed & posted this thread to him in Scarborough and will post his comments in due course

7th Sep 2010, 20:26
As a replacement for the fretwork fighters it was not that bad it was just the jump from "chisels and glue" to rivets that seemed to be the problem at Kirby Moorside.
Should have replaced the T21 to start with.
(people forget how many "lost flying days" there were with the barges due to wind)

8th Sep 2010, 17:16
Spoke to dad last night and he described the Blanik as more sophisticated in design, and he does recall getting stuck inside the fuselage of one after having crawled inside it with a tape measure!!!! Suffered a panic attack and had to be dragged out by his ankles.!!!
The reason for the parallel chord wing was to use one universal rib with pressed flanges and the rivet holes in the flange were the datum so that the ribs were the same in both wings
Financial problems were a big issue at Slingsbys after the death of Major Shaw, the original chairman and shares were sold to pay death duties.

India Four Two
9th Sep 2010, 06:23

Welcome to PPRuNe. I am sure there are lots of regulars here besides me, who would be very interested in hearing more from your dad about the T53.

10th Sep 2010, 15:13
It was quite obvious that the T53 was designed "down" to a budget as opposed to the Blanik being a state subsidised product.
However the T 53 was really supposed to be a "basic trainer" rather than a "soaring" machine and therefore its "simple" design would have been quite adequate for its (up round and down purpose)
As touched on before the main improvement would have been its actual ability to be used on many more days than the T21 (without having to festoon it with people hanging on to it).
When you add on the benefit of not having to dress up like a first world war balloon observer in the winter it got my vote.
I also think it would have "upped" the standards for the operation and perhaps given cadets more of an incentive to continue with civvy club flying after going solo.
I flew it as a staff cadet with no prior experience of a modern day machine and could only see it as an improvement on the existing aircraft with no adverse "handling" issues that made it less fun or more difficult.
Air brake and aileron "tweaks" would have come through as required and less people would have left the system.

10th Sep 2010, 19:40
Spoke with dad this evening and he has promised me a letter in reply to the criticism on here.
Wooden sailplanes had been axed by Slingsbys due to rising labour rates and new standards of accuracy demanded by low drag wing sections.
To set the scene,the T53 was designed over the winter of 1966/67-the year of my birth, so perhaps its my fault for all those sleepless nights! Knowing dad he probably stopped at work to avoid all that domestic stuff!
He joined the Sigma project as of January 1967.
On the morning of the first flight of prototype he had just arrived back from Germany meeting F X Wortmann,regarding the Sigma project, to be told it was going up.
After ceasing to do Slingsby work, a replacement designer was engaged to be then followed by Pat Monk and I found an interesting obituary here
Pat Monk - RIP - Key Publishing Ltd Aviation Forums (http://forum.keypublishing.com/showthread.php?t=66131)
Pat Monk was a most capable chap and also built a house extension during his time at Kirkbymoorside!
I also found an interesting article on the next saga ,the HP14 here
and this mentions Joe Provins workshop in Scarborough, which I visited with Dad as a young child and still have a memory of it now. It was a 1st floor workshop on Silver Street Scarborough and the building is still there.

Joe Provins had a car body repair business, was not impressed by the Hp14 and died in his forties one day after flying the Hp14, of jaundice.
To complete the morbid theme of this posting my father decided if Geoff Bailey Woods did not survive the test flying of the prototype T53, as they both had young families, my father would gas himself in the oven at home!
This might seem extreme but he had sadly seen a lot of death on the Buccaneer test flying development team at Holme on Spalding Moor.
If any of you chaps know of a current location of either a T53 or Torva sailplane in the UK which I could view I would be most interested.

24th Nov 2010, 20:28
Left to right Fred Slingsby, Derek Piggott and my father J L Sellars.
Was also my fathers 30th birthday!

24th Nov 2010, 21:38
The last one i saw was hiding at Dunkeswell many moons ago (civvy version) derigged.

longer ron
25th Nov 2010, 11:29
Lovely photo Roy...got any more interesting pics in the family album ??
Just as a matter of general interest do you have access to any of the original Flight Test reports by Derek P /other test pilots ?

rgds baz

25th Nov 2010, 20:07
2 albums of gliding stuff and 1 of vintage motorcycles from that period!
However this is the T53 thread so I will just treat you to one more.
Not much aeronautical about it-but if you compare it with this
http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1969/1969%20-%200260.html?search=duke of edinburgh
It is the picture from the photographer in the right hand corner-which I find quite unusual and it is interesting to see the slight movement of the subjects of the picture.
Reading the caption of this picture also indicates the ridiculous workload of the small factory,which was five types of glider and two types of aircraft.

