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  Gliding 1852 Style  
  By Derek Piggott
Issue 10/2003


In this year of celebrating flight and looking back on the history of gliding with the second Cayley replica being flown a few weeks ago, we thought readers would be interested in Derek's impression of how he managed to get the first version across Brompton Dale. This is reprinted from the February-March 1974 issue of Sailplane & Gliding by kind permission of the British Gliding Association. It also ties in nicely with Simine Short's September article on aviation stamps which features Sir George Cayley

Early in 1973 I was doing an odd job to one of our gliders in Ken Fripp’s workshop when the Anglia TV unit arrived to film the construction of a replica of Sir George Cayley's 1852 man carrying glider. I was introduced to Harry Aldous, the director, with the comment from Ken that flying such a machine was just the kind of thing I enjoyed—something new.

When Anglia made the proposition that I should indeed attempt to fly in the replica, I was content to leave the design and construction in the very competent hands of John Sproule and Ken. It wasn't until the machine was being finally assembled in the workshop that I thought it was time to see for myself whether it looked practical and airworthy.

We soon agreed that the obvious seating position was athwartships, eg facing to one side looking forward as in the manner of steering a boat, and some model tests by John indicated that the pilot should sit as far forward as possible. As this put me out of reach of the long oar like handle of the "influencer”, I agreed that, since it would take a day or two to make a new one, I would make the first trials with the control lashed down. In other words, I would sit aboard and just go for the ride with no control except the cable release.

On the first two or three taxy runs towed behind Ken Fripp's car, the machine refused to leave the ground. The only real lesson learned was that the aircraft was most sensitive in yaw and would weathercock violently into the slightest crosswind. We also found that the machine was substantially made and quite practical in many respects.

It was clear from these first tests that the ground incidence was insufficient, for it wouldn't lift off (even at 25-30mph). A quick solution was to fit a smaller rear wheel and this lowered the tail by about eight inches.

Next time, off she went, flying beautifully and stably in a graceful hop. The take-off speed was still rather high and the next modification was to increase the wing incidence still further by blocking up the central fore and aft wingspar.

The effect was immediate. On the next flight I climbed so rapidly that Ken lost sight of me from his Volvo driving seat and in a matter of seconds I was up at 30-40ft, climbing at an alarming angle.