Design Classics

Mike Shellim

Last updated 26 November 2009

Gliders which have stood the test of time (and the elements) to become your favourites.

Model Why it's a classic!
Algebra ...must rate as some of the most influential in thermal soaring circles. Sean Bannister flew these models to World Championships standards... Thanks for your inspiration Sean. - Jim Romer
Alpina The Original Multiplex Alpina is my nomination. Never has one saiplane given so much to so few! The few that bought them in the UK when I was active in RC gliding won every cross country event! It was way ahead of its time in terms of soaring ability, speed range and aerobatics. The Alpina still rates as one of the best in its class. - Al Macdonald

It won the FAI by Skip Miller years ago. I currently fly two of the aircraft and they still turn heads... One was built in 79 and the other was completed in 82. - The Lawton Family

Amigo This was my very first RC sailplane, back in about 1972. Built with "Ambroid" in those "pre CA" days. Flew well, strictly rudder and elevator - ailerons were not seen on very many kits in those days. Even had a lifting stab, which made for slow pullouts from a dive. Sweet flying for a beginner. - Ron Quintana
I believe the Amigo originated as a F/F machine after the war. In a catalog from 1967 it is listed as Mk II for 2 channel control. It is still listed in the Graupner catalog, now as mk.III ! I doubt that any other model has been in production for such a long time. - Tor Holgersen
Apache If any soarer rewrote the formula it had to be the SAS Apache. Low swept wings, a transitional section from root to tip, moulded unbreakable fuselage, and, in my opininon, it flew the pants off any of the other "kippers" before or since - Chris Holden
Axle My choice for classic sailplane has to be the Sailplanes International Axle. Its wing rotation control meant that it could have an aspect ratio of 15:1 and yet still roll faster than a Blob. It had the widest speed range of anything I've ever flown and there was never a day when I could not fly it.

If it had one fault, it was that it had a tendency to fall apart when over-stressed (pulling out of of 500-ft vertical dives, for instance), but it flew so well I'd forgive it anything. - Mark Greenwood

I've got to agree - the Sailplanes International Axle has my vote for classic sailplanes. Very quick, flies in almost anything, and still a good fun machine. Mine survives in almost original nick, just with shortened wings and needing only minor works to get it back in the air. I obviously haven't stressed it enough for it to completely fall apart! - Mike Walker
Tony Baker writes: The Axle on your page was a design that I developed with another guy based on the Wing Twist unit by Wanitschek. Have a look at my old Solent Sailplanes Cata 1980!! I had the S/International Company name before I sold it to Nancarrowin 1981.
Bird of Time One of my favorites in unlimited thermal class. - "Verdi"
Definitely the Bird of Time. By far the most sensitive and responsive thermal ship I have flown... Dave Thornburg was truely inspired when he designed such a beautiful ship - Nick Alitzer
Camaro I choose the Camaro from Eismann. It entered the scene in 82 (I think) and I started to use it in 83. It was a F3B model and it worked very good for that also. I managed to get hold of one of these models last year and I have flown it this year in lot of thermal events with good results. The airfoil Worthmann FX 60-100 (mod) is providing very good lift and the Camaro is very kind to the pilot. The wing has wide chords, both inner and outer and therefore it don't circle as nice as a newer model. A good ghoice for oldtimer model and also very nice looking. See Link - Stefan Wahlberg
Centiphase I have over the years built about half a dozen Centi-Phase gliders from Mr Foss. Apart from the weak rear section, the glider is absolutely at home on the Slope or on the wire. Even though only 100" wingspan It had great penetration in up to about 20Kts of wind and could be ballasted up to about 3 and half pounds without the wings folding - Peter Kent
Hi Mike, Otto Heatheiker' Challenger was in my opinion was the top soaring classic during the late sixies and way ahead of its time. Otto was from Michigan and the and the design was published in an American magazine - Marian Patti.
Cirrus The Graupner Cirrus was a kitting masterpiece in its time (c. 1969) with beautiful semi-scale lines. And they are still to be seen on the slope. - Mike Shellim
Cumulus The Graupner Cumulus has to be included in the line-up of classic R/C soarers. With it's 2,8 metre swept back foam and balsa wings, all-flying stab and fin, and moulded polyamide fuselage, it was, simply just ahead of it's time.

