Glight! (Glider Flight)
December 1945 Flying Age including Flying Aces

December 1945 Flying Age

Flying Age December 1945 - Airplanes and Rockets Table of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like Flying Aces, Air Trails, American Modeler, American Aircraft Modeler, Young Men, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, R/C Modeler, captured the era. All copyrights acknowledged.

Gliders (aka sailplanes) have always attracted me because of their sleek lines and graceful, silent flight. As a sailboat requires its pilot to possess a knowledge of how to exploit properties of air currents to propel his water craft, so, too, must a glider pilot know how to interpret and predict air currents to enable long flights of his aircraft. As an enthusiast and practitioner of both model and full-size boats and airplanes (many moons ago), I have great appreciation for both motor-powered and nature-powered versions, but given a choice between the two, I'll take the sailplane and the sailboat most of the time. It was not until materials science was able to produce spars and skins strong and light enough for enabling high aspect ratio wings that glider transformed from pudgy and boxy to lean and highly aerodynamic. High performance sailplanes can achieve greater than 40:1 glide ratios, meaning 40,000 feet (7½ miles) horizontally for every 1,000 feet of altitude lost (in neutral air). In 1945 when this "Glight!" article appeared in Flying Age magazine, the aforementioned materials discoveries had either not yet been made or not yet applied to glider airframes, as can be seen in these photos. The most graceful is probably the gull-winged Minimoa, but it is still a long way from modern carbon fiber models.

Glight! (Glider Flight)

Glight! (Glider Flight), December 1945 Flying Age Including Flying Aces - Airplanes and Rockets

Flight is ,never so free, so graceful as in a glider. The Schweizer TG-2 aloft. Hans Groenhoff photo.

Gliding flight, Glight, more than a sport, may well hold the key to our future air force.

By Sally E. Knapp

The step-child of aviation is finally coming into her own.

So definitely did the war establish the utility of the glider, that no one will ever again question its value, not only as the instrument of a fascinating sport, but as a military weapon, a potential commercial carrier, and a laboratory for scientific research as well.

Flight without power was given its first real boost in this country when Congress recently passed a bill which recognizes the value of gliding as preliminary training for all pilots. This measure, allowing pilots to glide as much as fifty percent of the hours required for a private license, and up to twenty-five percent of the flight time required for a commercial license, is strong evidence that our government has learned a valuable lesson from the bitter experience of pilot shortages in the early days of the war.

There is no way of truly estimating how much American air power suffered because we were so much slower than the enemy to learn the value of motorless flight as precombat training. We do know that in one respect, at least, we missed the boat.

We know now that Germany's vast reservoir of glider pilots was a strong factor in making the Luftwaffe the powerful menace in European skies that it was during the first years of the war. Wiser in the ways of military preparedness than peace-loving nations, she had begun years before to subsidize a glider training program for all high-school boys. Every physically-fit, teen-aged German male was in this way exposed to an ideal screening process which eliminated those unfit to fly before they ever got into the more expensive power plane training. Out of this process emerged a strong nucleus of young men for future combat instruction.

Women, too, were encouraged to glide first, then fly - Airplanes and Rockets

Of all the United Nations, only the Soviet Union made proficient use of gliders to train its fliers. Women, too, were encouraged to glide first, then fly. And from the ranks of the gliders came many of Russia's aces. Sovfoto

Shown here is the graceful, gull-winged Minimoa - Airplanes and Rockets

Out of the glider clubs that grew up in defeated, disarmed Germany, the Nazis built a mighty Luftwaffe. Gliders taught that nation to fly. Shown here is the graceful, gull-winged Minimoa.

Schweizer sailplane takes off in tow - Airplanes and Rockets

A Schweizer sailplane takes off in tow swiftly, easily.

Simpler and neater is the instrument panel of a glider - Airplanes and Rockets

Simpler and neater is the instrument panel of a glider. Three Lions photo

Sailplane he adapted from the British Kirby Kadet - Airplanes and Rockets

Alexis Dawydoff in the sailplane he adapted from the British Kirby Kadet for classroom construction from a packaged kit. Hans Groenhoff photo   

CG-10 came the plans for commercial cargo glider - Airplanes and Rockets

Out of the wartime invasion uses of such gliders as this CG-10 came the plans for commercial cargo glider trains. Acme photo.

