Everyone has flown them at least once. They are legendary for their lovely handling and their ease to train solo students with, but the 23:1 glide discourages anyone from taking them as a serious sailplane.
Or do they?
Most people don’t realize that the little potato bombing 1-26 is the best cross-country glider ever built. Bold statement? Maybe. But let's put it into perspective.
This is an advertisement for an Austin-Healey Sprite, seen in a 1969 Time Magazine that covers the Apollo 11 trip to the moon.
You’ll notice that the Sprite is highlighted by the 1-26 in the background. This is no mistake, as they are similar in many ways. The Sprite and the 1-26 offer a lot of bang for the buck: they handle nicely and have good looks. The 1-26 is the sports car of the skies. Except, while a nice Sprite sells for a little over $25,000 today, you can pick up a well-equipped, clean 1-26 for $8,000.
The 1-26 you see bouncing around your club is part of a nationwide movement to put fun into flying that has been ongoing since the 1950s. The 1-26 is an undiscovered package essential to American soaring, providing good looks, fantastic handling, easy assembly, one of the best support groups in the world, and a lot of plain fun.
No wonder Neil Armstrong flew a 1-26.
As we continue to get more technically advanced with sailplane performance, the 1-26 becomes even more timeless. Even by today’s standards, in no way is the 1-26’s performance limiting. The 1-26 provides the pilot with just the right amount of performance to get to point B, but it requires imagination, judgment, skill, luck, and a good crew. The 1-26 makes any mission a fun one: be it placing in the Sports Class Nationals or floating with the hawks on top of the local thermals.
It is my job to represent the group of pilots, restorers, students, competitors, and geezers that gain enjoyment from being around 1-26’s. Through way of the 1-26 Association, K&L Soaring, and the Vintage Sailplane Association, there is a wide web of support and loads of fantastic people out there who have made our little humility machine do incredible things. Over the coming months, I will publish their stories, and will keep you involved with our organization of passionate people having fun.
As a wise man once said: “The 1-26 is the ideal cross country glider for the high performance pilot.” Come join the fun.