Welcome to our Articles and Information Section. Here you can read magazine articles along with other information that we believe will be very helpful to your sailplane flying experiences.

Eastern Sailplane Announces Retirement as U.S. Schleicher Representative

After more than 30 years, John Murray, the U.S. Schleicher representative based in Waynesville, Ohio, has decided to spend time on other personal pursuits. "Linda and I have been committed to Schleicher and promoting soaring as a profession and a passion. But it's time now to pursue other things besides the day-to-day business of being a representative," Murray explains.

"I approach this with great anticipation for the next stage of my life. And, I have huge doubts that I'm doing the right thing. Then I look again and realize it is the right thing and the right time," Murray says." I deeply thank all of you who have supported me so loyally all these years. It has been a wonderful ride."

Effective June 6, 2015, Eastern Sailplane will begin the transfer of support inventory to Rex Mayes at Williams Soaring in Williams, Calif. Rex and Noelle are the next Schleicher dealers representing the U.S. As such, Williams Soaring will handle sales, service and parts for Schleicher. Contact Williams Soaring at 2668 Husted Road, Williams, CA 95987; Phone 530-473-5600; Fax 530-473-5315; Email info@williamssoaring.com.

Says Murray, "I wish them and Schleicher nothing but continued success. They are certainly on a roll at the moment with the best trainer, 18/15 meter, 20 meter two place, 18/21 meter self launch and open two place. Their product line is remarkable at present. I hope that continues."

Murray will not quite float away as Eastern Sailplane will continue its FAA repair station. "As an active repair facility I will maintain spares stock as necessary to support repair activity. I'm looking forward to maintaining many of the friendships I made over the past 30-plus years. I'm very grateful for those many years of support."

John Murray, Eastern Sailplane

Article Disaster on the way to Perry and the road to recovery, Article by: Scott Fletcher, Thank you: Soaring Magazine, August 2014 Photos and article are also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.995763077105738.1073741825.169107666437954&type=1

Thursday 4:25 pm I wrapped up everything at work and I was on my way home from the Spartanburg Airport with my glider, so that I could pack to leave for the upcoming Region 5 North contest in Perry, South Carolina, Friday afternoon. Three miles from my exit, traffic on all three lanes of I-85S came to a stop. I looked in the rear-view mirror as the white truck behind me in the right-hand lane came to a stop several car lengths back. I remember thinking, "Oh good I'm not going to get hit.� I glanced in my rear-view mirror a second time and saw a red pickup truck blasting down the center lane as it suddenly veered right, drawing a direct bead on the back of my ASW27's Cobra trailer.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol took two hours to arrive. It was shift change and the wreck was very near the county line. The dispatcher identified it as being in the wrong county the first time. Finally, my SUV is on its way to the body shop in Greenville and the glider is on its way back to Spartanburg to friend's shop. The driver of the pickup who hit me is on his way to jail for driving without a license. I get home by 11:30 PM without a car and a glider that probably won't fly again this season. Friday Friday is spent talking to insurance companies, getting a rental car and evaluating the damage to the trailer and the glider. The car has a badly bent receiver, a bent hitch, the spare tire exploded, the bumper is beaten up and the rear lift gate is bent on one corner. I'm not too worried about the car � give me an hour on Motormile and I can get a better car.

Cobra builds an amazing trailer. The technology built into these trailers makes storing, hauling and assembling the glider extremely easy. They also make an extremely trough trailer. Much tougher than one would think and it did an exceptional job of protecting the glider even as it died its own sudden death by pickup. Both wingtips were gouged and scratched up pretty bad; the fairing aft of the shear web in the fin had a bad crack in it and there are a few other dings here and there. I let Rhonda and Al Tyler know about the accident, sent them a few pictures and told them that I would arrive on Saturday to fulfill my commitment to do the weather forecasting for the Perry Contest. Saturday I arrived at the registration desk a little after lunch to withdraw from the contest and start setting up for the forecasting job. John Murray of Eastern Sailplanes, the U.S. dealer for Schleicher and a major repair station operator, is at this contest. Hank Nixon, famous for several modifications to the ASW 27, is also at this contest. Hank and John, the two wizards that know more about keeping ASW27s going than anyone else on the East coast, meet me at the registration desk. It's raining. They saw some of the pictures I sent of the damage and because of the rain they're bored, "looking for something to do.� The conversation went something like this:

"Don't withdraw, go get your glider, we can fix it.� "I can't, the trailer is destroyed.� "We have it all figured out, you are going to use Hank's trailer. Hank's plane is staying in the hangar this week. Go get it.� "Seriously, you've got to be kidding me.� "No, go get it.� "What about the rudder?� "Al Tyler is going to let you borrow the rudder off of his ASW29, since he isn't flying in the contest.� "You're kidding me!� "No, go get your glider.� So, with Hank's empty trailer in tow; Rob Ware, who is also bored, John Murray and I head off to Spartanburg to get my glider out of Larry Travers' shop. We get it back to Perry; put the glider in Al's shop and John takes a grinder to the elevator.

This was pretty hard to watch. Here is a very expensive piece of fiberglass that has spent its life being ever so gently handled and polished and John walks up to it with a pneumatic drill, an 80 grit grinding disk and turns what was little divot into a big one in a matter of seconds. There was no hesitation on his part. I would have planned that cut like the Normandy invasion and it would have taken me a few days to work up my nerve to actually do it. We left the shop early Sunday morning, with several layers of cloth and resin curing under a trouble light. Sunday

The weather gods continued to smile on me. It was still raining. Hank and John began work in earnest. The elevator glass repair is finished; a rough layer of gel coat is applied with a brush, to seal the surface. It's not pretty but it's good to go. The wing tips are structurally repaired. The crack in the fin is structurally repaired. My entire career has been spent as an engineer working with craftsmen who know more about what they do than I do, even though I'm the one in charge. That was perfect training for watching John and Hank bring my glider back to life. I work with structural steel, pipe and big machinery. My fiberglass work is limited to running a buffer. Guys who know what they are doing area pleasure to watch. They make it look so easy, even when you know it's not. 10:30 pm, we are done and now it's time to put my glider in Hank's trailer. Larry Travers described it best; "putting your glider in someone else's trailer is a little like wearing someone else's underwear.� The rudder from Al's ASW 29 is just a bit longer than the ASW 27 rudder and the trailer top won't close without hitting it. Hank figures out that if he removes the rear lock assembly, which he does not use anyway, it will fit. As he is scraping off all the carpet padding for the latch before remove it, I make a suggestion in the dark after a long day. I suggest that he keep his glider in his trailer and I'll keep my glider in Al's hangar where he was planning on keeping it, say, "Nah� and rips of the rest of the carpet so we can get the lock mechanism off. Tuesday

I'm out on course and it's pretty clear that my contest day is going to be over sooner than I intended. Overdevelopment has set in and the thermals have gone away for the day. I select Fogels as the closet airport for my land out and hope to find the one thermal I need to get home on the way there. Fogels was easy to find, there was already a glider on the end of the runway. The much sought-after and desired get-me-home thermal never made an appearance. On rollout towards the other glider at Fogels, I discovered that it's UH (Hank Nixon). As soon as I pop the canopy, I hear Hank shout out "I get to use my trailer first.� Two retrieves in the rain later and I'm sitting in the local Mexican food restaurant, in wet clothes, buying my crew for the day dinner, so that I can give it a go tomorrow. Friday

Jay Campbell called and reminded me that he has a 15M Cobra trailer for sale, only two hours away at Bermuda High. After the contest day is canceled due to weather, I eat lunch and drive to Bermuda High to buy Jay's trailer (two hours). Then on to Spartanburg to get the ASW 27 fittings for the �new' Ventus-rigged trailer (two hours). It's starting to get dark by then and I don't know if I'll lose the light before I get all the fittings I need or if Larry's pet mosquitoes that live near the creek will cause me to pass out from blood loss. I get what I can and leave for Perry (two hours). Early Saturday morning I arrive back at Perry and fall into bed. Saturday