28th Nov 2010, 19:31
Here is the Flight International report:

1967 | 0805 | Flight Archive (http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1967/1967%20-%200805.html)

If it is written by the Michael Wilson I think it is, I'll email him and ask if he has any more recollections of it.

Just a guess but I wonder if all those ribs were to stop over enthusiatic cadets denting the wing when pushing it back to the launch point?

longer ron
28th Nov 2010, 19:59
That 'Flight' link was posted in post 16,what I was after was any of Derek Piggots flight test reports (or any other test pilots report) for the T53.
Might be interesting reading.
Dont know about the wing design criteria - perhaps Roy could ascertain that for us ??

28th Nov 2010, 20:33
Derek Piggott is still around albeit aged 87 now. He was very helpful with flight test and tuning information for my own glider, but I would be loath to approach him to research the T53 without an actual need for the info.

Here's a bit more on a T53 survivor in the Isle of Man:

Andreas Gliding Club (http://www.manxgliding.org/t53.php)

There was also A 72" span model of it published in Radio Control Models and Electronics in about 1972. It was that article which made me wonder why I never saw any.

29th Nov 2010, 17:51
A couple of years ago Dad gave me some old Flight Internationals. One had that flight test report in and another one an issue or 2 later with a picture of Concorde on the front. Could not understand as to why he had got it until I came to the letters page. One very angry letter allegedly signed by my mum complaining about the omission of my fathers name from the article!

29th Nov 2010, 18:43
Answers to various questions I have put to Dad on the T53 have been answered thus:
"calculations could have been done on flight handling and structure but were not deemed necessary-what had worked for them in the past was used.Air Ministry data was used ,for rib spacing calculations could have been done on skin buckling but were not."
He then told me what happened after he left and a weight saving redesign was done but I do not intend to put it on the internet!
Dads design for the spar, which was laminated and bolted was based on his previous job at a firm of structural steelworkers and was done for cheap manufacturing but was redesigned by Pat Monk using machined components and put up the cost considerably.
I presume "Air Ministry data" was some kind of design bible.

29th Nov 2010, 19:10
Dad gave me this for last years Xmas present and told me it was worth reading for the incredible errors in it! Leaving aside 16m Darts and the 18m T53, the author states that it was an all American design!
Dad never met this chap Lawrie Watts and presumes he was got in to do some cutaways of the Dart/T53/Hp14.
The drawings in the book are very nice though including one of the retracting undercarriage on the Dart, which was one of Dads first jobs at Slingsbys.
I have emailed the publisher of this book who informs me that accuracy is important to them and IF the book is reprinted it will be corrected.

29th Nov 2010, 20:41
Thanks for the link-I have printed & posted it to dad & mentioned about flight test reports.See if it jogs any memories!

29th Nov 2010, 22:05
I was with 611VGS at RAF Swanton Morley. The T53 was brought to Swanton Morley, which was also the home of No.1 Gliding Centre, and our OC Ron Page had the opportunity to fly it. He was told he could do what he liked with it so he pulled a couple of loops which pinged several panels in the wing. We never saw it again.

30th Nov 2010, 06:30
hi Roys

did your dad design the early hydraulic retracting Dart u/c (resulting in PIOs on aerotow as one pumped the hndle) or the replacement, rather cruder but effective mechanical one?

And what is his version of how Fred named the Swallow?

(Sorry for thread drift).

30th Nov 2010, 18:11
Derek Piggott had a bit of an experience after pulling a loop at the Farnborough Airshow demo but it was kept quiet. This was after the first weight saving redesign by Mr Slater, dad had joined Sigma prior to the first flight as previously mentioned.
Interesting comment about which Dart u/c it was, as in my notes dad had used the word replacement which I did not use in my earlier post.
Do not know about the Swallow name but will ask next time I ring.
Any more questions from that period please ask and I will mention them

