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Sep 07, 2004, 07:04 PM
Registered User

Appropriate wingspan for beginners' sailplane - 2 meter vs 1.5 meter

I just got my AMA license, and now, I want to start slope flying with a sailplane, because its slow and gentle for a beginner.

But....most literature conflicts on size of wingspan....some say I should start with a 2 meter wingspan because its more stable, while others say 1.5 meters (50 inches), because its easier to fly in a small area.

Which wingspan should I start with?
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Sep 07, 2004, 07:19 PM
Retired Slope Racer
nwoods's Avatar
The size is not the most important question at this point. Since you posted in the Slope forum, I assume you are trying to learn how to slope soar. Welcome to the sport!

Since you are at Torrence, I reccommend going Dog Beach in Long Beach. What you will see there is a lot of EPP foam wings, like these:

EPP is resilent, easy to build, and incredibly durable, nearly impossible to break, and inexpensive.

Now, EPP wings come in various sizes, from very small (under 48"), to a standard 48" size, and the larger 60" (1.5m) size. The bigger ones are more stable, and can fly in slightly lighter lift, and will probably serve you well as a learning tool.

I'm sure others will chime in here, and it will be intersting to hear what their opinions are also.


Nathan Woods
Sep 07, 2004, 10:45 PM
Stay in it!!!!
the moment I read youre question the first thing I thought of was flying wing.I had the hardest time learning to fly when i was a kid. combat wings didn't exist for another 10 years. I would take full advantage of these amazing lightweight great flying planes.not only would you learn to fly a slope you will be learning to use aileron'll be flying with the big dogs in no time!
Sep 07, 2004, 11:20 PM
Tryin not to be a hack!!
Aerobat152A's Avatar
Just to throw an alternative into the mix, if flying wings arent your first choice as far as your preference to airplane design, or looks for that matter, their are various sailplanes that resemble the picture below. My first sailplane was the 2-meter version of the one below, which is the 1.5 (60" wingspan) Gnome by Midway. There are many similar designs, and various sizes that use the Rudder & Elevator to control the axis. They are simple to build, they dont have to be perfect, once they've been trimmed in flight and can fly in light, as well as a fairly stiff wind.

Sep 07, 2004, 11:29 PM
Stay in it!!!!
is midway an original gnome? It looks slightly different than i remember.I dont remember a polyhedral wing. By any means the mini gnome moves out and is one of my all time favorites! Nice plane! joe
Sep 07, 2004, 11:48 PM
Tryin not to be a hack!!
Aerobat152A's Avatar
Originally Posted by joe manor
is midway an original gnome? It looks slightly different than i remember.I dont remember a polyhedral wing. By any means the mini gnome moves out and is one of my all time favorites! Nice plane! joe
Thanks Joe, Its one of my all time favorites also...... actually my first and only floaters... the 2 meter, and the 1.5, I didnt like the looks of the Gentle Lady, and some of the others back in the early 80's, so I went with the Gnome. Moved up to airelon ships within 2 months. Dont know anything about whats original, maybe someone else would know.

I still use the 1.5 meter to fly unfamiliar slopes to show me what i need to see.

Last edited by Aerobat152A; Sep 07, 2004 at 11:51 PM.
Sep 07, 2004, 11:55 PM
Stay in it!!!!
oh the first plane was a two tee I think from house of balsa. I was 13 yrs old it took me two months to build one hour of bicycle riding to get it to the slope and five seconds to destroy it.I was able to extend the five seconds over the next few years but thinking back on these trials I still have to reccomend a combat wing. joe
Sep 08, 2004, 12:03 AM
Piscine Promulgator
surfimp's Avatar
I would go with something EPP if I were learning right now. I learned with a 2m floater similar to the one above and would've gladly gone with a Weasel or something similar if it had been available. There are plenty of great choices out there, but EPP should definitely the material of choice for your first plane IMHO. You'll get more fun and less repairs out if it, and tend to pick up flying quicker as a consequence.

There will always be time to fly balsa, composite, whatever planes once you learn...but if you get a balsa plane, crash it "in 5 seconds" (see above) and get discouraged you might leave the hobby and not get to experience all the great stuff possible. Why not make it as easy on yourself as possible? That's my thinking anyways...

Good luck with whatever you decide. And BTW, AMA is not a "license", it's (theoretically) proof of insurance. Just FYI

Sep 08, 2004, 12:08 AM
Stay in it!!!!
good eye surfimp,Ididnt notice the LICENSE part! A funny thought isnt it. joe
Sep 08, 2004, 12:09 AM
Piscine Promulgator
surfimp's Avatar
Can you imagine doing a Driver's Test? LOL

Sep 08, 2004, 12:13 AM
stegre's Avatar
We've had very good luck with the Eraser 60 as a beginner's slope plane. It is slow enough to control, but has enough speed to keep it from being boring. It is very durable, you can bounce it a lot and it still comes back for more.

The kit contains all you need except for a 2 channel simple radio.

Oct 10, 2008, 09:00 PM
Registered User
Originally Posted by Aerobat152A
.....My first sailplane was the 2-meter version of the....1.5 (60" wingspan) Gnome by Midway. There are many similar designs, and various sizes that use the Rudder & Elevator to control the axis. They are simple to build, they dont have to be perfect, once they've been trimmed in flight and can fly in light, as well as a fairly stiff wind.....
Quite agree, but wanted an even wider speed range so once built a similar model with a thin wing section. The most economical balsa is in 3x36" sheets in uk so the centre section was made from two 6"x3/16"x36" hard-ish balsa sheets, plus 3" wide flaps, and the 18" tapered tip panels were from medium-soft sheet, which made the wingspan 72" (= 182mm).