Up at 5:30, rig by 7:00, on the grid and working on the forecast by 8:00. I'm pretty much done at this point, it's been a really long week for me. I come in last for the day and somehow manage to hang on to 9th place, with a land out earlier in the week. John and I manage to get Al's rudder back on his 29 before dinner. Hank's glider is in his trailer headed home and SF is spending the night in Al's now almost empty hangar. Sunday

I sleep late, didn't get up till 7:00. It takes more time than expected to rig the trailer to fit the now rudderless SF, but by 3:00 PM I'm on my way home, after finishing a contest I thought I wouldn't be able to fly in. Hank has a used rudder he is going to loan me until my new one arrives from Germany, so SF is flying this summer. As soon as the new rudder arrives from Germany, SF will take a trip up to Eastern Sailplanes, where John will make her look new again. I hope that's in August, I've been looking for a good excuse to not fly in August's heat and humidity. I want to thank all of my friends for making this possible. There were so many things that had to happen to pull this off. A failure of any one of them would have made this a completely different story. Sometimes miracles do occur.


South Carolina's minimum automotive liability insurance is only $25,000, so underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage is something I needed in this instance. New glider trailers are somewhat more expensive than one would think ($21,000). Good used trailers are scarce, so you might want to take a close look at the insured value of the glider trailer and your uninsured/underinsured coverage's the next time you renew your policies.

Article Interview with Ulrich Kremer from Schleicher, By: Bernard Eckey, This interview was taken from the magazine Soaring's March 2014 issue

In 2013, Mr. Ulrich Kremer, the Managing Director of Schleicher, was interviewed in Germany by Bernard Eckey, who originally had the interview for "Gliding Australia.�

Mr. Kremer, the AERO trade fair has just closed its doors, and Schleicher was again one of the bigger exhibitors. Last year, we noticed that all major glider manufacturers refrained from attending this leading exhibition for sports aviation. You seem to have settled on an attendance every two years. Would that be a fair comment?

You are right, just as other manufacturers we have decided not to exhibit at AERO every year and instead opt for a two yearly cycle. This is how the AREO was originally scheduled. Back then it presented an ideal opportunity for us to introduce our latest models and to show our customers what refinements and new developments are in the pipeline. Because the AREO is now held every year, glider manufacturers can hardly justify the time, the effort and the financial outlay at such short intervals. Apart from that there are usually not enough new developments to entice our regular visitors to come to this exhibition every year.

That seems to be the consensus among all major manufacturers, but it raises the question how they are coping with falling demand and how they got through the recent period of economic downturn? Can you elaborate on this, and tell us how it has had an impact on Schleicher, please?

As the world's oldest glider manufacturer, we have certainly seen a few ups and downs in our company history. We were all concerned about the financial turmoil that affected almost all major gliding countries, but it turned out to be �business as usual' for us. Some years ago we have established new agencies in countries where we were not represented in the past and I'm pleased to say that we are now enjoying a steady flow of orders from these regions. We were also lucky that we were able to offer new models at this critical point in time. But it must be said that our satisfactory workload is also due to our wide range of products. As you know, we not only offer competition models, but we also have a basic trainer in our program. The ASK 21 enjoys an enviable reputation for being a reliable workhorse and still contributes greatly to our steady workload. The motorized version is also in great demand. Our customers like the option of having fully independent training operations without the need for the usual gliding infrastructure. As such it seems to be pointing the way to gliding training in the future. We are also getting reports of very high utilization rates due to the aircraft's versatility. On weekends, the glider is used for training and on other days it serves for sightseeing flights, mutual flying by members and even for introducing new people to our sport.