1st Dec 2010, 20:46
At least the snow is not affecting our trusty Post Office-from published sources Dad has informed me this glider is the last T53b built by Slingsbys out of the batch of 16 which was converted to partial T53c spec and then passed to Yorkshire Sailplanes who called it the YS53 prototype. Dads entire design was the first prototype the T53a and in his album, alongside a photo of the T53b prototype, he wrote "one year and 3 weeks later the system produced a lighter and weaker T53."
He has determined which glider it was from the BGA and works number plus the fillet fairing at the base of the fin leading edge.On his T53a it was a flat bracket and exposed bolt head. One design rule at Slingsbys was that the top surfaces had to be flush but exposed bolt heads on the underside were ok! The older picture of XB951 was written off at Cranwell in 1972 but rebuilt into a YS53 using the belly of the fuselage only, is not the Andreas T53 but they probably know that ,as it is detailed in Simmons book.

1st Dec 2010, 20:59
In answer to the question about the Swallow name J K Rushton would probably have known the answer, but unfortunately we do not.I did meet J K Rushton a couple of times as child-he preceded Dad at Slingsbys. However he still remained in touch with Dad.Aother picture you may be interested in is Arthur Brayshaw,Sales Manager, with
F N Slingsby.

Golf Bravo Whisky
9th Dec 2010, 15:29
I carried out the test Flying of the T53B in company with Derek Piggot and also flew The T53A with John Sellars as a Passenger in the rear seat plus
some extra flights for air to air photography.
I also spent time at RAF stations Swanton Morley and Spittalgate introducing the type to the instructors of Nos 1 & 2 Gliding Centres.
At a later stage I carried out the test flying of the aircraft modified to T53C standard but minus the proposed reduction in sweepback.
Later still I carried out the design changes and test flying necessary for
the aircraft to be granted a BGA Cof A under the aegis of Yorkshire Sailplanes. In this configuration the aircraft was designated YS53 Sovereign.

10th Dec 2010, 19:53
Many thanks for your reply Geoff-I had been thinking of not continuing with this due to lack of interest,but I have printed off your reply and posted it for tomorrows post.
He never mentioned he had been up in one and I presumed it was the same as my design experience of sitting behind a board and never seeing the finished result!
My other line of enquiy is Sigma which was the next project he worked on and I am in contact with the present keeper who last flew it in1999.

India Four Two
11th Dec 2010, 04:30

Do please continue. I am sure there is a lot of interest in both the T53 and Sigma.

I don't think we have had a direct line before on PPRuNe, to the designer of historic aircraft like these.

The cracked runway in your picture of Sigma looks very familiar. Is it Innisfail, Alberta?

Dave Marsden, who took over Sigma, is a long time member of the Edmonton Soaring Club and a Professor Emeritus at the University of Alberta. He rebuilt Sigma's wing using slotted flaps, based on his experience from his Gemini two-seater.

There is a previous PPRuNe discussion about Sigma http://www.pprune.org/aviation-history-nostalgia/107329-variable-wing-area-quiz.html including a link to a talk by Nick Goodhart
Competition Flying In Sigma (http://www.betsybyars.com/guy/soaring_symposia/70-sigma.html)

12th Dec 2010, 18:35
Many thanks for the Sigma links, India Four Two as it does include a general arrangement drawing plus wing sections.
Not too sure of the runway location but can ask next time I email.
I do have 3 original photos of the 10' test specimen of wing that was built showing the flap in and out plus some info of dad as to how the flap mechanism worked but I note that the Sigma thread is closed.Is it possible to get it re-opened?
Off to see him next weekend so any questions?

India Four Two
12th Dec 2010, 23:23

I suggest you start a new thread entitled "Sigma".

The flaps-down profile is amazing. It would be great to see some pictures of the wing before and after Dave Marsden's rebuild.

I have some questions for your Dad. What was the main reason for the performance being lower than expected? Was it the flap seals as I have read and if so, what was the issue?

13th Dec 2010, 07:00
The flexible lower wing skin on Sigma was one reason it was far draggier than the design spec. The gap between trailing edge and the extending section of the wing was up to 1/4 inch.

The wing section designer, Dr F.X. Wortmann was at Lasham during the initial performance trials. When aked what he thought about the aircraft, he replied enigmatically 'If I wanted to make a swiss watch I would not employ a blacksmith.'

The hydraulic mechanism to pump up an accumulator by pushing the rudder pedals agains a spring caused some amusement - the combination of seating position, strap arrangement, cushion material and ergonomics made it virtually certain that one's trousers would come down when the pump was operated, unles wearing stout braces.

