SELECTING AND SECURING SAILPLANES FOR THE NATIONALS AND INTERNATIONALS
BEN GREENE: This is a timely topic for me particularly because I have been in the open class so long and now I am facing the problem of deciding. I haven't done it yet. So I hope you will help me select which glider to fly.
Fortunately when you wind up on the team it seems easier to get gliders to fly. So getting a glider isn't as big a problem as deciding which one to fly.
I am sure you all saw Paul Bikle's report on the standard class gliders and how generally similar they all are; so there isn't too much to decide in the way of performance. Earlier this summer I put this question to Bob Buck whose judgment I value very highly, and he came back with an anecdote that boiled down to flying the one you feel most comfortable in. I am now getting a few of the ships down and starting the process.
There is one other thing; transportation is not yet firm. We're not sure that MATS is going to be able to take our gliders over and this will influence the decision. The rest of these gentlemen are going to fly gliders that are already over there, so they are lucky that they are not faced with this particular problem.
DICK JOHNSON: Well, it says in the team letter in several places that I am going to be flying an ASW- 17. That is not firm as yet. I have never seen an ASW- 17 and I don't guess any of you have either. The other choice is the Nimbus II, I understand there is one in the country now but I have never seen it either. We're going to have to look at these ships and fly them, and as Ben says, the people are very kind and generous when you are on the team. They make these ships available to you. Rudy Mozer in particular has been very generous and has offered to let me take his own ship and fly it locally in Dallas for a month or two and bring it to Chester and try it out there this spring. There are good offers and there are good ships; it's just the difficulty of choosing the right sailplane.
There are many considerations when you choose a sailplane; ideally you get the one that is most suited for the conditions and the rules of the contest.
We have a nonlinear, that is a break in the speed curve. We have to be at least half as fast as the slowest person on the speed task. Since most of the tasks are speed tasks we can't fly too slow or we're just not going to get many points.
The pilots of some countries are required to fly sailplanes of there own countries. Like Poland. I think you would be sent to Siberia if you would ever suggest that you fly anything but a Polish sailplane. They fly their own products for better or for worse. That has two facets: one, that they are not always flying the most suitable ship; the other, it encourages the home country to develop better ships. They know their ships are going to get flown and they know their team is going to fly them. They will find out what is wrong with them and make improvements, that sort of thing. So in one respect that is a good thing.
Other countries don't seem to firmly adhere to this policy. The English in general fly English sailplanes but when they see they are hopelessly outclassed they change. They flew German ships in Marfa last year.
In this country there has been some pressure at times for us to fly American ships and I can certainly see the point. But this has never been a firm rule and this year in particular there is no pressure on us to choose American over, say the German ships. In the open class especially we don't have much choice. Some of the countries that require their pilots to fly their own country's ships can't afford the transportation costs. We have always been fortunate in this respect because we have always arranged for the air force, through Jacquline Cochran, to take our ships over; if we need them. This has been a steady thing since 1960. So we could take American ships if we only had them. I wish we did have them. You really should fly a sailplane from your own country if it is competitive. It enhances the national position of the team.
Maybe I shouldn't even be saying this, but choosing a champion at a world contest isn't really what the world organization considers of primary importance. They believe it is the camaraderie, and representing one country, and comparing ones country to another. Representing ones country is of primary importance to most of the countries, and I think there is a lot of merit to that. It's good if you can send a man that wins but you don't have to because sportsmanship is very important.
As for this coming summer's ( 1972 ) flying we will have to select the best of the open class ships. It will probably be a choice of the open class ships between the ASW- 12 and the ASW- 17. The Kestral 19 probably isn't competitive, but you can't tell too much about these ships by the brochures. Brochuremanship is a necessary evil by all the manufacturers and you really can't believe them or even what your dear friends might think of a ship because everyone has a different opinion. I would like to take my HP- 13 but I would be blackballed from the team if I did. It will climb with the other ships but it just won't go with the ASW- 12. It would leave us in a pretty poor position as far as speed points are concerned.
What you need in a sailplane for the nationals or the internationals is a ship that will climb well under the expected conditions. You have to take into consideration the bad days as well as the good. The literature that we have on Yugoslavia says on good days the thermals go to five or six thousand feet; it doesn't say where they go on the bad days. So if you are in doubt choose a ship that will climb better rather than worse.
