[Editor's Note: We would like to thank Jacek Kóbiesa from Pasco, Washington for this nice article. Jacek has numerous ratings (Commercial Pilot Airplane & Glider add Instrument Airplane), he is a CFI-G, and aSenior Parachute Rigger. We are delighted to have this post and the beautiful photos.]
I would like to suggest that I think not. However, I also think we should take a close look at glider club equipment in the United States to find out. What does World Class have to do with soaring clubs? That is an interesting question and if you will bear with me for a few moments, I think we may discover an answer together. I am also convinced that some of these thoughts and ideas may apply to soaring clubs around the world, many of whom face similar struggles with their equipment. There may be some answers for all of us who love the sport of soaring.
First, let’s face reality. Soaring is an expensive sport. For those of us who worked hard, managed our finances, and whose families understand, soaring has become a way of life. But for the new pilot today the challenges are much greater.
In my case, and the case of many others, I started soaring as a very young boy in an aero club. I also had the good fortune of living in a city where gliders were being designed and built. The club to which I belonged was known as one of the best in the country and it produced some of the world’s best soaring pilots. Unfortunately, it is not that today. Club memberships around the globe are in a decline, based upon my reading of several publications from all over the world.
So, shall soaring clubs go the way of the dinosaur and simply become extinct? It would seem we are well on the way, and some might argue that we are almost there. Sometimes when I discuss this with pilots they tell me that this is nonsense, and that soaring will never become extinct. I certainly hope they are right, and personally, I want to see our sport flourish, but I also realize that soaring will not likely become a mainstream sport. Maybe if it became an Olympic sport it would achieve more notoriety and enter an era of widespread popularity, but that is not very likely either.
In the glaring light of the real world, how then shall we continue the sport of gliding? Do we not need to train new enthusiasts? Without adequate training, how will we replace the aging group of glider pilots in the world? My answer to these questions is another question. How is your club’s training and the condition of flying equipment?
Let’s take a look at the training market. I think we would all agree that without training equipment, soaring will pass into history. In the past, the two most popular two-seater gliders used for training were the ubiquitous Schweitzer 2-33 and the Blanik L-13. The 2-33 is old, and while it still may be airworthy, it is still a tired old trainer. Unlike the 2-33, the Blanik looked and behaved more like a typical modern sailplane. Unfortunately for all of us, the L-13 has been grounded by the FAA, with the EASA following suit, because of cracks in the wings. Since the grounding of the Blanik, for many clubs basic training equipment became even scarcer. While the future of the Blanik is still uncertain, reading the SSA web site on the subject does not leave me with much confidence that the Blanik will ever be airworthy again, at least without spending significant amounts of money. So what choice do clubs and soaring schools have who are looking for reliable two-seaters? The first choice is to search through the secondhand market for an old, fatigued but certified glider. Second, there is the prospect of purchasing a new plane.
There are only a couple manufacturers offering new two-seat trainers, but most of them are old designs, like the ASK-21. There is also the new but not very popular PW-6U glider. For those clubs that want to train pilots to the highest possible level there is also the new SZD 54-2 Perkoz. Look for a full-featured article about the Perkoz in a future issue of Soaring Café.
For the moment, let us look at the PW-6U. This sailplane was the next logical step in the design of training gliders and is closely related to the World Class PW-5. While this is not a very popular glider, to my thinking it is the right sailplane that clubs, which are strapped for cash, might want to investigate and eventually purchase. The PW-6U flies like any modern glider. Because it is a very “slippery” glider, acceleration is fast, roll rate is good, and it is approved for several performance maneuvers, including spins. Pilots trained in the PW-6U will not have a problem upgrading to any modern sailplane, and should have the ability to fly any such plane proficiently.
If a club purchases the PW-6U, I would recommend that it also buy a PW-5 World Class sailplane. Why? Transitioning from the PW-6U to a more advanced glider using the PW-5 as a stepping-stone is easy and safe. Furthermore, because the current market price of the PW-5 is so low, a club could make two or three PW-5 gliders available to club members at an affordable price. The current price of the PW-6U trainer is in mid 50,000 Euros, and I have seen PW-5 gliders listed in “Wings and Wheels” in the mid to low USD$20,000. In my view, these prices make the PW-6U and PW-5 combination the least expensive option for club sailplanes.
Additionally, the cost of insurance, another inescapable fact of life, is reasonable for these planes. I would argue that for a club to succeed in attracting new pilots, our basic premise for preserving soaring, it must present not only quality people but also quality equipment to the potential sailplane market. I would venture to say that one of the primary factors in the decline of soaring is the available equipment, both for training and for flying. Thus, you see that World Class is not necessarily dead, and, with the understanding I have presented here, it can actually serve clubs well.
There are no perfect solutions to the challenges faced by soaring clubs, but the one I offer here is a good start. I know of clubs that were on the verge of demise who by following the suggestions presented here, modernized their equipment and not only survived, but came out of the difficult period successfully. The latest SSA campaign “Lets go Gliding” is a step in a right direction, but the equipment issue cannot be neglected. It is my opinion that it is the most important aspect of any soaring operation.
A club contemplating buying a new glider should educate itself about the PW-6U and its potential benefits to a soaring operation. It also might be helpful to contact clubs currently operating the PW-6U. Two of them are, Puget Sound Soaring, http://www.pugetsoundsoaring.org/ and Vancouver Island Soaring, http://visc.wqs.ca/. The factory contact is, http://www.szdjezow.com.pl/szybowcepw_eng.html and the US and Canadian distributor is the well known soaring pilot Jerzy Szemplinski who’s web site is, www.windpath.ca
PW-6U Technical Data:
Wing span: 52.5 ft. (16,00m)
Length: 25.75 ft. (7,85m)
Height: 8 ft. (2,44m)
Wing area: 164 sq. ft. (15,25m2)
Aspect ratio: 16,8
Empty weight: 794 lbs. (360 kg)
Max take off weight: 1204 lbs. (546 kg)
Limit load factors for VA: +5,3 –2,65
Limit load factors for VNE: +4,0 –1,50
Gliding ratio: 34
Minimum rate of sink at 43.2 kts: 148 ft/min
Maneuvering speed VA: 88 kts.
Never exceed speed VNE: 140 kts.
Stall speed: 36.7 kts.
APPROVED AEROBATIC MANEUVERS:
- split S
KINDS OF OPERATIONS:
- day flying
- cloud flying
- aerobatics maneuvers as above