Golf Bravo Whisky
16th Dec 2010, 11:35

The last I heard of the Gemini was that some twit retracted the undercart
on the ground and I believe it was written off.

Golf Bravo Whisky
16th Dec 2010, 11:40
Hi Roy

The gentleman pictured with Arthur Brayshaw by the Gull 1 is not J K Rushton but is F N Slingsby himself.



19th Dec 2010, 15:57
Corrected! Thankyou.

Golf Bravo Whisky
20th Dec 2010, 15:53
Hi Roy

The Swallow was intended to be called Sparrow but when Slingsbys
general manager John Reussner was flying the prototype at low level along the hill at Sutton Bank for Fred Slingsby to take photographs he finished up suspended in the telephone wires !

This brought forth the comment from Fred Slingsby:

'It's joined the Swallows ready for migration' and the name stuck !

The damaged aircraft was aquired and repaired by John Reussner with an extra metre added to each wing root and an extended rear fuselage.
In this form it was named 'Swift'

Golf Bravo Whisky

longer ron
21st Dec 2010, 21:10
Nice story GBW...great to have you on the forum,I had a half share in the YS53 and really enjoyed flying the old girl,I remember seeing your name in the paperwork !
Do any of the original T53 flight test reports survive ?
Would be interesting to see any remarks by a professional test pilot !

Golf Bravo Whisky
22nd Dec 2010, 15:18

I have Flight Test Reports for all variants except the first prototype
T53A with flaps. As far as I am aware no quantitative testing was
carried out, only qualitative flying being completed before the decision
to delete the flaps was taken. Hence no report.

I did not fly this aircraft and believe Derek Piggot was the only man to fly it.


longer ron
22nd Dec 2010, 16:05
Hi G
Flight test reports from any variant would be interesting,I was just wondering how much difference there was (handling/flying characteristics) between the T53 and the YS53.
I never flew a T53 - just the YS53

rgds baz

Golf Bravo Whisky
23rd Dec 2010, 19:29

The main handling difference was much better directional stability of aircraft having the extra fin area on top of the fin. This was a Slingsby
mod on the last T53 they built, works No 1721.

The YS 53 had slightly better aileron control due to re gearing of the
control circuit. However, the ailerons were the worst feature of the
flying controls and it was not possible to improve them without major re design.



27th Dec 2010, 20:27
Dad recalls being the first back seat passenger in the T53 ,flown by yourself, with a static asi "bomb" connected to a lot of plastic tube which he fed out of the ventilation slide window in the canopy.Flight was from Wombleton over Helmsley. He was most concerned about losing it and bombing Lord Fevershams greenhouses! What was the date and glider concerned?

Golf Bravo Whisky
29th Dec 2010, 15:07
Hi Roy

My logbook says the flight with your dad took place at Wombleton on
30 March 1967 in the sole T53A ptototype. I do not know the works No of the aircraft but it is almost certainly identified in Norman Ellisons book:
'British Giders and Sailplanes'. Unfortunately I have loaned my copy to a
friend so cannot at this time consult it.

Martin Simons book 'Slingsby Sailplanes' shows photographs of the aircraft
taken on the day of the first flight and also of the first prototype T53 rigged outside the back of the Slingsby factory erroneously labled T53A.

Best Regards, to you and your Dad. Ask him if he's tamed his car horn yet !!


29th Dec 2010, 17:57
Works number 1560.

never registered as a CAA or BGA aircraft (almost uniquely for a UK commercially built glider).

Happy to oblige.

By the way, GBW, thanks for confirming the anecdote I heard long ago about the naming of the Swallow. I had forgotten who the pilot was.

30th Dec 2010, 11:08
Thanks for the info GBW-off to see dad on New Years Day so I will see if I can borrow any more photos off him.

Golf Bravo Whisky
5th Jan 2011, 13:49
Hi Baz

I have just been refreshing my memory on the improved handling of
the YS53 Sovereign. There were two improvements I failed to mention:

These were:

1. Vastly improved handling on aero tow by the fitting of a nose hook.
This reduced the stick forces required to reduce stick force to zero on tow at the extended aft CG making it possible to reduce strength of the trimmer springs.