Sailplanes like this Balsy Bowlus - Airplanes and Rockets

Trim lines and high-lift wings in sailplanes like this Balsy Bowlus often set the key for aircraft experimentation.

Gliding has a growing following - Airplanes and Rockets

 Gliding has a growing following. Here members of a gliding club line up to be towed aloft by a hired power plane.

Beginners learn in primary gliders - Airplanes and Rockets

Beginners learn in primary gliders which, unlike the more graceful sailplanes, cannot soar above the release point.

Only Russia, of all the major allied nations was equally astute in understanding the value of glider training. As a country, perhaps more air-minded than any other in the world, she organized a national program of flight indoctrination in the years before the war, with glider training for both men and women. Consequently at the outbreak of the war, Russia had a valuable military reserve of 1,000,000 certified pilots.

Out of the war came many non-military uses of the glider. One of -these, the commercial use of glider fleets for carrying cargo by air, stems directly from our experience with the CG4A glider used so successfully for invasion. Its successor, designated as CG13A, now in production, has a wing span not much less than the DC-3, can carry 4,000 pounds along with thirty passengers and crew members, and is equipped with all flight instruments, radio, tricycle landing gear, brakes, and could even be equipped with an automatic pilot. This, says one airline official, is what mail houses will use extensively in the future to distribute goods from main warehouses to branch stores. Such glider fleets, he maintains, will also be invaluable to the airlines in transportation of perishable goods.

It is hard to say where the sport ends and where the scientific study begins in soaring, for every flight, is a study in air currents, and every experimental jaunt made by an amateur enthusiast with it new gadget on his sailplane, adds to our knowledge of the structure of aircraft.

This is more true of soaring than gliding. The distinction is this: Gliding, being a more elementary training technique, consists of dropping from the release point to the ground. Soaring is an advanced form in which altitudes above that of the launching point are attained by using upward air currents.

Motorless flight provides more of a challenge to the pilot, a more satisfying proving ground for the engineer and scientist, than any other branch of aviation. Perhaps this, more than any other reason, promises gliding and soaring a brilliant future with Americans, who love a challenge.

The Soaring Society of America, a national organization of glider enthusiasts, has been working against tremendous odds to promote interest in motorless flight in this country. Without government subsidies such as many European countries grant, its work has necessarily been limited. The British government, for instance, has been giving direct subsidies of up to seventy percent of equipment and operating costs to private glider clubs for some time. As a result England has today an outstanding national glider program.

A similar project in this country would give gliding the boost it needs and deserves. Even with a much smaller subsidy (just enough to stimulate) the S.S.A. could organize thousands of glider clubs where for sixty-five dollars a year each member could do all the flying he wanted to do.

Also, with government assistance, the organization could carry on an extensive research program which would benefit the entire aviation industry. Even with the limited means at its disposal, the S.S.A. has been carrying on some valuable experiments. The development of the glider has increased our knowledge of materials and structures and has even influenced the design of commercial aircraft.

In the field of aerodynamics particularly, gliding has provided us with a whole storehouse of scientific data. We have learned, for instance, that mountainous regions are not the only good sources of thermals, but that certain cloud formations as well indicate fine soaring currents. In fact, new experiments go even further than that, proposing a dynamic soaring that is not dependent at all upon circulation of air and gust factors.

Another scientific contribution of gliding is a miniature vane, so placed on the edge of the wing that it indicates the true angle of attack. Since in the glider the angle of attack is a more dependable guide than air speed. this instrument if connected to a dial on the panel would provide a much surer method of judging an approach to stalling point than the air speed indicator now installed in lightplanes.

And then there is the "thermal sniffer," developed by Dr. August Raspet from an old principle into a simple, inexpensive, practical device. This unique gadget can detect temperature variations of 1/100th of a degree centigrade and so can indicate on a dial the direction of those warm rising currents of air from from which the soaring pilot gets a lift.

