Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Thermal Soaring a Walkalong Glider

The many facets of model aviation never cease to amaze me and provide endless opportunities for experimentation. Several people I know are active in what has often known as “walkalong gliders”. Many years ago a local modeler had built walkalong gliders from thin balsa strips covered with condenser paper, a lightweight covering material. He let me fly his gliders inside a fairly large indoor model airplane flying site. To keep the glider flying on a wave of air you needed to push the paddle (flat piece that creates wave of air) at a fairly fast walking speed.

Walkalong Glider High Above Paddle

Through the Internet I would meet Slater Harrison aka the ScienceToymaker, Darcy Whyte (famous for Squirrel model airplane) and Phil Rossoni who had written a book about walkalong gliders. I had experimented with Slater’s paper constructed gliders and then he had sent me a sample of the very thin foam gliders he has been building. These foam gliders are amazingly light, you need only move the paddle at a slow walking speed.

Closer View of Foam Glider

Normally the lightweight walkalong gliders are only flown indoors in very still air. Recently it was very still in the evening and I flew the foam glider outdoors. It worked pretty well and at times I noticed it was climbing much higher than the wave of air normally extends above the paddle. I asked Slater if he thought I might be getting some thermal lift from the blacktop surface in the alley I was flying from. He thought that might be the case so I just had to try it again to see if a glider could rise even higher on its’ own.

Glider Stuck on My Roof

Last evening was quiet again near sunset so I tried it in the alley near my house; sure enough the super light glider began to rise above the paddle to an altitude of around 10 feet. I tried fanning the paddle to disturb the air under the glider hoping it would bring it down. It did come down right on the edge of my garage roof.  Retrieved it with a ladder and just had to try again. Air surfed in the normal fashion and then when the glider began to rise I dropped the paddle and began to get video of the flight.

Slowly the foam glider circled upwards heading towards the neighbor’s house. It wasn’t long and the glider was getting close to the height of a two story house. Finally the glider collided with the side of the house and landed on the garage roof.  This time it took a rake and a ladder to retrieve the glider, amazingly the glider was not damaged as I dragged it across the garage roof.

I doubt this will ever become a sanctioned model aviation event but it sure was cool to watch. Sometime I might have to sacrifice one of the gliders and see if it can climb out of sight.


Foam Gliders and Supplies from Slater Harrison

Bill Kuhl

Slater Harrison's Video to Explain Flying the Glider

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