Grunau Baby days
Barrie Jeffery, SAC Historian
Although for 1932, it was an advanced design, if you look at the Grunau Baby with fresh eyes you might think it also was ?not of a piece?. They gave fuselage design to a promising student maybe, one who was a secret admirer of the stern Bauhaus school of architecture: slab sides, nothing extraneous, stark interior. Important to us was the relative ease of rebuilding after a crunch. The horizontal tail is workmanlike but unimaginative with straight edges and only a rudimentary airfoil. With a strongly tapered planform, it speaks of a stress engineer who wanted the forces to be centred close to the control forces. On the other hand, the vertical tail may have been designed by an aerodynamicist, but one with fine artistic sense as well: just the right slopes to the leading and trailing edges, a satisfying taper ratio, and a tip similar to modern pre-winglet design, ie. the rotated section of the tail?s respectable airfoil cross-section. But the wings, they must have been by the master himself, Edmund Schneider.
Herr Schneider gave each single-strut wing a straight leading edge to the midpoint, at which point he cranked it back ever so slightly. The trailing edge, from the same point, curves forward in a graceful ellipse to a rounded tip. The airfoil, the G?ttingen 535, is a low speed, highly curved, thick section with a distinct undercamber, suitable for hovering on a ridge ? John Dure did it for eight hours in 1949 [story in part 2] ? or for making a low speed cross-country.
I averaged less than 17 mph for 5 hours and a bit, also in 1949. This type of airfoil develops a flying amount of lift at zero angle of attack, which can explain the sad loss of one Grunau in a windstorm.
The Grunau so many of us have known and loved was the Grunau Baby IIb and the SAC Yearbook 1948-49 lists six in Canada. The three NRC-distributed wartime reparations Grunaus were at Queen?s University, UBC and the Gatineau Gliding Club. Admiral deWolf?s ?Navy? Grunau was then at the Glider Wing, RCN Dartmouth, NS, and two Grunaus are listed on the prairies, one at Calgary, AB and Ralph Wiseman?s at Rosetown, SK. (I can?t identify the 1948 Calgary Grunau; perhaps someone will have a story for us.) The Grunau cockpit was small but deep.
Your head, just showing above the side, was protected by a small windscreen.
A gentle breeze flowed down the back of your neck. A thin backpack could be worn, but a chest pack or a corpulent figure could restrict control motion seriously, as Frank Woodward learned at an awkward moment, and as the late Helen Tulloch learned at the cost of a prang that could have been deadly. While it seemed to be an easy and forgiving glider to fly, several of the GBs suffered one serious prang over the years.
The World?s Sailplanes (OSTIV, June 1958) lists several Grunau variants. Designed in 1932, the GB IIb was built by ?diverse? manufacturers, apparently in wartime, to 1939 airworthiness requirements. Missing are the date of the Grunau?s first flight and the number built. Some were built in Sweden during the war: and Serial No. 012 of these ? Canadian registration CF-ZEE ? was found this year residing in the Western Canada Aviation Museum, Winnipeg with the help of Christine Firth, Ursula Wiese, and Howard Loewen.
Besides the GB IIb, two other Grunau designs, the III and the V were produced. Our OSTIV source does not give the number of the III that were produced; it is listed as a post-war development of the IIb. Very similar to the IIb, the III is a little longer, horizontal tail a little smaller, vertical tail a little bigger and higher in aspect ratio, wing almost the same but with increased washout, and a wheel with a shortened skid at the nose. You could buy one for $1752, fob USA from Wilhelm Eicke of Bremen, according to a note in free flight, October 1952. It is interesting to speculate whether increased washout or the reconfigured tail would have prevented some of the more or less annual prangs of our GB IIbs.
The Grunau V first flew in 1954 but only three were made, at least until our handy reference was compiled. Very slightly larger than the IIb, the V managed to cram in an extra seat. The wing was a smidgen larger than the IIb or III wings: 14 m (45.9 ft) span, but the tail was identical to that of the III. The main differences were in the fuselage: fuller outline, faired skid, and enclosed cockpit. These changes apparently were enough to give a healthy 18% boost to the glide ratio, now 20:1.