It is good to hear that Schleicher is still as busy as ever but isn't it fair to say that the delay with the introduction of the ASH 30 has disappointed some of your loyal customers?

There is no point in sugar-coating this issue! You are right, it took much longer than expected to get the ASH 30 Mi to the series production stage and there were a number of reasons for it. However, these problems are now behind us and we are now going full steam ahead. In my previous response, I was primarily referring to the ASG 29 and the ASH 31 Mi. Both models are still in great demand, and their competition records seem to ensure a continuation of this trend for quite some time. We are soon going to celebrate the 100th ASH 31 Mi's and I think it's popularity comes down to two reasons. The first one is that it allows fully independent operations with a modern and dependable power plant. But an equally important issue is that it can be flown in two different classes simply by exchanging the out wing panels. Recent feedback from Open Class competition pilots indicates that it can more than match it with bigger wing-span gliders, which are also by far more expensive.

That leads me straight to the next question. What can you tell us about the ASH 32 Mi? When will this new 20 Meter two-seater become available?

Well, we have deliberately stalled any announcements on the ASG 32 until the AERO trade fair in April. We wanted to ensure that the ASH 30 delays do not surface again with our new 20 Meter two-seater. Therefore, we decided to wait until the design was fully finalized, and the fuselage was able to be shown to the public. Now we are at a point where we can soon remove the prototype wing from their moulds, and we still expect the maiden flight for around Christmas of 2014. Series production is scheduled to commence around the end of 2014, and the first orders have already been taken for delivery in 2015.

It is now public knowledge that the ASG 32 will have an electric propulsion system. What can you tell us about that?

The ASG 32 will be available in three different versions. Next to the pure glider, we will offer the ASG 32 Mi which is the self-launching model with rotary engine technology. These two models will be built first. I might add that in the future, all our self-launching gliders come with fuel injected engines and automatic altitude compensation technology. These slightly modified engines have not only proven to more reliable but are also more powerful. But back to the electric version now! You are right; the EL version is in the final stages of development and will come on the market in the second half of 2015. The ASG 32 EL will not have self-launching capabilities but our calculations point to a range of over 100 km under power. The concept is slightly different from together electric-powered gliders as the batteries will not be carried in the wings. The entire drive unit will be located within the engine bay, and that includes the batteries. It not only solves the problem of very heavy wings, but it also eliminates the big diameter cables and heavy-duty connectors between wing and fuselage. The entire drive unit can be lifted out of the fuselage for inspection and maintenance purposes. Thanks to a simple attachment system it can be done in a matter of minutes and after removing only the attaching bolts.

100 km under power seems to more than enough, but the big question is how suitable such an aircraft if for normal club use?

This is indeed the critical issue. Right from the beginning we decided to develop a drive unit which is so easy to use that even low hour pilots without prior experience on motorized gliders can handle aircraft and motor with ease. We have selected highly reputable partners for all major components, and we are soon going into an extensive test phase. In any case, the ASG 32 EL will be the first powered glider than can be regarded as a true club machine. All you need is a power point for recharging the batteries!

That sounds very interesting indeed. What else can you tell us about the new ASG 32?

Although the ASG 32 is a brand-new design, I must say that it borrows heavily from the ASH 30. The front section of the fuselage is almost identical but the tail boom was shortened, and the entire tailplane is also brand new. For the first time, we can now offer a fully retractable tail wheel which operates in conjunction with the main undercarriage. It is also steerable for ease of taxying under power. The retractable tail wheel even comes with a door for an undisturbed airflow around the tail section. We think that it will give the ASG 32 the edge in the upper airspeed range.

And what can you tell us about the wings?

Of course, we had to start from scratch here. Designer Michael Greiner employed the same design principles that he used on the ASG 29 with considerable success. We were also able to take advantage of experience gained with the ASH 30, but the design brief was for a clean wing without kinks and a minimum of corners along the leading edge. Michael managed to achieve that even without resorting to a little nose wheel. Wind tunnel test and comparison calculations with other gliders make us confident that the ASG 32 can more than match it with similar gliders on the market.

