A.J. Smith

It is enjoyable being here. I think this is the fourth session. It feels quite good to be back at the old operation again. You have to realize that we on the panel learn as much as you about competition soaring. We may be a bit farther up on the learning curve where we are learning faster. However, I think the point can be made that we are learning from you people. During the summer when we have an opportunity to fly with you in competition, I think each one of you affords us an opportunity to broaden our experience and observe other pilotage techniques and consequently improve our abilities. Beyond that, we can come here and listen to the other panel members and hear them tell how they do it.

We have said it here before and we say it all the time: sailplane preparation is necessary for winning. Of the panel members, Dick Johnson, in my opinion, has exhibited the most extreme care in preparation of a ship. We have seen Dick's efforts on the RJ-5, which was probably the most highly prepared soaring plane in the history of soaring in the United States. It was successful in record flights and competition. There is plenty of evidence that preparation is necessary for winning. There are few, if any, people in the soaring movement that are winning with a sort of off-the-shelf sailplane. There are pilots in soaring that could certainly do it just as there are many sailors and other competitive drivers who can win with a sort of off- the-shelf or ratty pieces of equipment. We have those people in soaring, but unfortunately, they are competing against other people, (a few), who have very carefully prepared their sailplanes. Since the level of each pilot is as high as the other (as George and Dick have told us this morning), their chances of winning with off-the-shelf equipment are not very good.

As we begin to think about preparation for an international competition, I think it is becoming clear to me that winning on an international level is necessary for "winning." It sort of says that somehow you must make that first step. That most difficult one of getting some experience, of realizing what kind of competition you are up against and somehow pulling yourself up by the bootstraps until you get into, or close to, the winner's positions. We have been successful in doing this in recent years and our pilots now, partly because of the feedback from successful international efforts, are beginning to realize the level of competition at the top. This provides a couple of things: Number one: a realization of the amount of effort necessary to get to that level and, Number two: the realization of the amount of preparation necessary to have equipment to enable you to get to that level.

So the beginning of this chain of sailplane preparation and winning consists of a good design development. As you know, we are working hard on this aspect in the United States, and it is encouraging that we have some people coming along with new sailplane designs. I think we will have basic designs that we can develop into winning machines.

At this point, we should be concerned about how these manufacturers approach their design problems. I think the competition pilots should try to influence the manufacturers. They should give the manufacturers the benefit of their experience. I am not convinced that the manufacturers we have been dealing with in the recent history of soaring are particularly good at perceiving the requirements for good competition sailplanes and I am not convinced that they are very good at listening to competition pilots about what makes a good competition machine.

These facts provide an opportunity for our domestic sailplane designers to come up with equipment that will be competitive. What we are saying is that we somehow have to have a program. And I think we have got it going for the design of a basically good competition machine. Beyond that, as individuals, as pilots, I think that we are aware now that one technique is to begin a series of well-planned options to purchase sailplanes and to repeat the thing that we said a year or so ago. The delivery terms for good machines is in the order of 18 months to two years. You know you have got to plan ahead and to keep in touch with the manufacturers to know what their plans are for future designs and whatever. The individual, in my opinion, should begin to exercise a series of these options. You must invest some money to get into the open class now - in the order of $1,000 and if you are fortunate, the dealer will put that money in an interest bearing account and you won't lose too much that way. If you are not fortunate, you will drop a hundred or two hundred dollars over a period of the next couple of years until you get your sailplane, but I think this is part of the price you have to pay to remain competitive.

On a national level, I think we can do the same thing. Perhaps an informal association of serious competition pilots should be considered, and certainly the group should include people who are recognized to be good competition pilots forthcoming in perhaps the next five or ten years. The group should begin their exercise of a series of options to have advanced sailplane designs immediately available for international teams. I really don't see any way that we can find people who can continue the efforts that some of us have extended in preparing our own machines. It becomes more and more difficult to make a really competitive machine with individual resources. It is more and more expensive each time. We need a concertive effort of a lot of people's abilities and efforts to have a few sailplanes that are marked for international competition and are super prepared.

The system for this, assuming you have acquired a good sailplane, is to make a very careful analysis of the particular sailplane. This involves a blueprinting of your sailplane to find out if it is really built the way it should be built. This is becoming more difficult rather than easy for a number of reasons. If you have had experience in trying to get documentation on your sailplane from the manufacturer, then you know that it is difficult to get such things as templates for wing sections or even to get the basic airfoil information. It is really difficult for us to get this information. I think this neglect is a serious error in judgment on the manufacturer's part because he is blocking you from maximum efficiency of his machine. This existing situation affords a first rate opportunity for our own designers and developers to get us good competition machines. If they took the opposite approach and gave the competition pilot and the sailplane preparation expert all the tools possible to get maximum efficiency out of his sailplane, it would certainly come very much faster to the winner's circle.

