Tales of Pilots & Gliders
- Steffen Clement & his Open Libelle - Germany
Pilot: Steffen Clement
Club: Neckartal Köngen, near Stuttgart
Glider: Libelle H 301b – Serial Number 45, 1967
My first glider flight was around 1984 with my Dad in a Twin Astir 1, which ended after a short time because I was getting sick. Nevertheless I stuck with it and did my first solo flight at the age of 15 and still love being in the air (whether in a glider or microlight).
I grew up on the edge of the Swabian Alb and was allowed to spend a lot of time with my dad at airfields as a child. His madness about planes and the proximity to Schlattstall/Grabenstetten have always connected me with all of the Glasflügel gliders, which hasn’t changed to this day.
The special charm and character of the various types still fascinate me. It’s nice to see that there are still so many Glasflügel gliders in the sky over southern Germany and all over the world.
Many thanks to the Streifeneder family for trying to keep these great planes in the sky for a long time to come.
I’ve always browsed through the well-known websites for offers from H201/301, Mosquitos or 304s, although I could use a great fleet of aircrafts in our club. But sometimes you just have to grab it when an opportunity presents itself. So we (together with two club mates) were able to look at an offered H301b in February 2021, which we then bought after a short consideration.
I started flying in 1986 on Hahnweide near Kirchheim/Teck (10 km from Grabenstetten, 20 km from Stuttgart), which is still my home field for most of my flying activities.I try to fly once a week from there during the season – depending on our activities at home.
I love the unmistakable character and silhouette of our Libelle. It’s amazing how much fun you can still have with such an old glider.
I enjoy every flight but I have 3 with special memories.
Last year in July with our Libelle – a triangle south of Berlin in incredible conditions and beautiful views. Also in 2022 – a trip with our Discus 2cT to the holy mountain “Wasserkuppe” (250km north of Hahnweide). And in a 600 km flight with a lovely borrowed Mosquito b in the Czech Republic
I am enjoying having fun in our H301b and enjoy each flight! Maybe I will get a share in a 304 at some point.
I just enjoy having fun in our Libelle H301b and look forward to every flight!
- Rob Buck & his Open Libelle - USA
Pilot: Rob Buck
Glider: Libelle H 301b – Serial Number 68, 1967
Registration: N1737 “RB”
Our 301b is serial number 68 and the last I knew it was in Australia. We kept that wonderful sailplane (and regret selling it) until 1973 and was sold to Ian Pryde in New Zealand. It was then flown by Alan Cameron in the 1974 World meet at Waikerie, standard class with locked flaps. They did considerable work to clean up the Libelle, and I believe Alan was something like 7th place!
I visited the factory in December of 1967 when our Libelle H 301b was in production. Dieter Furst took me into the factory after picking me up at the train station, on a snowy evening, and with no one else there I could see all these beautiful fuselages and wings were sitting there in their various forms of being born. He showed me around and in his smiling way finally said” “well let’s see…this is your Libelle!” It was the fuselage upside down on a sawhorse being finished, and scribbled inside with a pencil was number 68, it’s serial number. It may sound weird, but I think of that moment, as a fortunate young man of 18, and did not have the same feeling on seeing our Libelle for the first time, until our son was born.
My father and I often visited the Glasflugel factory.. he was a TWA pilot, so getting back and forth to Germany was easy. We developed very fond and appreciated friendships with so many in the company. Truly a wonderful group of people… a family. I am reading the Glasflugel book that recently came out… many memories, and also revealings of many things we did not know, but it also is an emotional experience reading it.
I always thought of our Libelle as my best friend, from 18 years old until we sold it when I was 24. We shared a lot together, and I probably scared the heck out of our poor Libelle several times! At times we flew the wonderful little glider pretty hard, throughout several National and Regional competitions. The Libelle was a far better glider than I was a competition pilot!
We ordered the glider without a trailer, so they crated the glider, then drove it up to Frankfurt where we had arranged to have it flown to New York on a TWA cargo 707. Part of the arrangement was that they uncrated the glider right on the ramp of the airport, assembled it in front of the 707 for pictures, with a short caption explaining the event, and of course highlighting the Libelle. I think the picture and caption showed up and something like 187 newspapers! A nice little bit of public relations for Glasflugel!
I remember a story from Gren Siebels, the American Libelle owner and author of several soaring books. He was a very amusing man, and also very tall, maybe 6’3″ or more. Anyway, someone once asked him if he was comfortable in his Libelle. He responded something to the effect of no, it’s horribly uncomfortable, and I loved every second of it!
As you may know Harris Hill, which is the airport in the photo below, was where soaring began with seriousness in the United States back in the late 20s and early 30s. Then of course it was not paved.
You can read the full report from the April/May 1974 Sailplane & Gliding here, starting on page 18.
This picture was taken by Alex Aldott, who would come to Nationals before they began and for a reasonable fee you could have pictures of your sailplane in flight. His idea was to get as close as possible so the pilot is emphasized… picture you see here is actually a little further out than he liked. The way he would do it is be in the tow plane, then right after release you’re supposed to come into the side and make turns back and forth to the aft right quarter of the tow plane and so forth. He was a dramatic Hungarian, actually a professional dancer along with his wife, Dita, and being a Super Cub would have one foot out on the strut, and sitting kind of on the rear seat and the side of the fuselage with the lower door open.
I remember in this photo session, while he’s holding his big Hasselblad camera, he takes one hand off it and kept waving me in closer and closer, at the same time you’re looking at the end of the tow rope with the steel ring flailing around not far from your wingtip. He didn’t worry about things like that. He took a zillion pictures of many and the collection went somewhere but we don’t really know where. His wife needed money at the end and we think she sold them to someone who may have given them to the Smithsonian but yet to figure that out. There’s a lot of history in his pictures and wish they could be made public. Again of the airport below, The Hanger you see, along with a log building which you cannot see to the left and so forth, was built under President Roosevelt’s program in the 1930s to help bring the United States out of the depression. He put people to work with all sorts of projects, which of course in this case was even a glider field!