Please allow me to come back to the engine of the self-launching version. Why are you now fitting fuel injected engines?

To avoid any confusion, gliders ordered with sustainer engines-such as the ASG 29 E-are still equipped with a conventional Solo two-stroke engine. However, all self-launching gliders come with fuel injected rotary engines built by Austro Engines. Previous versions of this power plant have already been installed in close to 500 of our gliders. The new fuel injected engine is even more user-friendly, and the automatic altitude compensation system ensures that the nominal power output of 41 kW or 56 hp is hardly comprised at altitude. When these engines are tested we often find that the real power output is around 60 hp, which is more than enough for even the biggest of gliders. But rotary engines offer many other advantages over conventional two-stroke mixture. Their power to weight ratio is superior, they are more reliable and they don't require special fuel such as AVGAS or two-stroke mixture. Their vibration-free running, their low noise level, very low fuel consumption, and the absence of regular maintenance requirements have made them ideal for aircraft of this size. They also feature a very simple engine management system and a mechanical propeller stop which eliminates the need for sensitive electronics, sensors and switches. All in all, they are a big step ahead of the two-stroke technology of yesteryear.

But there must be disadvantages with such a list of positives. What are they?

Of course, there are other points to consider as well. Like every other aircraft engine, the rotary engine doesn't like long periods of inactivity�especially not in a wet or overly humid environment. Under such conditions, the oil film can break down, and corrosion can occur. Customers who run their engine almost every weekend never seem to have a problem. Some of them return their glider to us for the annual inspection. In some rare ASK 21 Mi cases they have already more than 600 hours on the engine, but we usually put them straight back into their glider after a short test run. A humid environment with long time spans between engine runs and the absence of proper engine preservation is the problem here. Therefore, we now advise our customers to run the engine at least every month or preserve it strictly in accordance with our manual. This engine preservation is easy�it only takes a minute or two.

So far, we have not discussed the ASG 29. What can you tell us about this glider?

Well, I think I have touched on it already and there is not much more I can say. In the next few weeks the 250th ASG 29 will come off the production line which demonstrates that we are still building them as fast as we can. There is hardly a single competition where not at least two ASG 29 pilots occupy the podium. At the 2012 Uvalde world comps, the entire podium was full of ASG 29 drivers and there were several ASG 29 pilots in the first 10 places. No wonder, the ASG 29 is selling itself and remains a first class contributor to our satisfactory work load.

The only think I can add is that we have modified the manufacturing process of the wings. In the past, our wings were often criticized for developing �spar bumps' after a year or two. This was clearly just an appearance issue and never affected the performance at all. However, it had to be fixed, and today I can confidently say that this problem is well and truly fixed. Now our customers acknowledge that they can no longer see any difference when they compare the ageing wings of different manufactures.

Uli, what can you tell us about Schleicher's plans for the future? Are there further developments in the pipeline?

Lately, that's a frequently asked question and when it comes up, I always ask people to keep in mind that we have realized three new models in a relatively short period of time. The fourth one is the ASG 32 and the electric drive unit is another significant new development. It shows that we have invested heavily in new models but that doesn't stop us from constantly thinking about our production program a few years down the track. However, I must avoid creating unrealistic expectations or speculation here. What I can say is that Schliecher will continue their tradition of offering highly competitive aircraft for every FAI competition class with the exception of "World Class.�

Uli, Schleicher seems to have a large pool of very loyal customers. To what do you attribute this loyalty?