This incredible machine, must be the forerunner of the modern F3B glider. It could handle the tug of any winch or bungee, and be equally happy on the slope, in lighter conditions.

The speed range was anything from gentle float to screaming high speed runs. Although a rudder/elevator glider, it had respectable aerobatic abilities. I got the old girl in 1973, and she is waiting in my store room, waiting to fly again.

- Paul du Plessis
Electra Goldberg's electric powered aircraft has started many in the hobby, is easy to build and easy to fly. I have taught several new people to fly using this great airplane - "GaryB"
Electra C3 Nic Wrights Electra C3: F3B pioneering aeroplane and awesome on the slope - Chris Holden
Falcon My choice would go to the Falcon 880 and 800 family of Mark Allen's. They were the first in the U.S. to utilize the progress that computer radios and the Selig/Donovan series of airfoils could do for us. I have had one this summer as a backup ship and won more with it than any aircraft I have ever owned. It is elegant, functional, and a tough ship. Marc Gellart LSF 6500
Favorit The German kit "Favorit" was a great model and flew extremely well by itself when the radio was not switched in. Wonderful thermaler but getting it down was always a problem and in fact forcing it down was the cause of this model's demise - Loris Goring
Flamingo The Multiplex Flamingo is my favorite from the very early 80's. It was a modern F3B model in its time. The four ballast tubes, two in each wing (900 g), made the glider fast and the performance range was great. E 193 airfoil together with the nice geometry made the flying characteristics nice and precise. Probably the first multitask duration glider in mass production. Many pilots, including me, began their F3B career with this model.. Flamingo was also a great performer on the slope, especially in light wind conditions. It was for sure a nice club-model for fun flying and duration - Joakim Stahl
Gentle Lady Another ship which I must nominate as a classic because it has done so much to introduce so many to this wonderful sport - "Starbjorn"
Hobie Hawk What about the Hobie Hawk? I have just "totallised" mine after twelve years of sport flying. Wonderful to watch but wouldn't fly herself, perfect to keep you on your toes. All it lacked was a c.g. - A Jessop
Impala Surely you can't have a list like this without mentioning the Veron Impala. A fifty-two inch, rudder/elevator all built up slope soarer. The most stable trainer ever kitted. In the late 70's and early 80's everyone in my club learnt to fly with an Impala. As the club was a flat field flying club this meant that most of them flew with an OS10 or similar power pod. Impala contests like pylon racing and consecutive loops were common place. Take it to the slope and it was the perfect introduction to soaring. If I can get hold of a plan/kit I will be building one 30 years on to teach my son's how to fly. - John Turner
L'il Tee A U.S. design by Bob Hahn, published back in the
sixties. Single-channel, naturally. Huge amounts of polyhedral made it so sensitive it would respond to a rudder command even if your escapement didn't. Also flew freeflight well--a mixed blessing in the primitive years of radio. Fuselage was sharp-nosed and extremely robust, could usually be pulled from the earth intact, though this sometimes required two people - Jake Tinback

The Kamco Kloudrider has got to appear in any list of classics!. A 98" rudder/elevator model advertised as a 'CrossCounrtry glider', in my then flying club I think we all had one, some from kits, some from other peoples plans, some from bits, some with different guages of wing joiners from paper clip diameter to 1/2 lb clubs of steel!, some with tissue & dope, some with the 'latest' solarfilm but all flew really well. There was even a hybrid - Kloudrider fuz & tail with Monterey wings, that flew just as well. - Rob Macrostie.

33 years on I still have fond memories of my Kloudrider at Crook Peak flying with Pat Teakle and Tony Ells who were responsible for the design. A Classic I would say!! - Garry Rucklidge
Klingberg Wing I'm a big fan of the original wooden two meter Klingberg Wing.  I liked it so much I built two of them.  The lines of a pure swept and tapered flying wing with the sun shining through the open bays reminds me of the Horten III.  I have made several flights of over an hour long in flat field thermal flying and that would be good for a regular airplane.  It does rolls, outside loops, and can be flown in unlimited vertical dives since it is so thick that an over speed is impossible.  It's the best wierdo soarer in my books, although a scale Horton III at about three meters is in the works. - Martin Albion
Mini Ellipse This hi-tech moulded masterpiece re-writes the rules of for small models (review)
Mini Racer I'm nominating the 'Mini Racer' a 60" aerobatic model made by Sailplanes International. It was the first glider I learnt on... honest!! Just liked how it looked, compared with the rest . The fuse shape is the best. At the time it was a 'cutting edge' pylon racer but now its a bit of a slouch when compared the the latest all moulded 60" span type models. - Simon Hardman
Middle Phase Surely there can be no model more eligible for Classic status than Chris Foss's Middle Phase?