The experience gained by members of the S.S.A. stood us in good stead when the war came. From this group of amateur enthusiasts came the only competent glider pilots and designers in the country, when the armed forces finally realized their need. One of the main activities of the S.S.A. before the war was the annual meet at Elmira, where thousands of spectators gathered on Harris Hill to witness practical tests of new scientific theories in meteorology and aerodynamics. Hundreds of contestants brought with them new ideas to be tried out and improved upon. Many of these gliders and sailplanes were flying laboratories with their meteorographs, accelerometers, two-way, two and one-half-meter radio equipment and other instruments.

Flight without power is not a new activity by any means, though in these days of jet propulsion and airline flights to Europe we forget that long before the Wright brothers there were many motorless flights. The Wright brothers themselves were exponents of motorless flight, proficient in it long before they used a motor, which they always considered as auxiliary power.

As the twentieth century grew older, more and more glider enthusiasts joined together in groups, held national, meets and hung up new records. This fascinating sport gained a wider, though always somewhat limited popularity. Some of the records made at these annual gatherings are almost unbelievable, perhaps even more to a power plane pilot than to a neophyte: twenty-one thousand feet of altitude without any motor - nearly four miles above the point of release, attained by merely riding the air currents; and distance flights of hundreds of miles. Important results in flight technique, design and structure of aircraft and instrument and meteorological research grew directly out of these annual meets.

But no less important to our expanding post-war aviation is the ability of gliders to promote a "bred-in-the-bone" air-mindedness in the nation's young people. It provides the ideal intermediate link, eliminating any teenage gap, between model builders and the engineers, pilots and mechanics who will staff the aviation industry.

A Civilian glider pilot training program for boys and girls rightfully belongs in the high schools of our country. High schools could operate a national program combining flight training and glider construction at little additional expense over what it now costs to maintain shop classes in vocational schools. Out of the materials they would purchase for shop work, they could build gliders and learn more about aircraft construction and the fundamentals of flight than a dozen texts could teach them. These gliders could then be used for the flight instruction. In this way, a program of elementary air-age indoctrination for our young people could be developed quite naturally.

In 1941 such a glider program was started under the Department of Education and later carried through by many individual states, but these failed to be completely successful because by then, with the country at war, material for building gliders was not available and experienced glider instructors were very scarce. Today there is plenty of material and hundreds of ex-military instructors ready to teach gliding to fledglings.

Another reason why gliding belongs rightfully to teenagers is that it is inherently an ideal way to teach group cooperation and team work. The participation of all members of the team is needed in taking the glider from the trailer, assembling it, launching it by winch or tow and then loading it on to the trailer again when the flight is complete. As a healthy, outdoor exercise, gliding can't be beat.

Also, gliding provides the safest, least expensive and most fundamentally sound approach to flight with power. The principles governing the flight of sail-planes and power planes are identical. A pre-power course in a glider for every pilot-to-be would make better pilots, for there is a distinct margin of safety available for the pilot who has learned to think of the plane's motor as an accessory. Just recently, for instance, a pilot over the Rockies put his soaring knowledge to good use. At 2,600 feet he found he could not gain any more altitude even with power full on, but soon he had climbed to 8,000 feet, by riding a thermal.

Motorless flight promotes a finer flying technique, a stall-consciousness that even the best power plane pilot may never attain, because in all glider take-offs and altitude-gaining soaring flights, the ship is flown in a near-stall position.

As the sailplane circles in a thermal, in maximum climbing efficiency with a minimum sinking speed, it is at a point so near stall that the ship burbles and shakes, and the pilot must be really "on the ball" every second if he doesn't want to stall out of the climb. When towed by an auto or winch tow the glider climbs at an angle of nearly thirty degrees. All turns are made close to a stall because a sailplane gives the best performance at slower speeds, having considerable less wing loading than a lightplane. Nine pounds per square foot is the usual wing loading for a light-plane while five pounds is considered high wing loading for a sailplane. This combined with streamlining makes the glider much more maneuverable than any lightplane.

What a difference wing loading makes was definitely shown in the superior maneuverability of Jap planes with their twenty-five pounds compared to our own forty to seventy pounds. Of course, this was offset in American planes by sturdier construction, higher driving speeds, greater pilot protection and more ammunition space.