That is another good question, and I wish I had a definite answer for it. For several decades, our policy has been to avoid hasty product releases and instead aim for an unrivalled longevity of our designs. Customers seem to like that very much as it ensures a good release value of their gliders. We also want to be seen as a dependable partner with an after-sales service second to none. This is also greatly appreciated by our customers and has contributed to their tremendous loyalty. We want to build on this relationship of mutual trust and respect and retain it as one of our guiding principles. Far too many glider pilots have been let down by far too many manufacturers in the past, and many of these customers are still suffering from it today. I'm sure that quite a few glider pilots have placed orders with us because they value our dependability over anything else. And when the next economic downturn arrives, we can depend on them. I'm confident of that!

Uli, many thanks you for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us. We are looking forward to talking to you again.8

You are most welcome�thanks for visiting us.


  • The following is the "Flying the ASH-31 Mi Motorglider" article by Michael Parker in the August 2012 issue of SOARING Magazine.
Photos taken at the 18 Meter US Nationals http://s764.photobucket.com/albums/xx289/ChuckLohre/ASH-31Mi%20Mike%20Parker%20IC/?albumview=slideshow

Motorgliders are a varied lot of aircraft, with missions ranging from touring ships capable of long range engine runs, to the high-performance types with short engine runs used mainly for launch. The ASH-31Mi in this article is squarely at the high-performance end of the spectrum, and can be configured with wing spans of 21 or 18 meters. 'AS' stands for the manufacturer, Alexander Schleicher, who has been making gliders in Germany for 85 years. 'H' stands for the designer, Martin Heide, who was also the designer of the ASH-25 two-place ship, the ASH-26E self-launcher, and the new ASH-30 high-performance two place sailplane. '31' is the model number, and Mi indicates that it is a fuel injected self-launcher.

This is not an aircraft evaluation article of the sort written by the irreplaceable Dick Johnson, but my impressions of the ship. My main qualifications, other than owning the first ship of this type to be imported into the USA, are that I have owned a wide range of ships, including three motor-gliders, and my flying has ranged from contests to record-setting cross country flights.

After flying a Cirrus, Ventus B, LS-8, and PW-5, with a fair amount of contest flying under my belt, I began yearning for the freedom of a self-launching motor-glider, so I brought a Stemme S10VT. With the Stemme, flying long cross-country flights both under power and in gliding mode, I learned a lot about aircraft with engines. Engines will not always start when you want them to, so never, ever, rely on them to pull you out of an impossible situation. This was emphasized one night spent in below-freezing weather in a high Colorado pasture, keeping cows away from the Stemme. Luckily, I had chosen a good pasture for my failed start attempt, and the next day after unloading baggage and some fuel was able to take off. Another lesson learned was to make good friends with your local mechanic; I became Rick Wright's soaring instructor.

The Stemme had good soaring performance, but its really great feature was that one could fly it under power long distances cross-country at 100 knots, and then mix in with business aircraft or other gliders at any airport in the country. Although I occasionally flew it in Sports Class contest, it just didn't fit into the competition scene, so I decided to sell it and get an 18 meter self-launcher.

The DG-800, ASH-26E, and Ventus CM fit comfortably into the new 18 meter class. I bought an ASH-26E from Schleicher and was very happy with it and the support from Schleicher. So why did I end up selling it and buying an ASH-31Mi? This part of the story began with placing an early order for the planned ASH-30 two-place super ship. Over the years, I have learned that glider manufacturers are optimistic about when a new development actually happens, an the ASH-30 was no exception. When the ASh-31Mi exploded onto the scene before the ASH-30 was completed, Schleicher kindly agreed to switch my order to get one, so I got a very early ship.

Investigating the ASH-31Mi, I first discovered that the designer was Martin Heide (the H in the designator), and he and Schleicher had been very crafty and designed a brand new glider with a minimum of fresh work. They took an ASH-26E fuselage and the ASH-26E wing from the fuselage to out past the spoilers, put in a transition section, and married it to the outer wing tips of the ASG-29. Whereas the ASG-29 was designed for 15 and 18 meter spans, the ASH-31Mi with the longer inner wing has spans of 18 and 21 meters. They beefed up the undercarriage and inner wing spar to handle more weight, and they had a unique new glider with a minimum of new design work required.

