Gliders Group Forum

Skip down to the LEAVE A REPLY box where the discussion is taking place.

Hi — I’m David Higgins and Welcome to our Discussion Forum.

I as well as a team of persons behind the scenes at this website called KC Free Flight—are hoping that a number of Glider enthusiasts will embrace this idea of a GLIDERS GROUP FORUM that showcases Gliders of all sorts. A chance to ask questions, offer advice to fellow aeromodellests, and generally have the ability to weigh in on matters of Gliders—large and small, simple or complex.

Although I am introducing this Forum, I will not be a formal moderator of sorts that controls or guides any part of the discussion—rather it will be the GLIDER COMMUNITY at large that steps in to answer or make comments relative to the discussion. Like all of you I will weigh in when appropriate to speak on subjects that I can contribute to.

Having said that —I will have the distinct honor of starting the conversion/discussion below by having placed the first comment in the LEAVE A REPLY box at the bottom of this page. This is the place where you leave your COMMENTS and or QUESTIONS.

NOTE: You have two options:
1. You may enter your own Comment or Question.
— OR —
2. You may reply to my REPLY.
And so on . . . . and so on . . . . This is how the back-and-forth happens.

Skip down to the LEAVE A REPLY box where the discussion is taking place.

We are depending on all of YOU — our VISITORS and members of the WORLD WIDE GLIDER COMMUNITY

First, let me introduce myself so you can better understand why I’m so passionate about aeromodelling in general and gliders in particular. 

Growing up during the 1960s, I started out at around 4 years of age flying the 5 cent slip together balsa wood Strato Chuck Gliders made by North Pacific.  These gliders didn’t stay up very long, but they did fly well enough to provide hours of flying fun.  You could make them loop or do long, straight, gliding flights by simply adjusting the wing fore or aft on the fuselage.

Thermic Trio made by SUPERFLIGHT

Thermic Trooper made by SUPERFLIGHT

In the 7th grade I built and flew the Jetco Glider Trio, which had three different looking chuck gliders, and a year or so later I built a Jetco 30” span Trooper glider and then I scaled up the Trooper glider 50 percent and scratch built a 45” Super Trooper glider. Both these gliders were covered with silkspan, were towed up in the air with an electric motor driven handheld winch, and both flew gracefully.

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Many years later, in the fall of 1993 while working at the Boeing Everett plant, I heard about a new free flight model airplane club that had recently been formed called BEAMS, which stands for Boeing Employee’s Aerodynamic Modeling Society. At the first BEAMS meeting I attended, I met the club’s founder and first president, Keith Varnau, and one of its regular club members, Jeff Renz, who was putting the finishing touches on his Comet Sparky rubber powered model. Keith had won the 1967 Nationals in the outdoor hand-launched glider event and another BEAMS member, the late Will Broughton, was a retired Boeing aeronautical engineer with many years of balsa chuck glider experience. Those two men taught me just about everything I know about simple balsa wood hand-launched and catapult-launched gliders. They mentored and encouraged me, so that I had enough successes to keep me interested and motivated enough to design, build, and fly these deceptively simple flying models.

HAFFA Members Take Note:

At the right we have an historic image of Jeff Renz (our current President) holding the original Island Flyer.
Go to our article about this and view/download the drawing of this famous airplane model here. It’s a great plane for novice builders!

Island Flyer Model Airplane
Designed by Clive M. Wienker

Jeff Renz and Kieth Varnau — at 60 acres with original Island Flyer

Getting started in building and flying simple balsa catapult-launched gliders can be somewhat intimidating at first, especially when you go to a contest and see the glider gurus with their carbon-fiber composite, pop-up wing gliders making perfect transitions at incredible heights.  For those of you who have never successfully built and flown a simple catapult glider, I recommend the FP-11 Mk. II Catapult Glider

You won’t have a lot of time or money tied up into one of these simple gliders.  For one thing, the glider utilizes what we call a flat plate airfoil wing that is made from 1/16” thick sheet balsa, so you aren’t going to expend any time or effort carving and sanding a cambered (curved) airfoil into the wing blank.