- Neil Varley & his Mosquito - Australia
Pilot: Neil Varley
Club: Adelaide Soaring Club
Airfield: Gawler Aerodrome
Glider: Mosquito – Serial Number 62, 1977
This is my Dad’s one family owner ever Mosquito VH-GRY that we picked up from Harry Schneider at his workshop on Gawler Airfield November 1977.
I am both the Registered Owner and Operator since Dad, Olaf, passed away nearly two years ago. I have not flown the Mosquito myself for over four years now due to other commitments, but Phil Ritchie has kept GRY operating each year both before and after I could not find time to fly. Our Mosquito still has under 1,700 hours total flying in the logbook.
After we picked our new Mosquito from Harry Schneider at his Gawler workshop November 1977, I had a long high aerotow from Gawler Aerodrome to 8,000′ by tug pilot Arthur Pearson to beyond Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley wine district so I could get used to flying it before landing at Stonefield.
After the H301B Libelle I had been flying previously, I appreciated the very roomy cockpit and found the Mosquito handling and coordination very easy in turns and general flying. As soon as I came off tow, I knew the wait was certainly worthwhile.
The first landing at Stonefield was on R29 with a fair crosswind from the left but the Mosquito handled it easily and I was down for the first ever landing in Australia after Mr Prasser had test flown it in Germany. Try to stop me smiling that day!!
I did my first 500 kilometre triangle flight from Stonefield on the 4th of Novermber 1978 to Lameroo- Lake Cullulleraine and averaged around 105kph with water from a winch launch. My second 500K, also a triangle, came in January 1979 from Waikerie Gliding Club to Coomandook- Lake Cullulleraine this time.
Challenged the previous night in the bar by Peter Curtis a Nationals pilot to a flight as big as I had ever done only once before! And he was already flying National Competitions. My crew person Harry Wendt suggested we go for it so we did with early to our tents that night for a long day to come.
The day was not great with tops all day of 5,500′ and I turned Coomandook at the same time as Peter in Waikerie’s ASW-20 KYA. He was a couple of hundred feet above and steamed off up second leg. We had hit the seabreeze there so I carefully and slowly glided back to where the climbs would be further north east. Peter steamed off way up second leg and then almost outlanded the ASW-20 so I took time to climb out and I just cruised over the top much higher on to Lake Cullulleraine.
I got good climbs up to the 5,500′ inversion from there and got back to Lake Bonney needing one more climb home. Maurie Bradney, the Waikerie GC CFI called me for news and I told him I had a climb to get home. I took it way too high but just wanted to get home which I did easily. Peter just turned the Victorian border so I was the only 500km Waikerie pilot that day. The flight took 6 hours 29 mins but I was so relieved to get home.
Here is my proudest moment with Mosquito GRY…
I shared Mosquito GRY with Phil Ritchie for quite a few years before he bought his lovely Quintus M long winged sailplane. He asked if he could take the Mosquito to the Horsham Week (also Victorian State Championships) in February 2016 and I of course gave him permission to take it to fly and compete.
He was already a two time Club Class Australian Champion as well as representing Australia in a WGC in Norway some years back.
He won the Comp in our beautiful Glasflügel Mosquito GRY against a couple of Pik-20’s who were also ones to worry about for top spot there. He became Victorian State Club Class Champion!
Phil won the Comp on the very last day having won a few days previously but messed up a day when he turned off the recently purchased Oudie IGC in flight accidently. That lost him the task as he hadn’t saved it, so he then flew out of the scoring kilometres to the north and lost the day badly. The IGC task certainly displays that sadly.
This was my profiling of Mosquito GRY wings in my home shed where I still live now under the watchful eye of “Boots”. I used the American glider pilot Richard Johnson notes (on a Pik-20) to do the very same type of wing reprofile system to correct my wings to profiles run off by Rudi Gaissmeier who used to work for Harry Schneider years ago at Gawler.
I measured my profile depths at about twelve stations of each wing and gave the profile depths to Rudi who then printed the Mosquito Wortmann FX wing profiles for me to make templates from. As seen in the photo, I then placed epoxy paste onto the stations and then forced templates into the paste at the stations and let the epoxy set. Then I sanded the templates down to the profiles and used a long screed to squeeze an epoxy/microballoon mixture to fill where needed in the first 10 to 35% of the forward top chord of each wing. A long tedious many man hours process for me attempting it first time under the guidance of a GFA Inspector. I feel confident after a Horsham Comp win by Phil Ritchie and a few of my OLC flights, I have certainly not harmed and maybe possibly improved the Mosquito performance.
Phil had to win the very last day and with his enormous ability, he just did what was needed, a great day for Glasflugel Mosquito’s indeed! I gave him that very Oudie IGC when he purchased his Quintus M sailplane as a reminder of the help he had given me to continue flying Mosquito GRY then.2016 Horsham Week Results
Interestingly, both the Barossa Valley Gliding Club Libelle H301B and our Mosquito were Glasflugel Serial No. 62.
In the future after retirement soon, I look forward to flying the Mosquito again to get some currency first. I have always loved the feel and comfort of the Mosquito for long flights and wonder if still a possibility to do a 1,000 km flight in it after many tries and fails in the past. I have done multiple 750 km flights and several more both triangles and O & R’s above 800 kms. It would still be ever so nice to beat my best ever distance around 880 kms but I will be happy with all the great joy the Mosquito has already brought to me. My last flight in GRY was 24th January 2019.