Also worth mentioning is the Reinhard ?Cumulus?. A single-seater built in about ten copies, it first flew in 1951. It had a GB-IIb wing and horizontal tail, but a larger rudder of a sexy shape.
The Queen’s Grunau, ZAR, flying with the experimental ski in 1947, was the pod and boom fuselage with fixed wheel and enclosed cockpit. It claimed an L/D of 19. No postwar IIIs, Vs, or Cumuli are known to have flown our skies.
Norm Bruce’s Zephyr, flown in Alberta and eastern British Columbia for many years, is said to have been a modified Grunau design.
The first Canadian-made Grunau Baby
Hello, is that Ralph Wiseman?” I ask. “No, you have the Kingdom Hall,” says the agreeable man’s voice. “Well, I’ve got a good place, but are you in Rosetown?” He was, but a digit was wrong. On the next number, a voice answered that I hadn’t heard since 1952. “I met you on my honeymoon trip West,” I said, but the truth was that not only he, but I had also totally forgotten it in the meanwhile, and only knew it to be true from reading an old free flight. In the September 1952 issue I had written: “We had the pleasure of meeting another lone-wolf glider pilot, Ralph Wiseman and of seeing his Grunau ... The Grunau is a beautifully finished job ...
” “Ralph is one of those rare people who, like Norm Bruce and Fred Weber, was bitten by the gliding bug some 20 years ago, and is still going strong.” Doug Shenstone wrote that for the January 1951 free flight. He was announcing the completion in November 1950 of Ralph’s Grunau Baby, built from plans obtained from the SSA in 1944. Ralph put in 5000 hours on building it over five long years.
The Soaring Association of Canada had been in the early formative stage in 1944 when Ralph’s request for help to find plans came in, and they were not able to help directly.
SAC always regretted it and hoped they would never be caught short again. Ralph stayed with the Soaring Society of America and had to call on the USA again later, in the person of P.H. Katz of Seattle, when the plans were found to be incomplete. When it was finished, the Grunau CFZBT became the first home-built licensed glider in Canada.
It seems to be one of only two Grunau Baby gliders ever homebuilt here. Ralph stayed bitten by gliding. He flew the Grunau for ten years, sold it to the Regina Flying Club, and followed it up with a Briegleb BG12-A, a Schweizer 1-26, and an HP-11.
From Regina, Ralph’s Grunau went to Prince Albert, and then to Art Penz on the West Coast. Ralph heard it was for sale in Victoria a year or so ago; it now belongs to David Baker, a former CP pilot, once president of the Vancouver Soaring Association, is now flying out of the Seychelles.
The GB waits for him since his last flight in it in 1986.
High flight Ralph Wiseman flew mainly from autotow at first, under Norm Bruce’s instructions. In the process, Norm made his Silver C climb from autotow in the Grunau. Ralph had made 75 flights by the fall of 1952 while Norm had done about 20. In contrast to the catalog of woes experienced by other Grunau pilots, particularly in the east, there were no accidents. It speaks well for both the instructor and the student.
One hot day, Ralph was towed in his GB behind an 85 hp Piper Cub from Rosetown to Swift Current. It was midsummer, about 90 degrees on the ground. Ralph “hit good lift low down, and just stuck with it.” He went up, and kept going up. Up past the clouds. “It was a nice day”, Ralph said. I took that to mean a day of well-spaced puffy cumulus. “The clouds were down below. I got up to 17,000 feet. In an open cockpit, it was cold. I damn near froze. I wanted to come down, and the lift was petering off anyway.” Ralph appears not to have been FAI-badge minded; it seems he just loved to fly.
“That was not the highest a Grunau Baby ever flew,” Ralph said. “One flew in a thundercloud up to 21,000 feet and broke up. It was before the war in Germany. The pilot parachuted and lived.” From phone conversation with Mr. Wiseman, a youthfulsounding 84 year-old, on 22 March 2000. In a follow-up call on 27 April, I learned that Ralph was in hospital recovering from a heart attack. His daughter expected him home the same week, and he has been well enough to send me a note and some clippings since then.