The ASH-31Mi has a rotary Wankel engine with a 56 horsepower, borrowed from the ASH-25Mi. This engine's ancestor was used in a British Norton motorcycle. The rights to this engine were eventually acquired by Diamond aircraft. The engine is much smoother and quieter than 2-stroke engines used on many motor-gliders. This engine was first used in the ASH-26E with a carburetor and delivered 50 horsepower. However, like all engines with carburetors, it runs rich (and rough) at high altitudes. This is why one sees owners of motor-gliders that come from sea level to high altitude airports like Parowan adjusting their carburetor. The engine was modified for fuel injection in the ASH-26Mi. This solved the problem since there was no longer a carburetor to adjust, and it delivered slightly more horsepower and rpm. However, it was deemed too costly to retrofit into the ASH-26E. With a heavier ship (especially in 21 meter, ballasted configuration) and the opportunity to make modification, the fuel-injected engine was incorporated into the ASH-31Mi.

In deciding to order that ASH-31Mi my decision process went like this:

I liked the ASH-26E, and figured Martin Heide, the designer of it as well as the ASH-31Mi, must have learned something in the 15 years since its design. (See Dick Johnson's ASH-26E flight test evaluation in September 1995 SOARING Magazine.)

The maximum wing loading of the ASH-31Mi, compared to the ASH-26E, has been increased from 9.2 to 10.8 pounds/sqft, and this is important in order to be competitive in strong western conditions.

The 21 meter wingspan would really be great for record attempts, and the 18 meter span would fit into many contests categories and would be easier to handle around the airport.

The steerable tail wheel (which most 18 meter motorgliders have) is important for taxiing around the airport.

The ship with all wing extensions removed can fit into a small hanger.

The trailer length is similar to a normal 15 meter ship since the wing has two parts. Most of the key components used in the ship have a track record, so airworthiness issues are unlikely.

I could get one before I was too old to fly it.

John Murray, of Eastern Sailplane, was extremely helpful getting the ship ready, and my first flights were at the 2010 18-Meter Nationals in Ohio. The ship flew great, but the pilto was not up to the Eastern conditions. Leaving the Nationals, I went directly to the yearly motorglider meet at Parowan. Still flying in 18 meter spandue to the narrow runway, I faded into second place after a good start. With an identical cockpit layout to my ASH-26E, the ship felt very familiar. If anything, it may be slightly more coordinated due to the somewhat larger rudder. Even though the maximum takeoff weight in 18 meter span is 1,389 pounds (vs MTOW of 1158 pounds for the ASH-26E) there was no problem self-launching off the high (5,990 ft altitude) 5,00 ft long runway. Next was an Arizona Soaring Association meet in Tuson. Even though this is a local contest series, it is extremely competitive. The first day I put on 21 meter tips, but didn't bother with water ballast. I quickly found out that in strong conditions at 100 knots, I could not glide with a fully ballasted 15 meter ship. However, the task changed to survival conditions half way around the course, and I was the only ship to finish. I began to like the long wings.

Next up were some test flights from a lengthy runway in 21 meter span with full water ballast. I was initially surprised by the length of the takeoff roll. On a warm summer day at 2,400 ft altitude (density altitude 5,000ft), ground rolls of 1,400 feet on the paved runway were common. Even though the engine was developing the rated rpm, it still had to accelerate 1,543 pounds of glider and water to flying speed. Once at flying speed the glider climbed fine, but it took a while to get there. In the long wingspan fully ballasted configuration, the glider flies like a long-wing ship. it is easy to fly, but is not as agile as the 18 meter span. Slightly leading rolls with the rudder helps the turn coordination.