After you have done this evaluation of the physical properties of your sailplane, mechanisms, etc., you should begin to make your own flight observations. You should get very good at this. The business of flight observations should include not only the kind of very accurate and surprisingly simple measurements as described by Dick Johnson yesterday, but it should also include your own subjective evaluation of the handling characteristics and controllability of the sailplane. Don't believe what the manufacturer says about the handling characteristics of your sailplane. Don't believe the distributor, the dealer or anybody else. Do your own - and don't believe even the flight reports written by your good friends. I can think specifically of a flight report that George characterizes as the best flight report ever written, and I can hardly believe that it is the same sailplane that I am flying. I can talk with the man who wrote the report and he says, "Well, yeah, you're right, you know. That does have that characteristic in it. It does work better upside down than right side up, and it does spin out in thermals and these sorts of things." So you have to make your own evaluations and you have to be terribly objective. Just because you own something doesn't make it good. This is a hurdle we have to get over.

Beyond doubt, you must make a very careful review of all the mechanical systems in the sailplane. Often it is very difficult to go into one of the current sailplanes and examine the control systems, etc. This can make for a potentially dangerous situation. It leaves a big blank out here of your understanding of your own particular piece of equipment. When you have these blank areas in your understanding of your equipment, you have a basic weakness in your ability to use that piece of equipment to maximum efficiency.

So this analysis of your new machine should not only be a personal examination of all the physical characteristics of the equipment and the flight observations, but also an examination of the mechanical systems. With my recent experiences in this area, I would suggest that everybody who has a sailplane these days which exhibits to some degree this poor inaccessibility for inspection, go home from this meeting and devote the next month to opening the thing up and looking at every single part you can find on those sailplanes. I would be happy to hear you recount some of the things you find. You may be fascinated, astounded, shocked and frightened.

Last of all, or as a part of this, you should make a very careful aerodynamic study of your sailplane. Later today, you will hear Wil Schuemann tell about how he came to solutions after this kind of aerodynamic study of his particular machine. You can go back over the history of the RJ5 (which is equally exciting) and see how you can begin to improve your particular machine.

If you came here because you are interested in competition sailplanes, then you should be willing to saw into your sailplane and begin to make modifications. If you don't have capability in structures or in aerodynamics, then make certain, of course, that you have the very best advice available; the advice of somebody like Dick Johnson, who can tell you if your modifications really have structural implications, aerodynamic implications or control implication and if they are safe. The point is, if you are going to be a serious competitor, you have got to break away from the business of saying, "I am going to maintain my ship in a standard category and be able to sell it in a standard category." You may be missing perhaps a good 5 or 10 percent increase in performance. Don't be afraid to make modifications. This kind of review, preparation and modification probably at the minimum (if you figure competitive life span of your ship to be three or four years) is going to involve about 2,000 man-hours, maybe more. Mine has been involving more than that.

To accomplish this sailplane program systematically, what is the proper sequence? I think in protective terms, and recommend the safety aspects of your sailplane be considered first. The control and handling characteristics should have a high priority. Then begin to think about performance improvement. This puts things in the proper prospective and it reminds us that before we tear off into performance improvements, we had better well be conscious of the safety and the control and handling aspects of what we are going to do before we get out the saw.

Perhaps a few illustrations of the type modifications I have in mind might help. On my particular sailplane, you could not get your heel on the brake and keep your foot on the rudder pedals at the same time, which presented one of the shortest dilemmas in the world - like about 10 seconds, but one of the most intense - shall I or shall I not. I had a hundred percent average in doing the wrong thing. I either put on the brake when I should have been using the rudder pedal or pushed rudder when I should have been trying to stop the sailplane. We build a very simple pair of extensions to the brake pedal out of aluminum angle and bolted them together with a pair of Teflon slides, guided by the rudder pedal adjustment assembly and stuck a long bolt through the whole mess so that you could get both heels on the thing at the same time and still keep both toes on the rudder pedal. I sketched around on it three or four hours and John Kuhn built it in three or four hours I suppose. I think we have got more than that in it but, you know, it is not a long modification. It is sort of a 20- hour job and if you have got 14,000 dollars invested in a sailplane, it is certainly worthwhile. This illustrates my idea of the sort of thing that doesn't get you any performance, but the type problem you ought to start thinking about early in the flying of your machine. You can crash and burn the whole business in the first flight or so if you have problems like this.

