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  Derek's Favourite Gliders  
  By Derek Piggott
Issue 2/2002


Derek has chosen the American Eaglet, designed by Larry Haig and first flown on November 19, 1975, for this month's article. It had many novel features such as an inverted V-tail which is rarely been seen on a glider, but Derek says it was the only time when flying a glider he continued with a tow because he was too scared to release

It is unusual to have home built gliders in the UK and most are early vintage machines being rebuilt from the original plans. However, occasionally we get an enthusiast and in this case it was Mike Garrod, a well known pilot and meteorologist from the London Gliding Club at Dunstable.

My chance to fly it came when it was brought to Lasham for the initial test flights. Lasham has a long, smooth main runway and plenty of grass areas for use in the event of any initial problems. Mike had decided on the Eaglet because it offered the possibility of self-launching and easy, one man rigging so that he would be able to fly independently of club launching facilities whenever he could snatch time off between his shifts at the Met Office nearby.

I seem to remember that our BGA Technical Committee had called for a number of modifications before giving it a permit for test flying and even after they had agreed to it flying, we all had a few misgivings.

There were many novel features on the Eaglet. For a start it had an inverted V-tail, a feature seldom if ever seen before on a glider. The pod and boom fuselage was similar to the early Baby Bowlus with glass-fibre cockpit mouldings with alloy tubes for the load carrying structure and a simple thin walled aluminium tube for the tail boom. It also featured a straight, parallel chord wing with no dihedral and spoilers in place of ailerons for lateral control. These must reduce the torsion loads on the wing caused when the ailerons are deflected as well as reducing the building time considerably. The wing structure was also unusual - it had wooden spars, a foam supported glass-fibre skin and a single aluminium tube strut each side to take the major flight and landing loads.

Using spoilers in place of ailerons has the advantage of simplicity but also creates extra drag as well as a reduction in lift, so reducing the need for much rudder movement to help entering the turns. At that time, I had never flown with spoilers instead of ailerons and had no idea how effective they would be.

Appeared very vulnerable to damage on rough ground

The inverted V-tail gave the doubtful advantage of helping to keep the wings level on the ground, but appeared very vulnerable to damage on rough ground. I was shown the original metal frame which takes the loads from the tails into the fuselage boom. It was very crudely formed, or should I say hacked out of thick alloy, and would have failed by cracking from one of the jagged edges. No doubt the builder was intended to filed it all out to a smooth contour, but there was really scarcely enough meat<