The FP-11 Mk. II catapult glider has a flat plate airfoil wing and weighs 8 to 10 grams.

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It takes around 1 to 4 hours to build the FP-11 Mk. II glider, although we had one of our SAM 8 club members spend around 40 hours building his, and although it was a very pretty glider, its performance was horrible, probably due to its heavy weight.  Using average weight wood for the wing and tail parts, and rock-hard wood for the fuselage, the FP-11 should weigh around 8 to 10 grams ready to fly without the nitrate dope or Minwax Helmsman Spar varnish finish.

The SAM 8 model airplane club that I belong to decided to have a mass launch FP-11 catapult contest in the fall of 2020. Many of our club members had never built or flown a simple all balsa wood catapult-launched glider, but with $100.00 in prize money for the owner of the last glider to land, we had 9 adults and 3 kids eagerly enter the contest. We had two fly-off rounds with our club president winning the $100 final round. Everyone had a blast launching and watching 12 gliders as they climbed or looped, and then crashed or glided to a smooth landing. Some of our club’s members were astounded at how well these simple gliders climbed and glided.

The Sweepette-Ette 14 catapult-launched glider has a carved airfoil wing.

After the contest was over, one of our club members told me that he had had a great time and wanted to build a more advanced and higher performance catapult glider having a carved airfoil wing.

I told him that he could either build a new FP-11 glider having a carved airfoil wing made with 1/8” thick balsa, or he could build the Sweepette-Ette 14 Catapult Glider.

Webmasters Note: By clicking on the above link you will be taken to one of a variety of gliders by none other than our David Higgins—the moderator of this forum. Browse through Dave’s and other glider projects featured on the KC Free Flight Galleria of Gliders web page to decide on your next glider project!

As a young kid, that humble little 5 cent Strato glider got me interested in anything that flew, which eventually led to a 29-year career as an engineer with Boeing.  Simple all balsa catapult-launched gliders provide more fun for the money than just about any other form of aeromodelling.  If you do decide to build and fly the FP-11 catapult-launched glider, don’t be surprised if it catches a thermal and flies away.  Mine almost did, so I installed the Flip D.T. (Dethermalizer) System on it. 
Happy Flying!

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— GLIDERS GROUP FORUM takes place here. Please be courteous. —

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2 thoughts on “Gliders Group Forum

  1. Wing loading is the most important characteristic for indoor and outdoor hand-launched and catapult-launched gliders when it comes to time aloft. A glider’s wing loading will determine how slowly it will fly, which determines how long it will stay aloft. For outdoor gliders, where you have an unlimited ceiling height, a glider with very light wing loading may not have enough strength to withstand the stresses of launch nor enough inertia (mass) to attain very high heights.

    With catapult-launched gliders you have a rule-limited catapult consisting of a 9” loop of 1/4” wide rubber strip, so if you make your glider too big and heavy it won’t get very high. So, what is the ideal weight and wing loading for an outdoor catapult-launched glider? That is what I’ve been trying to determine. Recently, I’ve taken two of my heavier 12” wingspan high ceiling height (think of the Kibby Dome) indoor catapult gliders and converted them for outdoor flying by adding “The Flip Dethermalizer System” to them. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to test them, but I think there is a good possibility that they will be fairly competitive. Being that it is now the middle of November, I will have to wait until next spring to find out how well they perform.


  2. Yes Dave! You are so right about wing loading! Especially when it comes to indoor gliders. This is one of the real challenges to building and flying indoor competitive gliders. For an indoor glider it needs to be strong enough the withstand the flight loads and yet light enough to fly slow enough to stay aloft to achieve a competitive time. This means wood selection is important! Also the glider configuration would need to be taken into consideration….a low ceiling glider would be different than a high ceiling glider such as flying in Tustin’s blimp hangars vs. you local gym with a 24/26 foot ceiling. More on this later.


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