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
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!