Before planing and sanding the wing panels to an aerofoil, the leading edge was toughened with obeche strip, and the inboard parts of the flat centre section had a 1/64" (?1mm) ply sheet on top and wider on the bottom, chamfered and shaped to spread the reinforcement, as well as fibreglass car-repair tissue applied with balsa cement and extending still further. It was quick and good fun to do and a change from fiddling with strips and ribs.

The wing was attached with the usual peg at the front and a single camlock, with the control horn for the flaps inside the fuselage.

It came out very light, can't quite remember but think about 1lb (425 gr), and it was launched from a light bungee line, hopefully as a flat field thermal glider at first, but the flaps didn't do much for the glide, which was only average. I also tried designing 72" and 120" thermal gliders, but they weren't much cop either (The big'un had a lifting tail and rearward c of g intended to be 'for max. efficiency', but it tended to go into an unresponsive dive until I moved c.g. to a more conventional position.)

However the sheet-wing did succeed on the slope where a ballast box could hold up to 2lbs of 3/16" lead plates, and the thin section let the model penetrate in windy conditions and plough through turbulence aided by the configuration; it looked quite out of place amongst the kippers though

Full flap worked as a brake and made it a cinch to land against all odds, and the wing held up. For some reason I did not arrange the flap to angle up as a crow brake but it worked well on full downward deflection. Maybe the use of a mini servo, which would have needed extra high gearing to move the flap a long way both up and down, put me off.

It was equally satisfactory without ballast in light conditions, getting up speed well in the dive, and quite aerobatic due to good rudder response (barrelly rolls!).

Back to the point - this polyhedral type of model with rudder elevator is both ultra forgiving, and responsive with increased control surface movements, and is just what is needed to get the hang of r/c, although perhaps the slope could prove a bit harsh to start with.

I sold or gave away my models when we moved but this forum has made me want to get at it again
Last edited by crossgrain; Oct 10, 2008 at 09:39 PM.
Oct 10, 2008, 09:42 PM
Registered User
Elmog's Avatar
I'd would also go with a combat wing. Virtually indestructable and very repairable if you do. Why not take advantage of what EPP has to offer? Crashing is a part of learning when it comes to slope flying, and crashing an EPP wing is quite harmless.
A poster above mentioned a sloping location in Long Beach. It's actually called Bluff Park (Dog Beach is a little further down the road in Huntington Beach) and is a good place to start sloping. You can land on the beach sand until you have enough control to land on the grass. Come down any Saturday between 12 and 2 and there will surely be someone there to help you get going. Jim
Last edited by Elmog; Oct 10, 2008 at 11:19 PM.
Oct 10, 2008, 10:33 PM
Composites Kid
Alex.Schweig's Avatar
I would start with something between a floater and a mid-aerobatic. Something with a durable fuselage, efficient wings (MH32?), and nice response, plus ballast capabilities.
You'll want a nice plane with elevator, rudder and ailerons. A computer radio is useful for spoilerons.
My (second?) plane, which I consider as my most educative, was a modified SIG Ninja. It was made here in Peru, had short MH32 wings, rudder and elevator, ailerons on 2 servos. It flew with no wind, flew with lots of wind and could take ballast like a pig. We called it the WIZARD. Foam fuse and wigs, all balsa sheeted, simple coro tail feathers.
And it did slow down nicely for some really perfect landings. Some days I really miss that plane (wipes tear from eye).
After a crash with that type of plane, youd only slip an Xacto blade under the broken balsa sheeting and cut it off, replace it, (sand it) and cover again.
Plus, that little plane taught me lessons that are useful now that I am flying larger and more unstable planes:
It taught me to take off (as silly as it seems, I wouldnt dare take off with my Spirit without someone's help. This plane: CHUCK IT!)
It taught me to Land (very useful now I have faster planes that DONT slow down at landing.
I learned to LOOP
I learned to ROLL
I learned to SNAP-ROLL
I learned to fly INVERTED (a foot off the ground, something I wouldnt do with any of my plane, but did with this baby)
After this I bought a Zagi and flew about 5 of them before buying my Feroz. I wouldnt recommend a flying wing. As versatile and aerobatic as they are, they wont teach you how to see a plane well in the sky, when youll fly planes with fuselages, youll get confused because the FW did not have a fuse. ( sometimes I still think my glider is coming at me when its going away) (DAM WINGS), and plus youll be able to land a glider better, because with Zagis its only THUNK, pick up and fly again. With a proper glider youll get the hang of landings. And also, youll be able to learn new maneuveres such as snap rolls and stall turns.

My tip: Go for something simple like a Dynaflite Talon or a SIG Ninja.
Oct 11, 2008, 12:24 AM
Registered User
Originally Posted by Alex.Schweig
....You'll want a nice plane with elevator, rudder and ailerons. A computer radio is useful for spoilerons....Go for something simple like a Dynaflite Talon or a SIG Ninja.
I take Alex' point about indestructible but, also thinking about a learner, I've got this idea that if a plane needs ailerons it probably is not self-correcting.......
PS now see that original poster (2004!) said he had AMA licence, maybe he did need ailerons, and now he needs a no claims bonus
Last edited by crossgrain; Oct 11, 2008 at 12:55 AM.

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