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Letter to the Editor

Please donít hurt anymore gliders

By Neal Pfeiffer, for Experimenter 

Glider
A fully restored Ka2b that was involved in a trailering accident 5 years ago

In the November 2011 issue of Experimenter, we published an article on converting a vintage glider to an experimental single engine land aircraft. While the concept is as innovative as the method and the automobile engine used to complete the task, the idea of (essentially) destroying a two-place glider to make a single-place airplane didn’t sit well with one particular Experimenter reader who wrote a letter to make the case that perhaps we should respect vintage aircraft of all types and search out wrecks for modification.

I fully understand the desire to experiment. I have managed an advance design group at a major aircraft factory in the United States and been responsible for loft lines on multiple projects, including an entire business jet.

However, I was somewhat disturbed at the article on the FL-1.2. I have a friend here in Wichita who is designing and building a motorglider that utilizes a number of parts from donor gliders that were seriously damaged. He has several Schweizer 1-34 gliders that have damage to different parts of the airframe. One of the gliders he collected also has a vee tail that was constructed by a previous owner after the original empennage was damaged. The glider flies well but will never have the value of the original design, even with a major repair. All of his projects are well engineered and constructed, and the value of his completed projects is greater than the original damaged gliders.

The FL-1.2, however, took what appears to be a nice, functional airframe and has made it far less useful in my opinion. The K7 glider and its predecessors, the Ka2 and Ka2b, are all nice-flying, two-place gliders that have handling qualities and performance better than the Schweizer 2-33s used regularly in the United States for flight training. It is a shame to have a glider of this type altered for questionable usage. In its original form it would be much less likely to be pushed to the back of the hangar, and it could be utilized for training or pleasure flying with a friend. A two-seater like this is excellent for introducing someone to soaring. As a one-off motorized aircraft, it is unlikely that it will be flown much, it will also have little value to anyone but the modifier, and the extent of the modification almost ensures that it will not be ever put back into the original form.

In my opinion, a better solution would have been to have built a new fuselage or find a damaged one to modify, and then use the flying surfaces from an existing glider. For a single-seat project, the wings and tail from a Ka8 might have been a better match. I know of a couple of damaged Ka8s that would have been a reasonable match.

I just completed the major repair and restoration of a Ka2b that was involved in a trailering accident 5 years ago. I’ve attached a flight photo on the day I returned the glider to flight status. So seeing the dismantling of a similar glider did not make me feel good. I also passed the article around to several other K7 owners and pilots, and the feeling was unanimous.

If someone is interested in wood or steel-tube or aluminum gliders, as a restoration project or pieces for an experimental project, I suggest they contact the Vintage Sailplane Association here in the United States. Someone there could help find older gliders to reclaim or parts that are underutilized that could be used for experimental projects.

Respectfully,

Neal Pfeiffer, EAA 603936
Wichita, Kansas
nealpfeiffer@sbcglobal.net

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