Monday, June 30, 2014

A look at the competing gliders...

WGC2014 – Räyskälä, Finland
30 June   (no-contest day)
by John Good

 Another rest/rain day.  An occluded front parked in southern Finland continues to bring in low cloud and light rain from the southwest.  Tomorrow is said to offer hope of flyable weather, but today has none and flying was cancelled early.

It’s time for a look at the gliders competing here.  The Club class is intended to provide competition for single-place aircraft found in the hangars of glider clubs throughout Europe.  That tends to mean gliders that were being produced 20 to 40 years ago.  This class is handicapped based on glider performance, and there seems to be some preference for gliders at the lower-performance end of the handicap range (on the basis that if you can stay with a competitor flying a higher-performance glider, your handicap yields a better score).

It’s interesting to note the considerable overlap between gliders of the Club class of 2014 and the Standard class of 1976: Cirrus, Libelle, LS-1, Std Jantar and Hornet are models found in both competitions.  A big difference is the large number of PIK-20s found in 1976 – none is competing here (in the home country of this model).  The reasons aren’t entirely clear, though the fact that this is an “orphan” model is no doubt important: the factory is out of business and spares are somewhere between hard and impossible to get. So you can buy one cheaply, but maintaining it may be formidable.

In 2014, the Standard class (which basically means 15-meter span, no flaps) is dominated by just two models: Discus 2 and LS-8 (both of which designs are around 20 years old).  Very few new gliders for this class have been sold in recent years, and it appears that no glider factory has plans for a new model. Indeed, there is considerable feeling that the class may be withering away (despite good participation here).  Glider manufacturers are devoting their single-seat attention to the 18-Meter class, where sales seem brisk despite rather shockingly high prices.

The 20-Meter Multiplace class is new – indeed, this is the first world championship for this class. Its presence here can be attributed to the huge success of Schempp-Hirth’s DuoDiscus, a 20-meter 2-seater of which more than 600 have been sold.  In view of this model’s popularity, it was fairly easy to convince the IGC (international gliding commission) that a world championship for this class would make sense and attract many entries.  But if you look at the scoresheet, you find it’s dominated by the Arcus, which can be thought of as an improved DuoDiscus (with flaps, and a substantially higher price tag). There was discussion of applying handicaps to this class, which could have made the many Duos competitive; but t

The only truly new glider here is ”32”:  Schleicher’s  ASG-32, a  flapped competitor to the Arcus.  This is the first one produced, and it’s notable that the Schleicher factory was able to have it ready in time for this contest.  It was produced with a motor, but (like some of the motorized Arcus here) this was removed in order to meet the maximum weight requirement (750 kg / 1658 lbs).  The ’32 looks very well made (as indeed Schleicher gliders always do) and sports an interesting retractable/steerable tailwheel.  The early view seems to be that it climbs and glides about like an Arcus.

A further item from The Groundloop (WGC1976 contest bulletin):  On the third day of that contest a plane “landed through the foggy” to deliver a distinguished guest at Räyskälä: it was William Conrad, a well-known actor prominent at the time for his role in the TV series Cannon.  The story notes that he had recently taken up gliding but was an experienced pilot, having flown fighters (including the P-51) during WW2, while based in the “Illusion Islands” (presumably a chain of islands that appears to be – but in fact is not – southwest of Alaska).

(I did some research on William Conrad and discovered that he did the narration for the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon series. And it occurred to me that “Illusion Islands” is just the sort of thing the writers of that show would have used.)

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