Last Update: Draft 2, 3-June-2005
Every two years the giant 4-day "Aero" exposition is held in Friedrichshafen, Germany, a beautiful resort town on Lake Constance. Aero includes an impressive array of different aviation aspects, from ultralights to general aviation. All manner of aircraft, aviation accessories and services, national aero clubs across Europe, and did I mention gliders ? All the major glider business manufacturers exhibit; gliders, instruments, trailers, and all kinds of services and doo-dads. Gliders from Alisport, AMS, DG, HPH, Lak, Lange, Pipistrel, Schempp-Hirth, Schliecher, Silent, SZD, TeST, and many others ! Lots of gliders ! Two huge exhibition halls completely filled with glider exhibits, overflowing into a couple more. I attended Aero this year to work on some instrumentation projects with ILEC and to catch up on the latest in glider news.
The most important new development displayed at Aero is the FLARM collision warning system. The FLARM not-for-profit group in Switzerland was formed to address the risk of collision with both other gliders and obstacles (cables are a major obstacle hazard in the Alps). They created FLARM, a little box that beeps at you and gives information about the orientation of the collision hazard, for just 540 Euros (including GPS output to feed your flight computer). FLARM is becoming extremely popular, with 450 flying at end of 2004, and more than 2600 shipped since. For reference, note gliders in Switzerland number about 1200, with 500 in Austria, and about 7000 in Germany. FLARM has just started shipping in Italy and France. Most gliders in Switzerland, Austria, and the Alps will shortly be FLARM equipped !
FLARM only works if collision-risk aircraft are both FLARM-equipped. FLARM transmits aircraft GPS position at low-power in the 868-928 MHz band, which needed permission for airborne use in some countries (the ITU recommendation is apparently unclear as to whether airborne use of this band is expected).
Sadly, FLARM is currently not for use in USA or Canada because the group is unable to secure reasonable liability insurance here and is extremely concerned about our litigation-prone society. Consequently they have done no work to determine what would be required to obtain permission from the FCC. Too bad, as USA has 25% of the world's glider pilots, and FLARM could really improve safety in areas like atop the White Mountains in California.
FLARM includes an internal GPS and outputs standard NMEA-183 sentences. The ILEC SN10 flight computer will provide on-screen collision warnings from FLARM in a release in near-future (as well as using FLARM as the GPS navigation source), as will other flight computers. FLARM software will be updated in future to provide IGC-compatible flight recording, but FLARM will not be an "IGC-certified" flight recorder.
Unfortunately FLARM can't see aircraft that are not FLARM equipped. Decades past, a friend of mine had an idea similar to FLARM, but planned to broadcast aircraft position and track information from ground radar (at lower resolution) to avoid the chicken-and-egg problem. This project was Loran-based, and though we showed the FAA deputy-administrator how it would cost less money to give these away for free than the TCAS program was going to cost, TCAS was the freight-train…
The FLARM box and antennas are quite small, and the optional remote "hazard indicator" is even smaller. Here's the Schempp-Hirth Discus 2c demonstrator's panel, with the FLARM remote indicator at top. The ILEC SN10 (bottom center) will provide an on-screen FLARM warning indicator in a future software release.
Schempp-Hirth announced the Duo Discus "X" model, featuring a landing flap for steeper slower approach and landing, a sprung landing gear, and new wingtips with winglets (US wingtip and winglet specialist Professor Mark Maughmer was here). The flaps exactly balance the lift killed by the spoilers, so you can slam the spoilers shut with no settling (tested at 1 meter AGL I'm assured). Certification is planned for late 2005. If you order now you can get a Duo in about 2 years. Uh oh, time to upgrade…
The Ventus 2bxr fuselage with its integral parachute rescue was on display. Only 6 Venti have been shipped with the parachute; most customers opt for the sustainer and you can't have both.
Schempp-Hirth also exhibited the Discus 2c 18-meter glider which looks beautiful !
I think the old Duo Discus tips are more elegant than the Maughmer tips on the new Duo Discus "X" !
The Duo Discus "X" model adds a sprung landing gear and landing flaps.
The gorgeous Antares electric glider was again displayed. It has a roomy and comfortable cockpit, and controls so light you'll swear they aren't hooked up. 11 have been delivered to customers in the last year and a half, with production now at 2 per month. At least a couple are headed to USA later this year. The simplicity of operation is stunning - one lever, 5 seconds from gliding flight to full-powered flight, and about 10 seconds to return to gliding flight. No fuss ! Only one hand ! The price is also stunning; base of 130,000 Euro but expect to pay 150 to 170 for a fully-equipped glider with trailer. Antares can take off easily, and with a full charge climbs a total of 3000 meters before depleting the batteries (ration this between takeoff and what you might need to return home).
Here's the Antares electric glider, an experimental electric version of the Apis M, and an experimental electric sustainer system.
60 DG-1000s have now been delivered. The first DG-1000 sustainer motor didn't work out, so DG has switched to Solo. With the new Solo motor just sorted out, they'll be working through a back-log of sustainer-equipped DG-1000 orders for a while yet (first customer delivery in June). There's a 2 year wait for one of these beauties.
