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BirdGlider: A Free-Flying Freebie Primary Glider
Koen Van de Kerckhove decided to make plans for his BirdGlider free after perceiving a need for a simple primary glider.
By Dave Higdon
July 23, 2015 - There’s no such thing as a free lunch, the saying goes; nothing’s free but air and sunshine, say others.
Koen Van de Kerckhove has some free love for fans of simple soaring—a decision he made when he saw a need for a frugal, simple soaring machine—something so versatile that it would appeal to even aging hang glider pilots…the ones whose legs no longer safely support a running foot launch off a mountaintop.
The result of his thinking: The BirdGlider, a new take on the old primary glider concept. Koen—pronounced “Coon”—initially considered making and selling kits for his aluminum-and-fabric creation.
“I saw in Oshkosh the great need for something else” beyond other options available, he said. But life intervened, and he needed to focus his time and efforts on something else. “I need to concentrate on that project; I dropped the idea of making BirdGlider kits.”
But that need he perceived nagged at him.
“The BirdGlider is too good to go to waste.”
So he decided to make his plans available for free—but not until he gets back home to Belgium. Then he plans to post his plans online for builders to use for free.
He’d start his aeronautical philanthropy while still here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015, but: “No laptop here.”
“My goal is to give something to the man of the street, like Henri Mignet did with his Flying Flea,” he said. “To make it possible for him to realize his dream and low cost and join us in the air.
The launch options are multiple, Coon said: Foot launch down a slope; rolling launch with the center wheel; towing; winch it up.
He said he will also include plans to give BirdGlider a full set of hand controls so wheelchair pilots can fly it, too.
And with a simple aluminum structure BirdGlider should be relatively inexpensive to build—albeit not quite free.
But give him some time to get home first.
BirdGlider by the numbers
Span: 31.17 feet
Wing area: 136.7 feet
Length: 13 feet
Typical empty weight: 110 pounds
Glide ratio: 15:1
Best glide speed: 35 mph
Best sink speed: 28 mph
Controls: Side stick; rudder pedals; flaps
Best climb rate: 785 fpm