Sailplanes 1920-2000

Sailplanes 1920 – 1945, 1945 – 1965, 1965 – 2000

 Klaus Fey is a partner in the publishing company Eqip GmbH, based in a suburb of Bonn on the Rhine. A keen glider pilot and instructor, in 1998 he came across a copy of my Kookaburra  World’s Vintage Sailplanes and wrote to me offering to produce a German edition, for which he would do the translation. A similar proposal had been made years before by the well known company, Motorbuch Verlag. This had been fiercly rejected by Geoff Pentland. I told Klaus there was no chance of any such deal, but I would be glad to prepare a completely new book with improved, coloured, full-page drawings and a new text. I suggested the period dealt with should not extend back to 1909 but would run from 1920 till 1945. There would be some overlapping with the Kookaburra book but I would include many more sailplanes than this earlier work. We agreed and a contract was signed for simultaneous German and English language editions. I wrote to Pentland telling him what was proposed, but had no reply.  This was the beginning of a long association and friendship with Klaus Fey. I have visited him many times since. Having done one book, he insisted I should continue, eventually extending the Sailplanes series until the year 2000.

The first volume covers the quarter century from the tentative beginning of hill soaring  to the discovery of thermals and waves. Gliders progressed from  primitive and sometimes dangerous contraptions, to sophisticated, beautiful and strong wooden aircraft capable of flights exceeding 700 km distance and height climbs over 6800 metres.

The second volume describes the transformation of the sport by the discovery of low drag, laminar flow wing profiles and the development of new constructional methods enabling full advantage to be taken of them. By 1965 it was clear that composite, fibre-reinforced plastic structures were to become universal. Competition flying now was chiefly a matter of racing around closed circuits of several hundreds of kilometres.






By the end of the 20th Century, carbon and aramid fibre-reinforced plastic materials had become widely adopted enabling further great improvements in sailplane performance. Wing spans over 26 metres had become common with aspect ratios exceeding 45 and even 50 :1. Sophisticated computer instruments, data loggers and satellite navigation systems transformed the sport again. Distance records now exceed 2000 kilometres and stratospheric altitudes of 50,000 ft have been reached.

I have sworn to do no more Sailplane books in this series. This is for someone younger to tackle.

These books are available by E-mail order directly from the publisher Eqip GmbH (<>) in Bonn, or from authorised agents.

The possibility of converting the whole series to E book form is being considered.

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