The second thing you must have is one that will cruise well. This is getting to be quite important in the modern speed contest, so you must have a flat glide angle at 70, 80 or 90 knots, be able to cruise fast and put in the ballast on certain days.
Number three you must be able to land in fields safely. That is the average field you are going to be flying over. You just have to be able to land in them safely. This is one of the drawbacks that kept the ASW- 12 out of competition the first few years. It took that long for the pilots to get over Rudy Mozer's accident at Marfa where he finally got his ASW- 12 stopped on a bridge abutment, one wing on each side of the road. It had to go back to Germany to get put back together. The tail chute didn't work and it was not very safe. I think that Jim's plan to put two parachutes on his - 12 (if he brings it) is doubling up on his ability to land in the fields safely.
Then I think number four is to have a ship that has reasonable cockpit comfort and visibility. These are important, more important to some people than others; but they are important to me. If you are going to fly well, particularly on the longer days, you must be able to see well and be comfortable.
Number five, you must have reasonably good stability and control. Again this varies from pilot to pilot. I know Dick Schreder can fly a perfectly miserable ship and do a marvelous job because he doesn't smoke. I am not making any disparaging remarks, but the problem last summer was that when a fellow had to use two hands to light a cigarette and when he let go of the control stick, the ship wasn't stable enough to except this and gave the pilot a bad time. It isn't the first time it has happened but again it depends on the pilot. The point is, can you let go of the stick for a second and still retain reasonable control.
The determination of the merit of the sailplane is a tricky thing for Jim (A.J. Smith) and myself because we've never seen the ships. We've seen the brochures. One is guaranteed to glide 48 to 1 and the other is guaranteed to glide 49 to 1. The guy that came out with the 49 to 1 brochure probably came out after the guy with the 48 to 1. We have never seen these ships and we are very anxious to see them. The latest news is that the ASW- 17 is to be shipped today or tomorrow from Germany and it should be in Houston about the last week in March. We are going to license it in Dallas and, as I said, Rudy has agreed to let us fly it.
We really won't get a good test, because how can you tell just flying it? Oh, of course, you can tell its stability, it's visibility, and get some idea how it climbs. What we really need is an ASW- 12 of a high quality such as Wally Scott's or A.J. Smith's so we can fly with them and compare. Many times someone compares their ship by saying I outclimbed that K7 over there just fine so I must have a good ship. It wasn't the ship it was the student flying the K7, so it wasn't a very good test.
The best method of course is to fly them in a contest before you make the decision, but we don't have the chance to do this, unless we fly at the Chester contest and that is probably too late to be of value.
The second best method is to make some comparison flights against a known, highly competitive ship. This is what I hope we can do. If we can get Walt Scott to bring his ASW- 12 to Dallas, then we can fly them side by side. We know that ship and have flown with it so if we can fly them side by side we can get an accurate and quick picture of the realtive performance. The 17 is no doubt better than the 12, but we don't really know. until we make these flights and make determinations. Thank you.
GEORGE MOFFAT: Well, it just happens that this year is a very, very easy year for the selection of sailplanes, because there are very limited choices. The Standard class has three or four ships that have close to identical performance. I would say that among the Libelle, the ASW- 15, the LS- 1 and the Standard Cirrus there is probably more variation between individual ships of each make than there is between the types. So honestly it becomes a matter of which one you feel the more comfortable with, and which one you have the most flying time in. I just am not able to see any clear cut advantage to any one of these ships after flying with them a great deal. I myself have made the choice between the LS- 1 and the Standard Cirrus rather easily since I own a Standard Cirrus.
In the open class too, actually, the choice. There are two possible ships, (the Nimbus and the ASW- 17) since we aren't likely to get hold of a Sigma. I felt in Texas in 1970 that Wally Scott's ASW- 12 was a terribly competitive ship with a Nimbus I, under moderately good conditions, but when it got weak or really strong there is no question that I had a big advantage.
