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More About Handlaunch Sailplanes

I've had more than 45 years experience flying sailplanes and gliders of all types, except not much handlaunch until the 90's. For me, handlaunch is a bit more of a 'new' thing, considering my other experiences, but has quickly became the most interesting, and a lot of the time, most gratifying. What I like most about handlaunch is the convenience of it. I always keep one 'charged up' for that last minute flying session. You can fly 'em at a schoolyard by simply walking to the middle of a field and tossing hard. Almost no preparation is necessary, just launch and search for lift! The more you launch, the more thermals you will find, AND the better overall pilot you will become.

Another thing that I find is the therapeutic aspect of handlaunch. I find that after just a few minutes of tossing and searching, I feel better. It is a great stress reducer.

There's one more thing I can think of that HLGs do that you just can't do with any other type of airplane: get aloft and stay aloft by the lightest of slope lift. In some fields or other flying areas, ones that have a rise or just the slightest place for slope lift to start, you can get a handlaunch to 'slope' soar. I've flown a HLG for hours or longer by sloping off the front edge of some short cypress trees at the end of a field near where I used to live. I've also used the slope lift from the front of a large house with the correct wind direction. Sometimes while flying thermals, you'll get a bit of slope lift at the same time. Hey, lift is lift; just take advantage of it whenever you can!

High Flying Handlaunch Sailplanes [courtesy: polecataero.com] Just remember to try to keep your plane as light as possible and build accurately.

When building, use just enough glue to hold things together, not the whole bottle because 'it seemed to be the right amount' for maximum strength. Note that glue joints with an excessive amount of adhesive can actually make a structure weaker due to the added stress areas, i.e. the place where the joint is is strong, but just beyond the joint, the structure will tend to break. It is sometimes better to have a joint 'give a bit' in order to redistribute the stress load. When building your own HLG, choose the lightest covering for the wings as you can find, but don't compromise in the wrong areas. For example, MicaFilm clear is regarded as the lightest, strong mylar covering available for aircraft. It won't be that light, however, if applied over large sheeted areas because you need to use an adhesive (Balsarite) under all of the MicaFilm in order to get it to stick to the wood. MicaFilm is more suited for covering open 'stick' structures as there isn't much wood to paint Balsarite on. (What's Balsarite, you're wondering.. it's that sticky stuff us old-timers used before all these prebuilt planes were available. Nostalgia!)

Click here to get a table of relative weights of most popular covering materials for handlaunch (and other aircraft).

If you have some stories or other comments that you'd like to share with others about this subject, please write me mail and I'll be glad to post it.