2. Reduced out of trim stick forces made possible by '1' above.

Best Regards


18th Dec 2012, 19:37
Roys unfortunatly has a lot of opinions about people such as Bill Slater who are no longer here, matbe he should stick to facts!!!!

longer ron
20th Aug 2014, 04:12
I had always meant to return to this thread but while googling for any updates I found that it looks like Tom Holland passed away in 2011 : (

Thomas Holland
Thomas George Holland, 58, died June 30, 2011, at Baker City.
There will be no service at this time. Tom wanted his family and friends to remember him as he was before his illness.
Tom was born on Nov. 23, 1952, in Walla Walla, Wash., to William Henry and Helen Leslie Holland. Tom graduated from Walla Walla High School and also attended an A&P School at Moses Lake, Wash. He later joined the Air Force.
He married Lynda Joyce Sams on Feb. 14, 1994, at Walla Walla, Wash.
Tom later spent the majority of his career as an airplane mechanic and worked for Baker Aircraft for 11 years. Tom enjoyed reading and putting together model airplanes in his spare time.
His greatest joy was airplanes. He also enjoyed drawing, painting and going on long drives. Tom was part owner in the Serendipity Soaring LLC, which is still going at the Baker Airport.

5th Feb 2016, 02:08
I have many hours teaching beginner private student on both the T53 and the YS53 and can say both aircraft did a fantastic job. But when they were both on the line sitting next to each other, flyer beware. Whatever you did, you shouldnt get them mixed up as their individual flight characteristic were quite different from one another once off the launch. The T53 that I used, had domed rivets and the YS53 didn't. Wow what a difference. I could never have imagined how much drag domed rivets would cause. Since that time, I have build several aircraft and every to I reached for a rivet I can't help but think of these two aircraft.

The other difference that could really catch a student out was the difference in rudder performance. The YS53 had an extension added to the top of the rudder that real made it a easier aircraft to get a balanced turn going if new to flying.

At this point my memory of these two is fading, but I have recollection the the control loads were also lighter on the YS53.

Believe it or not, I would aerobat both of them regularly.

I have some very fond memories of these two. Look, I have flown awful contraption and some very nice ones but for whatever reason these two got me into flying in a big way and made me smile. If I came across one at the right price, call me crazy but I may just need to get it for old time sake.

Have Fun

5th Feb 2016, 15:13
Forgotten all about this thread, nice to see Slingsby gliders discussed.

Massive thread drift now; does anybody have any info on the development of the T59H...Kestrel 22.

Asking because I own it, the T59J, also a Kestrel 22 doesn't have the tail chute,
I think that is the only difference.
Ian K

16th May 2021, 00:43
An interesting, nostalgic read. I was one of four cadets to attend a gliding course at Swanton Morley who rashly raised his hand to undergo training on XV951, with the caution that we might not go solo. All went well and I became the first to solo on type. I later got to meet Prince Phillip when he visited Kirbymoorside and still have the Slingsby company tie and T.53B colour brochure. If the T.53 did have excess adverse yaw, I didn't know about it at the time and the required rudder work obviously stood me in good stead as I later trained on taildraggers and am rebuilding one now.


Dan Dare
16th May 2021, 10:56
As a “youngster” I’ve had to look-up the T53 and found that it was “the world’s most advanced two seat metal monocoque”

https://cimg9.ibsrv.net/gimg/pprune.org-vbulletin/550x391/aircraft_20manufacturers_slingsby_1967_41164_455809566cb2500 7fe5ff74c0116af8afb2b6147.jpg

Classic British Aviation Industry Advertisements 1909 - 1990 (http://www.aviationancestry.co.uk/?home/&searchQuery=Slingsby&startYear=1909&endYear=1980&&searchOrder=ASC&pageNum=2)

17th May 2021, 06:33
An interesting, nostalgic read. I was one of four cadets to attend a gliding course at Swanton Morley who rashly raised his hand to undergo training on XV951, with the caution that we might not go solo. All went well and I became the first to solo on type. I later got to meet Prince Phillip when he visited Kirbymoorside and still have the Slingsby company tie and T.53B colour brochure. If the T.53 did have excess adverse yaw, I didn't know about it at the time and the required rudder work obviously stood me in good stead as I later trained on taildraggers and am rebuilding one now.

If you hadn't flown anything else before, I dare say you wouldn't have been aware of the adverse yaw; when I flew in '951 at Halton with Douggie King in the back seat, I was a P2 (G1 nowadays) and already had over 500 launches in Sedburgh/Prefect/Mk3 so to me it was immediately noticeable and I remember Douggie saying about it'