In the selection of ships you've got to keep up with what is going on in Europe, at least for now. I hope that with what A.J. Smith and Art Zimmerman and some of the others around here are doing, that is coming to an end. But it is terribly important to know what is in the wind. I happened to run into the Nimbus I first in the spring of 1968 when all it was a bunch of balsa wood. I helped to glue some of the balsa wood together so I could see how it went together and perhaps get in a few brownie points; and besides, I wanted to learn a lot. I think that is the reason I got to fly the Nimbus I. Just a couple of other things I think you have to consider; things that A.J. is quite strong on. The amount of work you are going to have to do to make the ship contest ready and how long it will take to accomplish. Then set up a system of priorities. Some ships will take more work than others. You should take into account whether the manufacturer you have in mind has a reputation for putting out pretty even ships, or whether there seems to be a lot of difference between ship and ship ostensibly of the same type.
You should consider handling, comfort, and performance. You may want to trade off a good deal of handling and a good deal of comfort in favor of performance. Frankly, the Nimbus I was no great pleasure to fly. You were never quite sure what it was going to do next. But you can get used to that sort of thing in order to get the performance. The comfort wasn't anything to write home about. The only place for the oxygen bottle was right in your lap; it got kind of heavy hour after hour. But if you have the kind of performance margin the Nimbus I had you can put up with this sort of thing. You would not have been able to put up with this if the performance had only been the same as the ASW- 12. By the way one of the advantages of the Nimbus, that I had not considered, was that because the wings were so floppy it gave you a terribly smooth ride. I was quite sick on three of the eight days and was very grateful for the fact that it didn't throw me around too much and make me sicker than I was already.
A.J. SMITH: Certainly the situation is as the other people have described it. I think to talk about a specific attempt to obtain sailplanes for the internationals would be enlightening. A country with a strong sailplane industry plans well ahead for the sailplanes for the next international competition. That country, certainly in our case and probably for the rest of the world, is Germany. They plan well ahead. The manufacturers discuss what models they will have available for the next world championships. They aren't reluctant to say that they may have one prototype ready for the coming world championship. Since it's generally true that a prototype represents some increase in performance thus gives their pilots some advantage. As a US pilot you find yourself somewhere down on the list. Probably not too far down, but on the list of pilots who may get a chance to fly that prototype if some other machine turns out to be better, or if the German pilot makes some other choice. As we talk here the Germans are going through that process of selection; now and right up until the competition begins. So we are in a vulnerable position. You cannot pin down your bird until quite late in the game. As you can see that is where we are all setting right now. It's a sad situation. I have found in the past that manufacturers are extremely reluctant to make a commitment when they determine that you are on sort of a search. If they read your first letter and determine that you want one of their ships, they are likely to come back and say what will be available. But as soon as they discover that what you want to do is to fly it in comparison with some other ship the good, new machines seem to have a way of disappearing, like not getting built or being assigned to someone else. It is kind of a rough game.
If, however, the ships are beginning to be in the hands of the dealers in the United States I find they are very easy and agreeable to work with and are not at all reluctant to provide a ship so you can make flight comparisons.
The manufacturers are short sighted in this case, but we have to appreciate their viewpoint. They may indeed only have one or two machines available and they want to make darn sure their machine is in the hands of a pilot who is going to fly it pretty good in the internationals. This is all part of our dilemma because the manufacturers of sailplanes in this country are no longer in a competitive position.
However, I'd like to comment that because of my obvious desire to see American pilots fly American planes in the internationals, I'd be perfectly happy to have Dick exercise his patriotism and take his airplane with him to the internationals. It would be a nice gesture. But that is really just bad news for the team, it is obvious that any one of the open class machines we are considering has a better chance to win than the HP- 13 even though Dick's is going quite well. What really happens, and George and I have experience in this manner, is that you find people who were smart enough to buy options on new sailplanes are willing to trade you delivery positions in order to give you a selection of the ships available. I am in that fortunate position due to the generosity of Joe Lincoln. This isn't the first time he has helped us, as U.S. pilots, to be certain we have the best competition machines.
Selecting the ship is really only part of the story. I have gone through all of the problems, and have exercised all the diplomacy you have to exercise. The only manufacturer that I have found who has a clear cut policy about all of this, and is not at all reluctant to talk about it is Lempke- Schneider. I think it is a perfectly straight forward philosophy. They simply say "We reserve so many ships every year outside of the production schedule list, to do with as we please. Because we feel it is very important to get LS- 1 sailplanes into the hands of the best pilots." And they proceed to do that. I have found in my particular case that once they make a commitment to get you a ship under those circumstances you don't have any conscience about this because it is clearly his policy. He does follow up and deliver the ship in good faith. I think this is a much better policy than to play other kinds of games where they tell you one day that the ship is not available and then you find that it is available for another pilot, etc., etc.