First Canadian Silver C in 1947 by Shorty Boudreault in CF-ZBH
“On May 2, with a climb to 7600 feet above Carp [Shorty] achieved his height leg with lots to spare. On July 2, after one previous attempt at leaving the home field, Shorty set the GB down at Pendleton, 41 miles away, after a flight of 2 hours, 20 minutes, and gained his distance ‘leg’. Only the duration remained.” Shorty headed for Gatineau Hills lift on August 1; as usual he was plagued with violent airsickness after two or three hours, but ...“Finally, after what must have seemed agonizing years, his watch registered the required five hours. But, not to be cheated after such hours of suffering he held to his course ... Almost another half hour he stayed aloft. Thus was won Canada’s first Silver C.” A.N. LeCheminant, SAC Year Book 1948-49 . Shorty, now no longer in the best of health, lives in Ottawa and visits GGC with his sisters during the season.
1947: Queen’s Gliding Club researches winter flying
As part of the terms of the assignment of a Grunau Baby to Queen’s University, a well-organized Queen’s Gliding Club made two interesting experiments. They designed and tested a ski for the GB, and searched the lift and sink pattern of air movement over the frozen lake between the Collins Bay Airport and Amherst Island. They found that the only measurable effect of the ski on performance was to increase stalling speed by a fraction (0.8 mph) slightly more with spoilers open (1.4 mph).
In test flying the GB on 21 February 1947, there was a light shifty west wind, with cloud forming at 3500 feet. Pilot Gordon Spafford found “a large area of slowly rising air over the lake ice at the east end of Amherst Island. Closest to the island, however were down-currents of 36 ft/sec. The up-currents reached a maximum velocity of 10 ft/sec at about 2000 feet”[vertical velocities corrected for glider sinking speed]. Gord stayed airborne for an hour and 13 minutes. Queen’s University Gliding Club Annual Report, November 1948, R.M. Cuddy and Gordon Spafford. See also “Report on Ski Flight Tests” by G. Spafford, SAC Year Book 1948-49. Gord is retired in Winnipeg.
1947: Gatineau Gliding Club also does research
W.F. (Bill) Campbell carried out research on angle of attack indicators as possible primary flight instruments for gliders.
They also might serve as thermal indicators. His report appeared in the SAC Year Book 1948-49. Bill lives in Ottawa with his wife Betty, one-time co-editor of free flight with her late husband Jack Fleming. Bill was a founder of GGC and is retired from a distinguished career in aerodynamics.
1947-48: UBC gets a war prize
Grunau ZBD was “completely refurbished prior to the 1948 soaring season,” not at Boundary Bay, as Lloyd Bungey had it, but in an army shack on the UBC campus. But this was not because of an accident in Canada; it was the original restoration of “the tattiest of the three [wartime] Grunau Babies”.
ZBD, thanks to higher powers perhaps, survived flying in testing circumstances in 1948 and 1949, whether on autotow, aerotow behind an Aeronca Champ, or across the Strait of Georgia behind a Cessna Crane (from the Woodward article in “Trying their Wings”), or soaring in Frank Woodward’s hands on the West Vancouver mountains and across English Bay to land on the UBC campus.
1949: Nadine Harley flies high
“Nadine modestly deprecates her 6000 [ft] in the GB. Offhand, we can’t think of any other Canadian girl who has reached that height ...” Doug Shenstone, editor free flight, Gatineau Club News, Sept. 1949.
1949: Some other fun flights that turned out to be Canadian records
We will save a couple of these for the end, as there are “the Agonies” to record before then.
1950: News from Rosetown, Sask.
“News has come to hand that Ralph Wiseman of Rosetown is ready to cover his GB, so long in the making.The first GB ever built from scratch in Canada, we are looking forward eagerly to flight news ...” ff July 1950.
1951: The overnight camping in the sandpits SE of Pendleton
Barney Pepper beating up the field in the Grunau and tipping his old black Homburg while greeting us earthlings with a jolly, “What Ho”, all made for additional enjoyable memories about good old (50 years) Gatineau Gliding Club.” Peter Sneyd’s memories.