Glider training develops a keener flying judgment. Shelley Charles, who flies the Eastern Airline route from Atlanta to Miami, has said that until he took up gliding, forced landings were his greatest dread, but that now he thinks he could set the huge airliner down safely in any cow pasture. The emphasis placed on simulated forced landings in any flight training program shows that this is a universal fear for all power plane pilots. But in a glider, every landing is a forced landing, and the pilot learns early in the game how to pick a good field quickly and land in it safely.

Gliding as a prerequisite to power flying would produce a much lower accident rate, not only because it is good basic training, but also because it is an ideal screening method for eliminating poor flying risks. As Psychiatrist Dr. Walsh, of the Mayo Clinic, pointed out recently, "It is evident that anything as complex as the human psyche can never be gauged by any psychological tests, although tests may provide a limited amount of information at times. It is definitely dangerous, however, to rely on them for decisions as to acceptance or rejection of a candidate for the Air Forces, In the final analysis, the capability of it person for any type of highly skilled endeavor such as flying is best tested when he is given actual opportunity to do it."

Interest in gliding is picking up in this country, but in spite of the undeniable progress made in recent years, the full development of motorless flight in the United States needs some further boosts. Not only do we need the development of thousands of glider clubs, and a national program of glider training, but we also need annual meets in many parts of the country to replace one large national meet at Elmira.

We need the production of top-notch, easy-to-build gliders in kit forms such as the cadet glider adapted to American use from a British design by Alexis Dawydoff and now being, used by the RCAF in its own training program of A.T.C. students. We need factory models too, to supplement the few army surplus gliders now available.

Many aircraft companies are ready to produce such ships. The Frankfort Co. of Chicago manufactures the Cinema 1, an intermediate sailplane, and the Cinema II, a two-place glider. The Schweizer Co, puts out a two-place trainer with metal construction and fabric covering, and a single-seated utility glider.

Laister-Kauffmann manufactures the "Yankee Doodle," a two-place high performance sailplane, and the Bowlus, an intermediate single-place sailplane. At Van Nuys, California, Briegleb manufactures three types of gliders: the BG-6 utility glider in kit form, with a tapered wing; the BG-7, intermediate sailplane; and the BG-8, a two-place sailplane. The Mid-West is a utility glider with interchangeable sailplane wings made by Steinhauser of Chicago.

Most of the single-seaters cost between $800 and $1,000, the two-place glider about $2,000, These costs, all right for clubs, but rather high for individual ownership, will be lowered as sales increase. All these companies are waiting for is demand. It is a vicious circle really, for the price, drop waits on increased demand and increased demand waits on the price drop.

The development of inexpensive instruments for gliders will be another forward step in increased glider utility. Regular airplane instruments used in gliders are extremely inaccurate. The ridiculous situation now existing makes it necessary deliberately to install vibrators in gliders to simulate the lightplane vibration for which the instruments have been designed.

Perhaps more than anything else, we need glider sites, areas from which gliders and sailplanes can be launched without fear of commercial traffic. Hangars where they can be safely stored when not in use, will eliminate the time-consuming process of fitting together and disengaging. There is no real reason why we should not add glider airports to the municipal, military and private airports we now have or plan to have throughout the country.

Already CA.A. officials are worrying about the inability of many returning service pilots to adjust themselves to the flying of lightplanes. Several accidents in the last month or so have been entirely due to the fact that pursuit or bomber pilots get bored with the slow performance of a lightplane and try to make it do maneuvers it was not built for, with the inevitable result.

Soaring is your answer to this problem, for here is a new and interesting aspect of flying which has an appeal all its own, a fascination for the ex-service pilot that small power plane flying will never have. Lightplanes are excellent, of course, for trips, but for real recreation, give the pilot, bored with power planes, an experience lie has never had before, a challenge that will hold his interest - flight without power!

No nation can afford .to maintain an inactive fleet of thousands of airplanes, nor a large air force personnel training program in peace time, But a sound gliding program is the easiest and most economical method of universally popularizing flying and giving our nation a backlog of half a million potential combat pilots for training in an emergency.

The security of any nation is said to lie in its air power and the vigor of that air power may well depend upon power-free flight.



Posted October 28, 2023