So after you get all of this sorted out you only have a limited time to get the ship ready. To get the instruments set up and begin to become accustomed to the sailplane. This is a very serious problem. I think we have been fortunate to have sailplanes that you could extract the maximum performance from very quickly. I had six hours on one machine prior to the first contest day. I don't think there are very many sailplanes that are good enough in this way for you to get maximum performance that quickly. It would be better to have around fifty hours before you started into competition. You can see all of the way down the line that our pilots are going to suffer because the beginning of this chain is somewhere in Germany. I hope that as George suggests we can reverse this situation in the next few years.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
ED BYARS: When do each of you leave? What are the actual dates of the contest? What are the logistics problems that confront you and how are they being solved? We understand that Paul Bikle is the team captain and Howard Eversole is co- captain or team manager and what role will Ed Butts play? Could you give us a little insight Jim as to how these things are being handled?
A.J. SMITH: Ed Butts has the responsibility in the committee organization. He has the background of being team captain before and a competition director here. He was a very good team captain in England for us. Howard Eversole is not well known to a lot of us but he has a good reputation as a manager type, and has just retired from the Air Force, I believe. Paul Bikle was unanimously sought by all of us as a kind of team coach whose main responsibility is to pull together our competition efforts. That is the way the responsibilities are sorted out at the moment.
It is up to each pilot to secure his sailplane and designate at least two out of three of his crew members. We all assume other collateral duties in getting together charts and maps, automobiles and insurance, radios and the whole bit. It is a monumental effort.
We are fortunate in getting contributions. I think the Soaring Society Team Fund is now in the order of $13,000. But we should keep pushing; we could effectively spend $20,000 without wasting any of it. What isn't known is that we get some magnificent contributors. Our friend Bob Fergus who is a Soaring Society member but not particularly active in- soaring made a contribution of $1,000 to the team fund and in addition is going to secure five brand new VW microbuses for us, probably painted red, white, and blue. These we will get as a contribution from VW of America or Bob Fergus, or at the very most have to pay some sort of use cost, but really very inexpensive. We will probably box up Ben's ship and send it to Europe. The rest of us will travel on over, pick up our vehicles at Frankfurt, and get on down to Kirchiem as fast as possible. We will be arriving variously from about the middle of to the 20th of June.
They have a very nice field at Kirchiem, the Hahnweide. We will practice there and prepare our ships over a period of a week or two. Sort of get the team and crew and equipment together, get loaded up, the vehicles organized, the radios and instruments sorted out and all that sort of thing. Then on the 29th of June we will depart for Yugoslavia. It is about a two day drive but we are planning a two and a half day trip so we will arrive at the contest sight around noon or early afternoon of the day before practice begins in order to get our accommodations set up. We will probably be kind of disorganized after the move. I imagine that all of the pilots will make a real serious attempt to begin flying on that first practice day. As in Germany we will get up early in the morning and start preparing the ship, working hard all morning so we can fly as much as possible all afternoon and then work all evening. In Switzerland, before the Polish Internationals, we worked all day for two weeks before the contest. After arrival in Yugoslavia we will probably use the same routine - work all morning, fly all afternoon and work all evening. Hopefully, as the practice session comes to an end (it lasts a week) we can taper off and get in a good mental and physical condition in preparation for the contest. Competition begins on July 8th; the practice sessions begin July 2nd and the competition is the 8th through 19th.
QUESTION: How about cloud flying?
ANSWER: (Dick Johnson) The question is on cloud flying and the teams proficiency. I suppose you are referring to the proficiency of our present team who probably hasn't logged very many thousand of hours in clouds in the last year. I don't know what each of the other pilots is doing. I have been practicing under VFR conditions almost every weekend on the J- 8 (horizon) and the cook compass. I try to do as much as I can under VFR conditions. You can do this pretty effectively. You just get used to flying with the horizon. Of course, you can't do it with a bunch of other people in a thermal, but most of the time you are out by yourself so you can glance out of the cockpit everytime you go around; but, mainly you keep your eyes in the cockpit. I think you can do a lot of practice this way. I plan to go out to Marfa in the last week of May when we have our spring vacation. They are apt to have some clouds out there and are in uncontrolled air space so we can do cloud flying up to 18,000 feet. But most of our actual flying will have to come in Yugoslavia.