Another problem was the safe landing of the 12. We had a choice of a number of spoiler or landing control devices. Some of them very interesting, as suggested by the people at NASA. But in the absence of development time, what we were really trying to do was to get this ship prepared for the internationals. It is the only ship we really have now. If the Nimbus II is completed in time, I am reasonably certain I'll fly that, but again if you are preparing for internationals, you certainly had better have a machine that is competitive and know that you've got it. Who knows, the Schempp- Hirth factory could burn down between now and the 29th of June. It has happened before so you are forced to go through this kind of development. So, in the absence of development time, we elected to put on a parachute assembly to get some redundancy. (Redundancy means that you get two failures per flight instead of just one. We wanted a chute system and a packing system that was essentially like our tail chute so that we had interchangeability and we only had to carry one spare not especially modified. It is a simple solution. John molded a small housing made of fiberglass. First, he made a clay mockup right over the assembly area and just laid a little fiberglass fitting that pops over the top of the assembly. A very nice job of fairing it in. Alongside the wheel well, we built another fiberglass box and the chute comes into that from the outside. I hate to think how many hours we have in this one. I guess it's at least 100 to 150. If you are going to put a price on that kind of work, you've got to say you have many hundreds of dollars, maybe a thousand dollars in this one modification. So this illustrates what you have to go through when you have to put fixes on top of fixes.

In summary, let me say the course that we are taking in open competition in soaring internationaly, certainly is to me quite clear and I don't see any reverse for it. I may be mightily surprised in a year or two and dead wrong, but I don't see any reverse. The open class is going to continue to bring forth some very, very special one-of-a-kind sailplanes. They will be difficult and expensive to build, and in my opinion, absolutely worth the effort. I wouldn't want it any other way. I think we should have one area in our efforts where we are all exercising every bit of our mental ability and technical skill for better and better sailplanes. I think the open competition affords this kind of opportunity. The United States should really have a sort of Sigma type program going where we are making our own special competition machine. Maybe it would be one of a kind and would go through a very thorough design, construction, and development. It should be shaken out in all the competitions in which it can be flown in this country by the top pilots who can fly it. It should be prepared thoroughly for an international competition and be ready to go to an international competition any day of the week.

It's got to get that way pretty soon. I don't think many of us can continue the effort where every two years we begin this mad scramble to locate a competitive sailplane, and get it into condition the last day and then expect it to do a good job in that competition. We have got to do better planning.

I am certain as we extend our investigations in open class machines we come to consider more and more seriously variable geometry concepts. There are several different ways our super competition machine can go, but certainly variable geometry is one direction. Preliminary thought has been given to a variable span ship that would climb (as we consider climbing today) in a standard thermal with a relatively low wing loading (6 1/2 to 7 1/2 lbs. per sq. ft.) and do as good a job probably on a 65-foot span as most sailplanes do now in the climb condition; but as it leaves the thermal, this sailplane would cruise in the 110-125 knot range with at least the same glide angles, or maybe slightly improved, that we are achieving today in the 75-85 knot range. So, we are talking about a range of about a 25 percent improvement in cruise condition. There are other approaches. Our super sailplane may use a different philosophy in cross country flights. One that we are learning a good deal about all the time - and that is: How do you keep it going straight ahead and stay up? There may be sailplanes designed more in line with this concept. I think this is one that is worth investigating. It appears to me from conversations with a lot of people who have contributed ideas to this variable span concept that this is not a difficult problem to solve. It just takes time and money, like everything else.

The standard class area of competition is another that is with us. In one philosophy or another, it will remain with us. I make that prediction again. I may be wrong. Dealing with standard class competition could be easier. I think we soon ought to establish a relationship with our home manufacturers and in some way or another through syndication, informal association, or contribution begin to have at least one representative sailplane from each manufacturer thoroughly prepared for competition. And again, to repeat, I think this means an added 2,000 man-hours for that particular machine and maybe more with a continuing responsibility of the people who fly that machine to keep in the very best of condition and the latest and most dependable equipment. These would be machines particularly designated for international competition.

We don't have to make apologies to this group of people about wanting to win or having a desire for competition. It is a most desirable kind of activity, and I think that is what we are here for. The most important thing in the preparation of sailplanes for international competition is that we begin this chain of events that I have discussed right now.

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