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  Bungy Launching  
  By Chris Ellis
Issue 2/2004

 
 

Not many pilots have experienced the joy of this method of being catapulted into the air and several readers have asked how it's done. It's a speciality of the UK's Midland Gliding Club, which is perched on a 1500ft ridge near the Welsh border, so we have asked Chris, who has flown there since 1971, for a description. He started gliding in 1957 whilst in the Merchant Navy, is a full category instructor with a motorglider rating, has some 1500 gliding hours and 500 power and shares in an Open Cirrus and a SF-25C Falke
Are we stuck in a time warp? We still launch gliders by catapulting them off a hill with elastic ropes. Why do we do it? Because it is great fun. The early gliding pioneers, like Otto Lilliental, just walked to the windward edge of the hill, stepped off and soared away. As gliders evolved the pilot was strapped in, carried to the edge by his friends and thrown off - the "shoulder launch". Development continued to a point where they were too sophisticated and heavy for this so the "bungy" catapult was used. This was soon superseded by the winch and tow plane.

The bungy launch has been in use by the Midland Gliding Club on the Long Mynd (Mynd is a word derived from the Welsh for mountain) since 1934 and is a wonderful method of taking to the air. It is quiet and without stress, uses no carboniferous fuels and provides healthy exercise for one’s fellow members.

The only disadvantage is that it is labour intensive and one’s fellow members are inclined to go and hide when much needed exercise is mooted. There have been experiments with other methods of stretching the bungy but none is as good as human power.

Human power is best

There is the legend of the horse and the pulley system where the elastic broke smacking the horse from behind. There are several different versions of what happened after that so I shall leave it to your imagination.

A bungy is a means of converting human effort through industrial strength elastic ropes into sufficient energy to move a static sailplane to flying speed. This is assisted by the need for a headwind of over 20kts and a slope down which it can roll until it has enough airspeed to start flying.

It bears no resemblance whatsoever to being shot off the sharp end of an aircraft carrier. One moment you are perched on top of a slope which drops away at 45° for about 900ft. A couple of seconds later you roll gently off the edge, make a shallow dive until you see 55kts on the ASI and then turn left and