Issues and Solutions for kit- and plans-based sailplanes and motorgliders

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rdj

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Why are others not buying, and are there enough of them, without people like me (and there are several more right here) to meet the needs being discussed in this thread?

BJC
I loved the concept of the Lambada with its removable outer wing panels (and its follow-on the Phoenix.) I never seriously considered it because a long time ago the then-West Coast dealer exhibited it at the EAA GoldenWest Fly-In, and I got a chance to (try) to sit in it. Not even close. I doubt anyone over 6' tall could fit in that cockpit.
 
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John.Roo

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Hello!
I am 1,88 m tall (6´2") and I can fly Phoenix without problem. even with "similar size friends" :)
But I know that is very important ratio between length of body / length of legs. Two pilots.jpg
 

Dana

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You know, if you read FAR 91.319 in detail, it says that experimental aircraft are prohibited from carrying people or property for compensation or hire. That doesn't include towing, does it?

Also, subsections (e), (f), and (g) provide some interesting direct exceptions that allow towing for experimentals that are operated as LSA's.

Worth exploring.
The FARs may not prohibit it, but the standard operating limitations issued nowadays prohibit it. Doesn't make it impossible... the Dragonfly is designed as, and used for, towing hang gliders. I don't know if they negotiated that into the op lims or if they're doing it under a LODA.
 

Dana

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You know, if you read FAR 91.319 in detail, it says that experimental aircraft are prohibited from carrying people or property for compensation or hire. That doesn't include towing, does it?

Also, subsections (e), (f), and (g) provide some interesting direct exceptions that allow towing for experimentals that are operated as LSA's.

Worth exploring.
The FARs may not prohibit it, but the standard operating limitations issued nowadays prohibit it. Doesn't make it impossible... the Dragonfly is designed as, and used for, towing hang gliders. I don't know if they negotiated that into the op lims or if they're doing it under a LODA.
 

gtae07

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The FARs may not prohibit it, but the standard operating limitations issued nowadays prohibit it. Doesn't make it impossible...
But it does mean convincing the FAA (or the FAA's representative) to let you do something outside the norm. I would think that a private club should be able to tow with an E-AB so long as the tow pilot isn't being paid and the glider pilot's only paying expenses, but (unfortunately) I don't get to make FAA policy.

More to the point though, it doesn't solve the manpower and scheduling issues like a self-launcher does.
 

BBerson

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Even virtually all RC gliders now have motors. Usually enough power to go straight up.
We have a winch in the RC club shed that hasn't been used in years.
 

TFF

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I think all they did with the homebuild tow is they changed how to say no. The powers probably started thinking that an FAR was out of place when it did not fit the section it was in. Add it to the homebuilt addendum to Pt 91. You could probably do it but require a LODA letter. That’s going to be FSDO dependent.
 

gtae07

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Even virtually all RC gliders now have motors. Usually enough power to go straight up.
We have a winch in the RC club shed that hasn't been used in years.
Winches for R/C? I remember using a "hi-start", which was a ring and small parachute at the end of a long piece of surgical rubber tubing...
 
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BBerson

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The winch isn't much better than a high start but handles big gliders. Big electric V8 starter motor and a Trojan deep discharge battery.
 

mm4440

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Sailplanes that can operate from normal GA airports give maximum utility and flexibility at much greater cost than unpowered sailplanes. Wing dragging SLS are not quite there. There must be thousands of underused GA airports where sailplanes could operate if tow planes were available. Integrating a winch operation is more problematical than than a tow plane and is more suited to a club operation.
There are many existing homebuils that would be acceptable tow plans with the addition of a tow release. A bit of effort to overcome the perceived FAR obstacles could easily double or triple the number of fields that could support soaring.
All approaches need to be worked on; motorgliders, SLS, ground launching, winch and auto tow, and E-AB tow planes. They are complementary.
A motor glider can be both a sailplane and a tow plane. Think about that potential.
 