1952: “Three’s a crowd”
7 September saw possibly the first and only triple sailplane aerotow in Canada made at an airshow at Carp Airport. “The participating aircraft were the Gatineau Gliding Club’s Olympia and Grunau, and the Buckingham Gliding Club’s 2-22, with Russ Bradley’s Stearman doing the towing. The gliders were in Vee formation with the Grunau in the centre and trailing the other two ... Following release, Bill Curran showed what the Olympia could do in the way of aerobatics, then did a mild beat-up before landing in a shower of paratroopers [they arrived early] ... Chem LeCheminant and Don Melliship flew the Grunau and 2-22 respectively. ff Sept. 1952
1953: Spotting it in at Breslau:
“The annual spot landing contest using the GGC’s Grunau was held [at the National Soaring Meet]. Since the Grunau had a skid and not a wheel the contest called for maximum skill by the pilots. Eric Wimberley, of the Gatineau club, on his second solo flight, walked off with top honours by practically stopping on top of the spot.” ff 8/53 Eric first met Gatineau in 1944 when a delegation arranged to use a field Eric’s father farmed on for the club’s first Dagling flights. He was active in soaring for many years and lives in Ottawa.
Before going any farther, we had better settle the following question: “the Agonies why so many accidents?” Most of us: John Dure, Elvie Smith, Herb Henshaw, Blodwen Thomas, and Mel Miller had little solo glider experience when we first flew the Grunau Baby. And yet we were all quite comfortable in it. It was slow, but responsive; it had effective controls, not least the spoilers. And yet, nearly every winter between 1947 and 1958 someone, somewhere, was patching up a fuselage or even a wing. This has been on my mind lately as I recall the pleasant summer days and cu-filled skies of my GB flying days.
The Agonies: what was this all about?
1948: “On 18 July 1948, the first cross-country flight [in CFZAR, the Kingston war prize GB] was attempted, but ended in disaster. The glider spun into the ground destroying the cockpit area of the glider back to the front bulkhead and damaging the wings. The pilot, W. Curran, escaped with both ankles broken ... by May 1953 the fuselage had been repaired“ [by Earl Morris & Don MacClement.]
1950: “The GB [ZBH] is undergoing minor finishing touches at Uplands Airport.” ff June 1950
1953: In a remarkable spirit of generosity, the [Queens’ GB ZAR’s] fuselage, freshly and laboriously repaired over a period of five years, was immediately loaned to the Gatineau Gliding Club to replace temporarily a newly-crunched fuselage so that the glider could be flown at the Kitchener meet.
1948-56: “ZAR’s wings which required a main spar splice four feet from the tip, were repaired by Walter Piercy and Hank Janzen.” [Completed in 1956.] LB, op. cit.
1957: Registration of ZAR was cancelled. “Reborn as ZCP, the Grunau was soon under repair again.” In a takeoff accident, similar to Leonore Dure’s, related below “ ... 9 June 1957 ... a wingtip dropped into tall weeds, and before Walter Piercy, the pilot, could release, the glider was towed off, slewing sideways ... The ... forces were more than the skid undercarriage could withstand and it was torn off carrying part of the keel with it. Back to the workshop (Walter’s basement!)”.
1963 to present: ZCP moved from place to place after Queen’s sold her in 1963. She went to Windsor, COSA (Central Ontario Soaring Ass’n ) and Hope BC, owned by COSA member, George Mathias. In 1982 George gave her to the Victoria Branch of the Canadian Museum of Flight and Transportation, BC. [She never made it there. She’s recently been found “in very bad shape due to glue delamination” in the Canadian Museum of Flight, Langley, BC. She might be made available for sale.] No more accidents were recorded in spite of a considerable number of hours flying with various groups.
1950: Agonies with a difference from the first editor of free flight, Doug Shenstone, after the SAC Meet at St. Eugene (ff, Aug 1950): “Delay in getting out this bulletin was occasioned by the Editor suffering a severe back strain at manhandling a glider at the Meet. At the moment he sits poker-stiff and in considerable discomfort. So far as he is concerned, until somebody puts a wheel on that g--d GB, it can stay in the long grass ’til it rots!”
