Al Marsh

Radio-controlled glider reaches 391 mph

March 31, 2010 by Alton K. Marsh, Senior Editor, AOPA Pilot

Here’s the news (at least to me), 15 years late. Turns out hobbyists have done something called dynamic soaring using radio-controlled (RC) gliders since the late 1990s. The current record (unofficial) stands at 391 mph. You can learn more about it here.

Here is a video of an actual successful speed record attempt. The gliders pull high Gs and use composite construction to take the load. I wonder what the G load would be on a full-size, piloted glider doing the same thing on a larger scale? I doubt there are any built that could take it, assuming first that the pilot could stand it.

3 Responses to “Radio-controlled glider reaches 391 mph”

  1. Keith Smith Says:

    The G-load would be the same, it’s not a function of weight, it’s a function of acceleration.

    Back when the speed records were in the low 200’s, they did put a G-meter into a glider, good for up to 40G. After they landed, they pulled it out, and found that it had been pegged.

    The typical time for lap of the racetrack is 2 to 2.5 seconds. During that time, you complete two distinctly separate 180 degree turns, with a brief straight line separating them. Imagine completing a 180 degree turn at nearly 400mph inside 1 second. The G-forces are _insane_.

    Small wonder that countless gliders have been torn to shreds, requiring significant advances in wing construction and spar design.

    The sport has come such a long way, with custom airfoils being designed and built that are ‘dogs’ until they come alive at around 250mph.

    I used to fly RC gliders on the west coast, and now fly full size aircraft on the east coast. Dynamic soaring made me appreciate how to control the pitch of an airplane during a steep turn, that’s for sure.

  2. Chris O'Callaghan Says:

    I flew what was perhaps the sturdiest glider ever built: a Centrair Pegase 101 cc. Two of these ships were special built for the World Championships in Hobbs, NM in 1983. It is a standard class 15M racer – no flaps. What made this model unique was to achieve very high wing loading and red line, the factory built two gliders using carbon instead of fiberglass, but in exactly the same proportions. The result was a very stiff winged glider that could carry more than its own weight in water ballast and had an unofficial redline of 200 knots. The placarded Vne was 143, like its fiberglass kin. It had a good, solid feel all the way up to 185 knots… the fastest I ever flew it. As with most aircraft, my control inputs at that speed were small, slow, and deliberate.

    I believe a navy pilot tried to dynamic soar in the lee of a ridge using the same techniques in an L33 Blanik, but as I recall, with very limited success. Most successful full scale dynamic soaring flights are done in wind shear associated with inversions. Unfortunately, it’s not very useful for anything other than station keeping, so most glider pilots who encounter the conditions tire of it quickly.

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