I've built three of them and still relish my lack of anxiety when launching off one of the Ivinghoe slopes - reassuringly stable even with the flat aileron wing, capable of dramatic manoeuvres and of flying inverted until you simply get bored, and of landing with a thump and asking for another trip.

This has to be the best way to learn how to build and fly a model glider. Just watch the smile on the pilot's face! - Paul Harmer
Mijet I nominate the mijet, a relatively fast medium sized slope soarer built form a kit with a balsa fuz and foam wings. I still enjoy flying mine even though it is a little battered. I am yet to see another on the slopes - Simon Blay
Monterey I have won many meets with this mid 1970s' glider. Was the Gentle Lady of this era. First contest found me so far up in a thermal, asking a competitor how to get down. Dr. Walt Good suggested full down elevator and full rudder - it worked! Larry Widdle AMA 8968
Delighted to see the Monterey still in there after 30 years! Still flying one of those too - try an extra 10" span, widen the wingtips to 6" chord, fit an AMT, and replace the Boucher original design eggbox spar with 1/4 x 1/8" spruce top and bottom with 1/16" balsa webbing. Fuselage sides are 1/32" ply and the AUW with 2 standard servos is 2.25 lbs.

You can fly it anywhere because it will turn on a sixpence, and lands incredibly slowly. Full rudder and full UP elevator produces a very effective spin with easy recovery by just centralising. Rob Faukner
My nomination for favorite classic glider is the Monterey (AstroFlight, Inc).

My 2nd glider, back around '76? Had semi-scale 70's look, 100" flat-bottom straight-taper dihedral, real maneuverable with hands-off stability on plain 'ol 2 channels. Uncanny yaw response despite short tail moment. Light loading, easily speckable, yet at home on the slope. Great all-arounder, really regret selling it. Assuming AFI doesn't have any kits laying around, might scratch-build one. Randy Schroeter

I built my first Monterrey back in 1972 and flew the hell out it both on the slope and thermal with a Kraft Series 72 three channel radio. I built other several versions, one with a foam wing. Heavy, but very nice on the slope on windy days... and durable. My third version had stick constructed tail and a fully flying horizontal stab. I had a long hiatus from RC sailplanes (about 25 years), but brought out my third Monterey that had been sitting in storage last week and took my sons flying. An old Hi Start got it up and I had a 10 min thermal flight. It was wonderful to be behind the stick again. - Arthur S. Rood
Olympic II I've had the same one flying for 21 (twentyone) years!! Gasbag? Yes, slow? yes, but it flies and flies and still makes some of the ultrasuperhitechs look, well, a little silly - Al Adler
Paragon A reasonably easy to build and fly (stock) kit machine - ideal for the beginner or novice to learn with/from. The intermediate builder/flyer can easily expand on the "stock kit's" basic design & construction for growth into more strength and performance. - Mike Davis
Phase 2 I have built and flown many of the models nominated: Amigo, Algebra, Aquila, Bird of Time, Cirrus, Cumulus, Flamingo, Gentle Lady, Impala, Monterey, Sagitta, Soarcerer, Todi....BUT I have to nominate 'Fossy' as the daddy of 'em all with his Phase Series consisting of Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 4, Phase 5 and Phase 6.
Every one (with the exception of the Phase 3) was an 'unbeatable' improvement on it's predecessor.
In my view the Phase TWO stands out above them all. It was arguably the original slope aerobatic kipper and Foss proved that kippers do not have to be ugly.
I just WISH we could have a modern glass version of any one of 'em!
- Rob Cavell
Phase 4 I have not found anything to beat it (25 years later!) I have built about 15 over the years, and it is now not quite how Chris Foss designed it - wing is thinner and semi symmetrical, AMT, about 2.75 lbs all up.