Jay Kempf

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Sounded to me that this whole thing boiled down to removable wingtips or for parking in a standard t hangar. If there were cockpit foldable wing tips for anything over say 38' then this all works. 15 meters -38' /2 is about 6 feet of wing folded each side (9 feet for 17 meters). Stemme folds more and the folding is manual so there is some BTDT going on in the industry already. So if that is a concern for someone they need that option. Not a trivial thing to implement but not impossible at all. Seems like a couple linear actuators working off a either 12 or 24 volts would do it with a little bit of secondary safety sequencing reported back to the cockpit just like gear down and locked complexity. The load paths are small compared to roof folding. Ailerons could stay connected with a simple mechanism. I spent some time looking at this sort of mechanism and all the pitfalls of going in that direction. Seems a worthy thing to go look at. The farther out the wing the break is the lower the aero loads on it.
 

BBerson

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All approaches would include tow hooks on private owned certified airplanes. Because private owned certified airplanes are more available. In my club we had several members that owned a tow plane, a C-170, Super Cub, Pacer and my Cherokee 140. Normally, only the older almost worn out engines are used for towing.
The RF-5 has flop over wing tips for hangaring.
 

Topaz

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The FARs may not prohibit it, but the standard operating limitations issued nowadays prohibit it. Doesn't make it impossible... the Dragonfly is designed as, and used for, towing hang gliders. I don't know if they negotiated that into the op lims or if they're doing it under a LODA.
Exactly. mm4440's point is that the "standard operating limitations" is simply boilerplate text that does not necessarily reflect the actual regulations. As such, and in an environment where getting more towplanes active might actually help save the sport, we might have some leverage with the FAA to make "exceptions" to the standard language more common in particular situations, such as clubs.

But it does mean convincing the FAA (or the FAA's representative) to let you do something outside the norm. I would think that a private club should be able to tow with an E-AB so long as the tow pilot isn't being paid and the glider pilot's only paying expenses, but (unfortunately) I don't get to make FAA policy.
I'll agree that bureaucratic inertia is our biggest enemy, but with all the progress on LSA, Sport Pilot, reworking Part 23, and Basic Med, it seems like the FAA is in the best "possible" mood to take a stab at this. At least there's some precedent for making changes, and this doesn't actually change any existing regulations.

More to the point though, it doesn't solve the manpower and scheduling issues like a self-launcher does.
Oh, understand that I'm firmly in the self-launcher/motorglider "camp", myself. But there are a lot of "conventional" unpowered gliders out there, and a lot of inertia in the sport to continue to use them. Allowing the use of E-AB towplanes would keep that fleet active and flying. Never a bad thing.
 

Topaz

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Sailplanes that can operate from normal GA airports give maximum utility and flexibility at much greater cost than unpowered sailplanes. Wing dragging SLS are not quite there.
If you can't actually taxi, you're not going to operate from a "normal" GA airport, at least on the regular runways. You might get away with landing on the grass to either side of the regular runways, but my experience is that tower operators don't like that one little bit. Hemet had the devil's own time getting their ability to fly from the side runway once the Forest Service moved in with their water bombers and spotter planes. Off-runway ops were explicitly held out of the question, even though Hemet is sleepy 99% of the time. I heard from someone that the gliders have never actually returned to Hemet, even though they won the right to do so in court.

There must be thousands of underused GA airports where sailplanes could operate if tow planes were available.
Much less so than you'd think, IMHO. When the Lake Elsinore Soaring Club looked to be kicked out of Skylark Field (CA89) back in 2007 by housing developers, we (I was on the board at that time) did a very thorough canvasing of airport sites all around the OC/Los Angeles Basin for a place into which we could move. We found one - Hemet - and that was about to close to sailplanes itself, for reasons listed above. The issue isn't just runway and "sleepy airport." You also have to find someplace that has land-out spots at least in the area of the airport, that has airspace around it that's amenable to sailplane operations (meaning, you don't need a transponder in every glider, and isn't near to a big-or-busy airport nearby that generates a lot of low-altitude traffic). Perhaps some of this experience is biased by the conditions here in SoCal, but that was the result of our search. If Skylark closes and Hemet remains closed, there are no realistic pure-sailplane operation options between Crystal and Warner Springs. Los Alamitos has Civil Air Patrol glider operations, but I don't think the USAF wants to share their property or airspace with us civvies.

Integrating a winch operation is more problematical than than a tow plane and is more suited to a club operation.
We desperately wanted a winch at Skylark. Couldn't run one because of the skydiving operation on the field. Seems they didn't want their parachutists cut in half by a winch-line, or some such reason.