1951: It was probably an inadvertent early release that caused a young woman pilot to land one or two fields away from the Pendleton airfield. Squeaking in over a barbed wire fence, the Grunau suffered damage to its tail end. Back to the shop! But providence favoured us a possible serious injury or even fatality was avoided the wire left marks near the nose of the glider but passed under instead of over the nose. Info by phone from Dr. Bruce Bigham, 13 May 2000. We were both there in ’51.)
19xx: “When they [Western Canadian Aviation Museum] received CF-ZEE, it had been wrecked and the fuselage had been destroyed. They restored the wings and used the fuselage from a home-built Grunau Baby that had also been contributed to the museum (reg. CF-CNJ) and which had apparently never flown ... They still have the parts of the original fuselage, but they are in pretty bad shape.” Howard Loewen, e-mail, 13 Jan 2000, about the Swedish-built glider, Ser. No. 012, that ended in the Western Canadian Aviation Museum, Winnipeg. CNJ is apparently one of the only two Canadian home-built Grunaus. At this point, I have no information on who built it or when or where.
1951: “Repair of a GB formerly held by UBC [ZBD] is progressing well [in Vancouver]. Bulkheads have been built up, longerons spliced, and the inner skin on.” ff Jan 1951
1951: “GRUNAU AT ROSETOWN, Sask: ... letter from Ralph Wiseman puts us in the picture regarding the new GB [CF-ZBT] he has completed ... But what now? ... the distance from Rosetown to Calgary is more than 300 miles where the nearest qualified instructor (Norm Bruce) is located. Getting in the time to secure his pilot’s licence is going to be a problem ...” D. Shenstone, ff Jan 1951
1951-52: A story of bad glue in ZBD was a particular agony for the glider pilots of Vancouver. It was no fun for Frank Woodward and me either. We had trailered the glider from Arnprior to UBC, hovered over the renovation all winter of ’47-’48, and been the first fliers, risking our necks perhaps, as it turned out. I later came across reports in the NRC library in Ottawa which indicated that urea-formaldehyde glue without filler would craze and disintegrate with time. In Vancouver they reluctantly opened a panel in the leading edge to investigate. Rib pieces could be lifted out freely. Pete van Groen, I believe, saw it as a totally impractical repair job and did the necessary dismantling.
1953: “Between flying weekends the club’s main activity (as usual) is repairing damaged gliders. The current project is a major rebuild of the centre section of a Grunau fuselage.” Elvie Smith, ff March 1953, GGC notes.
The club started flying on Feb 28 that year. In spite of all, GGC flew 167 flights in 51 hours in a “Grunau” that year, as well as flying the Olympia and Pratt Read, towed by Tiger.
But what mishap did that GB repair job represent? Was it the takeoff accident of 1952? Was there another GB accident early in 1953 (see below, LB)? Or was the ‘rebuild’ just the installation of a wheel? And which glider was it? Was it really ZBH or was it the “Navy” Grunau? Certainly, it was ZBH that had a wheel installed, probably after the 1952 season was over.
1952: How did ZBH (if it was ZBH) come to grief? Hear it in the words of pilot Leonore Dure herself:
“My Short Take-off and Landing in a Grunau”
The date in my log book is August 17, 1952. Nearly 50 years ago, but it stands out in my mind as if it was only yesterday.
The day was sunny and warm, typical summer weather. The Grunau was in great demand by the group standing around waiting their turn for the Gatineau Gliding Club’s Grunau. Not many gliders were privately owned back then. Eventually my name got to the top of the list. The gliders were taking off and landing along the grass side of the runway which was no longer serviceable due to holes along the edge of the runway. The grass along this strip was kept short by the takeoffs and landings.
Some on-lookers thought this was the moment when the tow rope finally took up all the slack and the glider lunged forward. In hindsight I should have pulled the release considering the conditions but before I had time to react it seemed, the right wing dipped, touching the grass. Still moving forward, I tried to correct and the left wing dropped, touching the ground and spun me around in a ground loop. By this time the towplane had pulled the release.