QUESTION: Concerning the availability of Glasflugel ships since these weren't mentioned.
ANSWER: (A.J. Smith) We don't have any evidence yet that there are any really good Kestrals available. I would suppose that the 19 meter Kestral is a competitive machine. It might have some of the typical Glasflugel advantages of good detailing and good handling and all of this sort of stuff, but there hasn't been any approach by the Glasflugel people, or any real evidence that these ships are ready or would be ready for us. There has been a strong approach by the Schemp- Hirth people to present the Nimbus II. About the 604, the other long wing Kestral, again there just has been no evidence that there are any available.
COMMENT: (George Moffat) When you are in the position A.J. has described that we are in, sort of beggars, you have to evaluate what different manufacturers are likely to do as to compare with what they say they will do. Herr Hanle although he is a very charming person has a bad track record for actually supplying ships that he says he is going to provide. A.J. and I came very close to committing ourselves to Standard Libelles in 1968. We are awfully glad we didn't because we finally learned, about two weeks before the contest, that we just wouldn't have any ships. In 1968 Glasflugel failed to provide ships for several teams that they had committed, including the German team. So one of the reasons you have great reservations about 22 meter Kestral (the 604), which is virtually the same as the one that Nuebert flew down in Texas, is simply that you might very well be let down. On the other hand, Schemp- Hirth has always proved at least as reliable as anyone.
QUESTION: How about telling us of any of the conditions that you have learned about the area of Yugoslavia that you might be flying over.
ANSWER: (George Moffat) The firmest knowledge that I have been able to get comes from Klaus Holighaus who flew in the Nationals down there about a year ago. He was in general very well impressed with the area. He said the thermals were strong and the terrain pretty good, although mountainous about 150 miles to the south. There is a call for a possible goal task about 300 miles to the south, that looks as though it might be pretty rugged. Goal tasks are always extremely difficult for foreign entrants because you just haven't lived till you make a low final glide to an airport that you have never seen before. and as someone says, "Don't see now." This was particularly amusing in Poland when they gave us the field altitude six hundred feet off. It turned out to be six hundred feet higher than they said.
The terrain immediately north of the airfield has a suspicious number of blue lines on the map, seems to be a lot of canals and streams and soggy looking things so we will be pretty interested in that area on practice days.
COMMENT: (Ben Greene) I think most of you know that the contest site is VRSAC in the northeastern corner of Yugoslavia, about 85 kilometers northeast of Belgrade We have one map from the organizers, a detailed map, and it shows one, two, three, and five hundred kilometer triangles laid out generally to the west of the site. All within Yugoslavia and all over generally flat country. This area is north of the Danube in the low flat country that George just described and all incidentally in Serbia. Some of you I am sure heard of the conflicting relations within Yugoslavia between the Serbs and the Croats. This sort of thing is of concern too. These tasks are specifically laid out in Serbia and not in the area that might involve moving across the inner boundaries of Yugoslavia. One of the things that Hugo Taskovitch brought back was the prospect of a goal race. Supposedly one evening or one afternoon on a day that we don't have to fly, we are to be aerotowed up to a place about one hundred miles northwest of the sight to camp out that night. I presume in tents or something. Then the next morning we are to be launched from this town in the upper corner of Yugoslavia to race down to the border of Greece to the south. The logistics is frightening on that. I thought that someone was just putting old Hugo on that one but when we got the maps, sure enough, there it was, this big red line all the way across the country and line up to the start. So we have to get up there some way. Most of the notes I have are through the courtesy of someone who made a survey for Jim Smith. So he really should be telling you this. But I have some friends over there who tell me almost the identical thing. Also there is an article in Fortune magazine this month about this very area. Off highways you probably will have to have four wheel drive vehicles because it is wet.
The field is a big grass field. It looks pretty good from the aerial photo that I saw. One thing that might be very negative is that everyone says that the telephone system is extremely poor. This friend of mine who was over there said that if you could possibly get some single sideband radios and set them up so you could at least stay in touch, you would be a lot better off than waiting for these two and three and four hour phone calls. This has not been actively persuaded. We are working on good radio antennas for the cars and trailers to try to solve part of that.