All approaches need to be worked on; motorgliders, SLS, ground launching, winch and auto tow, and E-AB tow planes. They are complementary.
A motor glider can be both a sailplane and a tow plane. Think about that potential.
I think homebuilt towplanes are going to be a necessary alternative to the dying-out ag-planes the sport has been using, so long as "pure" sailplanes continue to operate. In the long-run, I see self-launchers (that can taxi) and motorgliders being the true future core of the recreational end of the sport.
 
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proppastie

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quite a dilemma, often only a large metropolitan area can support a pure glider operation, and that very area makes it difficult to operate......out in the sticks it is not so hard to find an uncontrolled airport to operate out of.....

I think the glider operation at Fredrick Md moved when they brought in the tower .....I do not consider a towered airport a "normal GA airport".
 

rdj

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I’m 6’ 2” and fit, but no room to spare.

BJC
Both you and John.Roo are forcing me to amend my statement to "I doubt anyone over 6'-2" could fit in that cockpit." At 6'-6", I certainly don't :-(

There was a thread a few years back where Jarno pointed out that there are far more "tall pilot" glider options in Europe because northern Europeans tend to average very tall. For some reason "Big & Tall" planes don't seem to be a thing in the U.S.
 

John.Roo

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Hello!
I know that situation in EU is a bit different from US. however this is experience from our aeroclub and many other Czech aeroclubs.

Before ultralight airplanes were not allowed to tow. So glider pilots were depending on GA airplane (mostly Zlin types). Our situation was not like in US where PPL license is affordable so we had only very limited group of tow pilots. But GA tow planes are not cheap for maintenance and operational costs and most of aeroclubs were not able to buy new ones. In fact was nearly impossible to manage aerotow during working days in small aeroclub. So Czech Aeroclub started to deal with LAA and CAA to test ultralight airplanes as a tow planes. It took a lot of flight tests, strength tests etc. but finally CAA accepted that ultralights (at that time with MTOM max. 472,5 kg with ballistic rescue system) are suitable for glider towing. They are limitations for each type. Request is that on 600 m distance must be achieved 15 m altitude so this practically define max. MTOM of glider you can tow. For example it also means that if you have "only" 80 hp Rotax you still can tow, but only light gliders etc. Testing aerotow must be done from grass RWY. It means that from pawed RWY are results better. Beside of that ultralight tow plane must pass thru strength tests of tow hook installation and this tests (as all tests) must be supervidsed by independent LAA representative.

Why I wrote all above?
Because now is situation in aeroclubs totally different.
Ultralight license in Czech Republic costs from approx. 2 000 EUR (PPL starts from min. 6 000 EUR). To be a tow pilot you need min. 100 hours flown and you have to pass thru tow pilot training. Now we have in our aeroclub enough tow pilots and we have also ultralight airplane for aerotowing. Most of glider pilots are also tow pilots and now we have no problem to manage aerotow any time :) Before everybody was dreaming about self launch glider, now thery prefere to buy glider with more performance.

Similar situation is in Germany and France. But it never starts "from top". CAA/FAA has no reason to approve LSA airplanes for glider towing. They may don´t even know you have that request :) But I beleive that you have also National Aeroclub so it means you have "partner" to deal with CAA/FAA. Experience from EU and other countries shows that aerotowing with light planes is possible.

There is still space on market for self launch gliders. I just wanted to show that cheap (affordable) and easy available aerotowing helps world of gliding a lot :)

Best regards!
Martin
 

rdj

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I think homebuilt towplanes are going to be a necessary alternative to the dying-out ag-planes the sport has been using, so long as "pure" sailplanes continue to operate. In the long-run, I see self-launchers (that can taxi) and motorgliders being the true future core of the recreational end of the sport.
IMHO a self-launcher that has enough power to actually climb at a decent rate, and has a reliable (and fairly quick) engine activation / de-activation sequence is also a safer option at the recreational end of the sport. There's a reason why all three current launch methods require endorsements--screw up an aero-tow, winch launch, or underpowered self-launch and things go south in a hurry. With a powered sailplane, even a worst-case engine failure on takeoff becomes nothing more than a slow leisurely descent into whatever lies off the departure end of the runway.
 
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