I didn't fly much in 2011 due to acquiring a new boat, but I an doing a lot more flying this year. Since I plan to fly in the Sports Class Nationals at Parowan, I have been mostly practicing in 18 meter span, trying to fly fast without water ballast. On one excellent day last month I recorded a 98.5 mph OLC speed on 2 legs of a triangle. I have 200 flying hours to date, mostly in 18 meter span and usually unballasted. One might ask, "why not more flying with 21 meter span?" The answer basically is that I am lazy and the ship flies very well unballasted without with the 18 meter span. Also, there are some airports whose runways are too narrow, the taxiways are too narrow, or the length of the runway starting from the normal launch position is marginal for a fully ballasted 21 meter ship.

I feel confident in saying that the performance of the 18 meter ASH-31Mi is virtually idential to a DG-800 or an ASH-26E if ballasted to the same wing loading. Of course when ballasted to maximum takeoff weight in strong conditions, the ASH-31Mi should have better performance in 18 meter configuration than more lightly loaded 18 meter ships, and it should be competitive with open class ships in 21 meter configuration.

The ASH-31MI is a noticeably heavier ship to push around the airport than other 18 meter motorgliders. I know that it is not just due to me getting older. To counteract this, the ship was purchased with an excellent Cobra trailer and one-man handling tools. I rig and de-rig without assistance. Instead of hand-pushing or attaching a tow-bar to a car, I usually just fire up the motor to reposition the glider on the airport. Observers are impressed with how quite the motor is, and I have even been asked if it is electric.

Two refinements were added to my ship that perhaps will be offered in other ships. The transponder antenna is now inside the tail-fin rather than sticking out below the fuselage behind the main wheel. This saves a little drag, and it can't be bent or broken by careless handling of the ship. Also, Schleicher put screw-in eyelets in the wing tips so the ship could be tied down when on a safari without the trailer. There are several options for water ballast bags and fuel bags in the wing. I opted not to have an extra wing fuel bag. This limits my fuel to just over 4 gallons in the main tank, but it allows me to have larger wing water bags, so the 21 meter ship can be ballasted to the maximum takeoff weight. Other decisions were made to install a fuel filling pump in the fuselage, a second battery in parallel with the main battery, a steerable tail wheel, pee tube, etc.

I highly recommend getting the largest number of optional solar panels. With multiple instruments demanding power, the panels will keep a sufficient charge on the batteries to start the engine at the end of the day. So far, the engine has never failed to start, but as i previously indicated, on MUST fly any motorglider planning for the worst case. For ships that deploy a prop on a mast, I fear the deployment that is almost successful and then hangs acting as an sir brake. Even if everything works mechanically, there is still the possibility of pilot error. This actually happened when pictures were being taken for this article from the top of a local mountain. Near the end of the photo session, an engine run was planned. I turned away from the mountain and started the deployment. The light indicating the mast was up and locked di not come on. Then I got some confusing indications. The adjacent valley was still a mile lower in altitude, so in a high-drag configuration I turned for the nearest field and started sorting things out. Finally, I realized that to maintain control in turbulent air near the mountain I had been flying fast and had not slowed down to prop-deployment speed. I slowed the glider, the prop finished going up, the engine started immediately, and we finished the photo session. This is why, contrary to popular belief, properly flown motor gliders have a disadvantage in contests. In order to be safe, the decision to attempt a motor start must be performed from almost directly over the potential landing spot and at an altitude substantially above the altitude where a pure glider will commit to landing. Time and altitude must be allowed for a problem to happen, be diagnosed, decide to land, and then an approach and landing made. If self-launching, the engine must be turned off near enough to the airport to allow a safe landing if the pylon should fail to stow properly.

In summary, I am very happy with the ASH-31Mi and don't expect to be selling it until I am too old and weak to push it around. In the meantime, I will someday put on the 21 meter tips, load maximum ballast, and find how to really fly such and impressive machine.

Michael Parker's YouTube interview with Chuck Lohre at the 2010 18 Meter Nationals at Ceasar Creek Soaring Club, Waynesville, Ohio. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9jzANq7CRQ&feature=g-upl