QUESTION: Is there any rule about the team having a power plane for help in retrieve and so forth?
ANSWER: (Ben Greene) The general rules are the same as in our national contest; that is, power planes cannot be used to assist the contestants. This doesn't prevent the way power planes were used in Marfa; to look over the course prior to the contest, which we hope to do. I think they do plan to use an air type relay such as Marfa air or Bryan air to check on the people but not to retrieve and not by the teams themselves.
QUESTION: What do think about Sigma?
ANSWER: (Dick Johnson) Nick Goodhart and the British did a real big effort there and a good job. It will be unusual if a ship of this category and type wins. We've seen them, such as the B.J. 4's, come over to Marfa and they are generally more hope than expectation. They finally demonstrate that they may have potential, but they usually have some flaws or some bugs that still have to be worked out. I'll be real surprised if Goodhart is able to win with that ship, but then I've been surprised before.
QUESTION: How about the big Elfa?
ANSWER: (Dick Johnson) Yes, the 23 meter Elfa was supposed to be ready for Marfa in 1970 but now I understand is flying. It is more probable since it is more of conventional construction, about the same size and performance as the Nimbus I, I imagine. There will be good competition there so it may very well win. I think that if the American team uses the Nimbus II or the ASW- 17 we will be in a good competitive position with ships that are a little better shaken down and a little better proven.
COMMENT: (A.J. Smith) An interesting comment about how this whole thing goes. One of the opening guns if not the opening gun of the competition was when I ran an ad in Soaring magazine that the whole blasted fleet was for sale. Some of the return fire was sort of interesting. I got a stoical card from Ann Welch around Christmas time and it had a great big photograph on the front of it of the Sigma and inside, of course, it said Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Then I got a card from Nick Goodhart which had a delightful architectural photograph of some old English buildings but on the inside under the Merry Christmas and Happy New Year it said, "The program with Sigma progresses well." Pretty obviously they are convinced we're interested in knowing how they are doing and they want us to know that everything is going along swimmingly. I've had quite a correspondence with Goodhart and he apparently recognizes exactly what Dick was talking about. That is, that to assume you can get a flying machine like that into the air and have it competition prepared one year later is to make a wild assumption. He knows this and he knows there is a lot of shaking down to do. But he feels there is a good chance they can get it done. As you will note, they say in what I think is a nice objective say, that they hope to fly it in Yugoslavia. It's clear that if the ship does about what they say it will do, particularly on the low speed end; if they can climb that machine at the wing loadings they have in the weak conditions, they are going to have quite a good machine. It is not the ideal variable geometry concept, but it is certainly better than what we have now. It is sort of "If it works". I think they go up to a wing loading of about eleven pounds per square foot in the cruise configuration. You can read your previous Symposia manuals and get all the figures on that. So if it works it might not be too bad. There is a nice philosophy in that ship. The pilot puts all the energy into the system, to operate this whopping flap, and I think that is good for a sailplane. I think it would be contrary to the philosophy of soaring to, for example, carry a big battery pack or some other power source to do all this work. It is very interesting to me as I examine the possibilities of doing that amount of work in a sailplane in flight. It doesn't occur to me that this is a very big pilot load they are taking on. I think there are times during the flight when you can almost subconsciously begin to store the energy in that hydraulic system; it won't detract from your performance. And when the time comes you simply move the lever to the appropriate position and the flap goes in and out. You can go through this cycle something like five times before you have to begin storing energy again. According to Nick the flap moves out quickly and moves back in quickly and it doesn't have the disadvantages of the B.J.- 4 where you sat there with a ratchet wrench in your hand. (literally, a great big hardware store ratchet wrench). Then you ratcheted out the flaps every time you would come to a thermal or better yet what you thought was a thermal. When you suddenly discover that it wasn't a thermal, you flipped over the lever on the ratchet wrench and you ratcheted it all back in again. This took a lot of time, and in the meantime all of the troops had filed past. The Sigma may have some of these problems, certainly it will have some of them, but I think they have a fair chance of overcoming them. If they do, they have a fair chance of being a winner.
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