I climbed out of the cockpit all in one piece but the same could not be said of the Grunau. It had sustained extensive damage. I heard someone say it would only be good for matchsticks but didn’t inspect the damage myself. I wished the ground would open up and swallow me. I can’t ever remember feeling so badly. With only three gliders available, I believe, I had totalled one of them.
However with the goodwill and optimism that must be born in glider pilots, the members of the club had me checked out and I soloed once more in a Grunau (which one?) on Sept 21, just before the end of the season. What a forgiving bunch! It’s a great sport and happily I lived to reminisce about those good old days and also the camaraderie we enjoyed with the Buckingham Gliding Club.
Foonote: I expected that such STOL maneuvers would be removed from the curriculum! However as reported in free flight 4/89, page 7, ’War Prize Gliders’, a very similar accident happened to ZCP on 9 June 1957, at Queen’s University Gliding Club. Leonore Dure, 17 April 2000 1953: “In May 1953, ZBH was again seriously damaged.” LB, op. cit.
1953: “The Grunau CF-ZBD (or at least the remaining components thereof) has been sold by Crown Assets to Jack Davidson [Vancouver]”. ff Feb 1953. The wings had been dismantled because of deteriorated glue. The fuselage, apparently extensively repaired after fuselage damage in about 1950 alluded to above, details of the accident unknown, soon was sold to GGC so that the borrowed Queen’s fuselage could be returned. ZBD returned east and apparently assumed the identity at least for a time of a hybrid ZBD/ZBH, and “flew in this form for the remainder of the 1953 season.”
The traumas continued. Strangely, we took it all in stride, pretty much, as each new incident occurred. Perhaps it was because only sticks and plywood were broken. No bodies suffered permanent damage or worse in a Grunau. The following story could have turned out to be an exception.
1954: A Grunau takes a header
“We had another not so pleasant experience that year. An experienced lady glider pilot (pilotess?) returned to Pendleton after not flying solo for a couple of months.
She had a checkout in the Pratt-Read and was cleared for the Grunau Baby ZBD or ZBH, with Elvie Smith as towpilot and me in front on a “famil” trip. Takeoff and initial climb seemed normal. At about 700 feet agl a sudden jerk and the Grunau passes us in a steep high speed dive towards earth.
“We followed her and watched her approach the opposite end of the active runway and it appeared she would prang the Grunau into the trees at the west end of the takeoff landing strip. Luckily a few feet clear of the trees but hundreds of feet from the landing strip, she landed and ground to a halt within about twenty feet.
“We flew past her quickly and couldn’t tell if she was injured but the wings of the Grunau were noticeably bent forward 10-15 degrees from normal mounting. Members got to her quickly, however, and besides a bent aircraft, the lady was shaken but not injured. We arrived to see the wings displaced, skid crushed and off to the side of the hull, some damage to the nose and a great skid mark and hole in the turf where she plowed in.
“This lady was rather larger than the capacity of a Grunau cockpit. After getting airborne, she found she had very little if any stick movement... Luckily it was a happy ending but the glider was out of service for a year or more.”
... from Peter Sneyd’s memories of his teenage years at GGC. (The pilot was a mathematician at the National Research council who has since passed away.
On the same accident:
1954: “ZBH crashed at Pendleton the following summer, first flight on type for Helen(?). Extensive damage to the fuselage and some to the wing roots. No one was hurt!” (Eric Wimberley, e-mail, 18 March 2000).
Once again, a major GB fuselage rebuild! The Bauhaus design did pay off in reducing complexity of repairs. Wing repairs as well this time.
1956-57: Leo Smith (one of a series of free flight editors in the later 50s: Leo and his wife Lois were keeners at the GGC) was reported to have nearly completed repairs to the fuselage of ZBH. This would have been after the header of 1954 or even perhaps, after the unidentified accident of 1953.
1959: GGC sold ZBD to the Quebec Soaring Club. Alex Krieger reports that a pilot left one wing tip behind as it struck the rear window of a car on the airfield on landing.