All built up balsa, ply, spruce spars - no foam! Flies in a wide range of wind speeds, thermals well (inverted as well!), beautiful for aerobatics, and easy / relaxing to fly. The more modern "kippers" are too heavy for my liking and fall out of the sky with anything under force 8 gale.
Rob Faulkner
Phase 5 The Phase five represented the absolute pinnacle of Chris Foss's aerobatic slope designs with a more elegant appearance than the already good Phase four. Sadly the Phase 6 that followed reversed the trend. The Phase 5 is a builders model but worth the effort. To this day I have yet to fly a sweeter handling or more precise aerobatic slope machine which will fly in nothing to gale force conditions. A beautiful and rarely seen machine. 
- Steve Dorling
Phase 6 This foam and wood design by Chris Foss was the UK's most popular aerobatic soarer. Before the age of moulded machines, this was the weapon of choice for slopers who wanted to show off their aerobatic skills - Mike Shellim
Phase Lift

Chris Foss' Phase Lift was a pioneer of variable camber. Construction was complex, and it used a mechanical mixer for the flapperons. However, a light, well built model could cope with almost all weather conditions, aided by the choice of large or small tips. The variable camber wing could scoot around at neutral or negative flap settings, looking for lift, and then circle slowly with a dollop of positive flap. It could also perform aerobatics when ballasted, and even make a passable slope soarer (sans tips).

Cons were few; a few degrees of dihedral made it easier to fly hands-off. It also took a lot of stick time to become competitive, due to the complexity of the flight controls.

Todays F3F glass ships maybe owe a good deal of lineage to the Phase Lift.

John Wighton BARCS 889

Phoenix 100

I am amazed that no one has suggested the Nev Mattingly Phoenix 100".
It is the model that made every one an expert thermal flyer in the same way that the pocket calculator made every one a mathematician. Mine is now thirty years old and can mix it with any of the later models as long as the wind is below twelve to fifteen mph. due to its having unskinned blue foam wings.
If it was still possible to get I know it would sell.

Rod. Lowe

Pibros This ultra-light foamie is surely already a modern classic. A new concept of fun flying, made popular by the Internet - Mike Shellim
Pixel I think it is hard to beat for simplicity ( two standard servos),
elegance of design and pure fun. Increase the control throws for truly impressive rates of roll. Great in light lift, great speed range. If I
could only have one model this would be it. Desert Island model....? Charlie in France
Processor With its Duralene fuz & Blue foam wings, the Processor from Soar Ahead Sailplanes was a robust aerobatic machine. Several of these were in use at the Weardale Model Glider Association sites durin the Eighties & Nineties. - Brian Stobbs
Pussycat My fave is the Paragon but my first love is the Pussycat from Bob Martin. It took a lot abuse and never let me down. In light thermals and weak ridge often could be heard "Man that flies nice" . Like all first loves she grew tired of my clumsy hands and lost that glow when we were on the way to the flying site. I look back on my days with the Pussycat with wamth and fondness
Sagitta In my humble opinion this is still the classic brought performance to the sailplane fraternity and is still hard to beat on the contest circuit - Timothy Krystaf
Sailaire I flew mine up until 2005. I sold it to a fellow club member. The ship flew elegantly and endlessly. I mean when it caught a thermal, not even with the spoilers out could you bring it down. - Enrico Paredes
Salto Designed by the late Wilfred Klinger and kitted by his company, this 1/6th scale 90” model of the 1970s German V-tailed aerobatic glider is a superb performer. The model is fast and aerobatic, capable of flying in a blow but also able to scratch for lift in light conditions. This 2/3 function plane really looks “right” in the air and flies like it’s on rails.

The fuselage is fibreglass and the wings built-up, although latterly it seems that a foam version was marketed. The scruffy one I owned 20 years ago was a copy / variation produced by someone unknown to me in the South East of England. This had a stretched 102” foam wing and was even better than the WiK version on which it was based.

The Salto had a reputation for being tip stally and tricky to fly but I have to say this reputation is not fully deserved. As long as you keep the speed up the plane is well behaved and will stay up with the floaters. Just don’t try to fly it like a floater! The only difficulty is with landing as there is no provision for air brakes in the original design and you have to keep that speed up all the way down.