The DG-808C was introduced, upping the maximum weight in 18-meter to 575kg. This motor-glider permits motor use in 15-meter as well as 18-meter span (unlike the Ventus 2cm). DG's DEI motor controller has been further enhanced to reduce pilot workload. You can get a delivery in late 2005.
The first completely DG-built LS-8 has just been delivered, equipped with a Solo sustainer, to OLC competition honcho Reiner Rose. After a long absence, the LS-8 is really back !
Schleicher showed the ASW-28-18e (18-meter with sustainer), a parachute rescue system, and the ASK-21-Mi self launch trainer. No ASG-29 to look at yet !
Stemme hopes to fly their new S6 touring motorglider in June or July. The S2 side-by-side pure glider, which shares some components with the S6, should fly in October or November this year. Side-by-side seating is much more sociable than flying around in a long tube ! I still have my all-aluminum RHJ-8 side-by-side which is a blast to fly.
The S2 is a 20 meter flapped glider, with "better than 47:1" expected, and all new aerodynamics and structure as compared to the earlier S10. It will have a three-piece folding wing like the S10, which is hangar-friendly (fits in a standard T-hangar) but trailer-unfriendly (requires a special trailer; I can't image lifting that 6-meter center-section). The S2 will have a steel frame mid-section, CRP spar, and mixed carbon/glass for wing skins and tail. Base price around 68,000 Euro, production early 2006. Uh oh, time to upgrade...
The OLC Online Contest has become wildly popular in Germany and all around the world. OLC had a booth sponsored by Aerokurier magazine. New for 2005, OLC will accept flight logs from some flight recorders that do not have IGC approval. For example, if you submit a flight log from your ILEC SN10, you'll see a "Blue Smiley" after its approved for OLC (IGC-approved flight-recorders get a "Green Smiley").
TOST had a great 60th anniversary party with a great Jazz band composed entirely of glider folks !
Towing with microlights and motorgliders is very popular, and many were exhibited sporting tow hooks. A European "microlight" is a light aircraft roughly comparable to the US Sport Aircraft, but often bigger and faster. One example exhibited is capable of towing a 750kg glider !
I bumped in to Gerhard Waibel (the "W" in ASW). Gerhard says he's enjoying his retirement but keeping his fingers in gliding; he worked with Dick Butler on the supership Dick used to win the USA 2004 Open Class National Championships. Now Gerhard is helping Dick with the Concordia even-bigger-supership project Dick has under construction.
HPH had a large exhibit with a few gliders including the fuselage of their upcoming 304S "Scorpion" glider, and of course giant display cases of their beautiful scale models.
Pipistrel had a nice exhibit including their Sinus motorglider, but not the new Taurus. Robert Mudd was on hand (Robert represents Pipistrel and Lak in the USA).
Supership ETA #6 will have been delivered by the time you read this, and they're ready to build yours ! As Hans-Werner Grosse says, you don't want to be the richest in the graveyard, so you'd better order yours now. As they say, if you have to ask...
Polish manufacturer SZD had a large exhibit showing new production examples of the Junior, Puchacz, Acro, and others. SZD shipped its 5000th glider in December 2004, and also continues to produce airframes and components for other manufacturers (such as the Stemme airframes). SZD is not marketing their products in USA at this time, choosing to concentrate on the European market.
Slovenian manufacturer AMS showed examples of the Carat motorglider, APIS motorglider, DG-303, and an LS-4. AMS licensed the rights to manufacture the LS-4 and LS-6 after the LS bankruptcy, and expect to deliver the first new LS-4s in late 2005. New production of the LS-6C-18 will be later. You can order a new LS-4, typically optioned, at a price of about 42,000 Euros (plus instruments, trailer, shipping). You can see some LAKs and a Stemme in the background.
Alisport Silent 2
A Silent 2 flew 389 miles out of Zapata Texas last year, so (contrary to rumor) apparently 13-meter gliders actually do fly ! Note the unusual single-bladed prop on this self-launcher.
In one of the large halls at Aero, 30 vintage gliders were exhibited. A partially-completed new-construction Horten IV flying-wing was exhibited (above), as were some other new-old glider projects. These gliders didn't look so good when they left the factory !
Aeros AL-12M Ultralight Self-Launch Sailplane
The Ukraine manufacturer Aeros showed its diminutive 13-meter ultralight self-launch sailplane with retractable motor. Empty weight is only 105kg !
About the author: Dave Nadler is the principal designer of the ILEC SN10 flight computer system, one of today's most popular integrated flight computer systems, manufactured by ILEC GmbH in Bayreuth, Germany. Dave has flown 2700 hours in sailplanes (mostly in competition), and was the winner of the 1994 Giltner trophy for fastest speed in the USA 15-meter nationals. Dave currently flies a Ventus 2cm, a Duo Discus, and an RHJ-8.
Copyright © 2005 - Dave Nadler - All Rights Reserved