1965: ZBD became the first of the war prize Grunaus to be totally written off when it “was wrecked in the first hurricane that swept the country.”
Why were there so many crashes did the GB have a split personality?
Given that the GB was slow and easy to fly, what reason can there have been for the unending accidents over the years? I suspect the reasons are as diverse as a list of accident causes today, but several special to the Grunau have been brought up when I’ve raised the question amongst the pilots of the day.
Such a condition could easily have been a factor in Bill Curran’s stall-spin outlanding accident of ZAR, the Queen’s GB in 1948. The weather was windy and gusty; the Queen’s lessons learned included keeping on plenty of speed in those conditions.
And on a more positive note ...
That flight completed two legs of the second Silver C for Canada and the Grunau ZBH (the altitude leg was flown two weeks later in a Pratt-Read), and made a short-lived Canadian distance record of 88 miles. Hank Janzen called the FF editor after doing an overnight retrieve, and free flight, August 1949, said: “Stop Press record flight... As this bulletin was being printed, Barrie Jeffery was cracking the Canadian distance record by soaring the Gatineau club’s Grunau for 90 miles from Carp Airfield to a field near Coteau Landing, Quebec, ... some 14 miles south of Montreal. Towed up by Johnnie Dure on Sunday, 14 August at 12:48 pm, he released at 2000 feet and hit a high of 5000 to 6000 feet and a low of 2000, landing shortly after 6 p.m.”
Al Pow had flown 78 miles on 30 May the same summer, breaking Ralph Anders’ 69 mile distance record of 18 July 1948; in 1947 Jack Ames had the longest flight. In 1950, Frank Brame topped the 1949 record with 118 miles. A point about the Silver C is curious. Al Pow had done many more cross-country flights than most if not all other Canadian pilots, and free flight, Aug1949 reported that at the Kingston Meet, 30 July to 7 Aug: “With the ground chock-ablock with Official Observers, Al Pow finally was credited with his oft-earned Silver C. Another mystery why didn’t he have number 2?
After my 88-mile flight, the newspaper said in an alleged quotation, “I just pulled back on the stick and prayed for a crosswind.” On a really upbeat note, here is a story of a long flight, sticky beans, and ZBH’s third Canadian Silver C:
Eight hours aloft in a Grunau Baby a Canadian endurance record in 1949, by John Dure
This story is based on my story in free flight in Sept 1949, with clarification and additional details.
I rejoined the RCAF for summer employment in 1949, having been a navigator in WWII and then a student in Engineering Physics at U of T, entering my last year. I requested a posting to the RCAF Detachment, National Research Council, Arnprior, ON (west of Ottawa). There, I took up gliding with the Gatineau Gliding Club (GGC).
I had previously obtained my Private Pilot licence in 1947. We flew out of Carp airport, using a Tiger Moth towplane owned by Bradley Flying School (Russ Bradley, ex-RCAF pilot). GGC owned a Pratt-Read, CF-ZAA, and a Grunau Baby CF-ZBH.
Thursday morning Sept 15 dawned clear and cold and I had every intention of catching a train back to U of T. However when a beautiful cloud-puff appeared about 10:00 I decided to have one last flight, taking a shot at five hours endurance, which would be my final qualification for a Silver C. I hitchhiked to Carp.
Russ helped me roll out the Grunau to the runway. We doubled (shortened) the tow line, to get enough propwash to raise and level the wings (no wingman). At 500 feet I remembered I had not started the barograph, so cut loose and landed. Shortly, we were airborne [again].
I released at 1500 feet, encountered 2 m/sec lift, then got the rate up to 3 and spiraled up to cloudbase at 5500 feet. After a while I decided to cross the Ottawa River to the Gatineau ridge so that if thermals died I would still have a chance of finishing the five hours, ridge soaring.
I had never ridge soared before so after an hour and a half of thermal soaring I decided to drop down and try it, the thermals being so good that I was sure I could pick one up and climb back up without trouble. At 200 feet I began looking for lift back of the crest and became apprehensive because my rate of descent was not easing off. Finally I was right over the crest and slipped across it and down another hundred feet before I encountered steady lift. This was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life, soaring just above the tree tops and cruising along 15-20 miles of ridge.