Sadly the kit is no longer available, WiK having been wound up after Mr. Klinger’s death about 6 years ago. I currently own a built up wing WiK version as I was fortunate enough to find an unbuilt kit on German ebay last year. The Salto remains a very popular model in Germany and various home brewed fuselages and wing cores regularly come up on e-bay there.

Steve Clarke
Slope Richochet Being Australian, the Southern Sailplane "Slope Richochet" would get my vote. A high performance, practical and durable model which does the nicest axial rolls you coule hope to see. Wins championships when piloted by a champ!

About 2m span, 3lb, fibreglass fuselage of very high standard, foam wings and a mid mounted tailplane - Tim Moreland

Soarcerer I would like to nominate the Soarcerer designed by Dave Hughes in the 1970s. A simple 48" span all balsa soarer that was easy to build and fly with a reasonable aerobatic performance on rudder and elevator only. A later development of an aileron wing improved the performance of this handy little model. - Jeff Powell
Stepp 3 After seeing the Slope Richochet in there I would like to nominate another classic Australian soarer the "Stepp 3".

Surely no other OZ glider has won more contests that the Stepp 3. Designed by Mike O'Rielly it is still my favourite soarer as it is easy to fly, stable and strong and yet thermal like no other - Stephen Gloor

Todi It was one of the first real full house control (rudder, elevator, flapperon) sailplane kits when released back in 1972 - "Starbjorn"
It used "mechanical" mixing to do thing that only today's computer readios can do, such as flaperons (with both up and down flaps), coupled ailerons and rudder and automatic elevator trim for the flaps, in order to maintain pitch trim - Ron Quintana
Viking I really liked my CraftAire Vikings. They were not pretty but they flew well. I built my first one with two wings. The Mk. I versions was a flat bottom airfoil, and the Mk.II was a semi-symetrical section. Terry Koplan flew a Mk. II in the F3B champs one year. In 1997 I won the Nostalgia class at the Visalia Fall Soaring Festival with my original 19 year old Viking Mk. I. The old plane's score also beat over 200 open class ships - Mike Clancy, LSF V #92, U.S.A.
Wanderer Mark's original "Wanderer" - before the Gentle Lady this kit introduced many to the sport - could out-float most anything in the 72" class. Hard to kill, easy to fly, absolutely no penetration and harder yet to spot-land... But then I always envied the Paragon and Aquila (Grande too) owners for the big floater crowd. - Dixie Chicks rock
Windfree Let's really wind back the time machine and throw the Mark's Models 'Windfree' into the hat. This was an incredible plane in its time and, flown by the designer, won several US Standard Class Nationals, as I remember. For those that haven't heard of or seen one:
  • All wood construction
  • High aspect ratio wing w/ ~7% section (Eppler 387, I think)
  • All flying tail

What a great design! Some of the most incredible wing-bending, winch launches I've ever seen. - Michael Deleo

Windrifter My vote is for the Craftair Windrifter. A high performance floater with a wide speed range (plans call for putting up to four pounds of ballast!!!), and I understand was a National winner in the'70s. Taught a lot of us how to fly - Richard Shagam
Windsong The Saratoga Windsong from Dodgson Designs was the first widely accepted and commercially available plane to feature composite construction, sailplane specific airfoils, and advanced flap/aileron mixing. Things we take for granted today.

In contrast to the current state of the art, this high aspect ratio beauty looked like a real sailplane in the air. It was the plane that made us realize that there was a better way to win a contest than with a Windrifter. And it's still winning contests today - Loren Blinde
Windward My first Windward lasted from 1974 until 1991, when I strained it through an oak tree at dusk. I'd built other sailplanes, but my Windward was always on standby. At 24 oz. it would stay up when the Wanderers were coming down. I even aero-towed mine! It's still one of the best trainers around. I've got a new one almost ready for flight. Hope it lasts more than seventeen years! Mark Shipley
Zagi LE This is the model that taught me to fly well rather than just avoiding crashes. It handles superbly and takes anything I can throw at it. I can let my friends try it without worrying about it being destroyed. The best fun per pound plane I've ever had (although I've not built the pibros yet ;) - Barnaby Relph