After a couple of hours I decided to try to regain thermal flying. I had noticed sharp uplift passing over a break in the ridge (Kingsmere) and had tried several times to circle in it without success. On my next try I anticipated, turned tightly, and spiraled up to cloudbase again.
It got very cold and I was not warmly dressed, so I decided to repeat the procedure, back down to the ridge. This time I found the lift 300 feet above the crest but perpendicular to the slope of the ridge. As I gained skill, confidence and altitude I began to imitate the birds I had seen soaring and was wheeling around where the air shot up crevices, then hovering with my nose into the wind and riding up several hundred feet in thejet of air. Excitement changed to exhilaration as I realized human ambition to soar as effortlessly as gulls, eagles or hawks. Also new to me was being able to waste altitude, knowing I could fly to a jet of updraft and regain thermal flying.
Once again I found a thermal and climbed to cloudbase. After 6-1/2 hours had elapsed I decided to go no longer than 8 hours as I was becoming quite tired. At one stage I crossed my legs around the stick and, using the ailerons to control yaw, cruised back and forth under a big cloud which was affording some lift.
At 18:20, with 2500 feet on the altimeter, I encountered 2 metres/sec of lift and hurriedly uncrossing my legs, spiralled up about 2000 feet. However it was so cold that I soon dropped down again, being too tired to care if I stayed up any longer.
At 19:20 I was at 2500 feet again, looking over the farmer’s field I had chosen to land in. I needed shelter, a telephone, a landmark for Russ, and a field for an aerotow retrieval next morning. Just then I encountered 1 metre/sec of lift. I was dismayed and frustrated and couldn’t decide whether to climb in it or not! I was also annoyed at the Grunau because it refused to descend by itself and I hated to force it down!
nose down, landing at 19:38 for 8 hours 9 minutes duration. This qualified me for Canadian Silver C #3 and the Canadian endurance record.
The farmer helped me push the Grunau into a corner of the field and move the cows (who were licking the lacquer on the Gru-nau) to another field. I was very hungry having taken along just two chocolate bars and was pleased when the farmer’s wife offered me beans heating on the stove. I’ll never forget how dry they were and stuck to my mouth so I could barely swallow them!
In the morning Russ found me directly. With a doubled towline, we were out of the field and back to Carp. After a most memorable summer I made my way back to U of T.
Biographic note: John Dure married Leonore Patterson in June 1950 and they moved to Ottawa. Leonore got her Private Pilot licence in 1951 and flew gliders from 1951 to 1954. In 1952 she crashed a Grunau Baby within the first 100 feet of the takeoff run and was unhurt (see story above).
John flew as towpilot and instructor for the GGC until 1955, when he moved to Quebec City and continued flying with the gliding club there until 1957 when operations came to a halt upon the crash of the Tiger Moth towplane CF-CJJ. John and Leonore live in Maple Lloyd Bungey’s article (“The War Prize Gliders”, ff 4/89) mentions that Dave Fowlow of the Cu Nim Gliding Club bought ZBH (originally the Gatineau Gliding Club war prize machine) in 1987 and stored it in 1988 with the goal of restoring it to as-new condition. Dave said recently that ZBH might be made available to a museum or other good home. ZBH was bought from Medicine Hat; her last flight logged to date was at Cowley, to 1214,000 feet, in the 1980s.
Now, probably the longest ever Grunau flight:
Gold C distance in a Grunau ... they laughed when he declared his goal but he made it !
1979, 14 May: Dave Baker set out from Chipman, Alberta, in the Wiseman Grunau, CF-ZBT, on his second cross-country flight. Six and three-quarter hours later he squeezed the last foot of altitude out of the last upward breath of air and eased into the North Battleford airport with a whole 400 feet to spare: 317 km and Gold C distance. And why not a Diamond for the goal?
Dave Baker, an airline pilot formerly with CP Air and a pastpresident of the Vancouver Soaring Association, is now based in the Seychelles Islands.