Klaus Burkhard and the Archaeopteryx

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Klaus Burkhard is a sailplane pilot exploiting the air currents over his native Germany in 120-kilogram (264-pound) ultralight machines (most of which weigh far less) – which may become a part of an increasingly electrified sport.  He wrote this to your editor in response to recent coverage of the electric version of a record-setting ultralight sailplane.

“I just came over your interesting website, reading your blog about the Swiss Archaeopteryx, where you described the Archaeopteryx as a high-end hang-glider, publishing a picture from an older version in ‘open’ variety.

Archaeopteryx on tow.  Airplane may be foot or bungee launched, winch or aircraft towed

Archaeopteryx on tow. Airplane may be foot or bungee launched, winch or aircraft towed

“Of course the Archaeopteryx is classified as hang-glider in the OLC (on-line competition)  and also as Class-2 hang-glider within FAI-regulations, as it´s foot-launchable and foot-landable as well, both basic requirements for FAI Class-2.

“Since the Archaeopteryx is -contrary to normal hang-gliders- three-axis aerodynamically controlled by elevator, rudder and flaperons, it´s an Ultralight-Glider of the best with fantastic flying-abilities, outstanding flying-performance and uncritical in any situation. L/D is 29 in race-covering.

The business office with sunlight glowing through the deceptively thin skin

The business office with sunlight glowing through the deceptively thin skin

“In 2012 I had the opportunity to test-fly the Archaeopteryx in Switzerland. Since I jumped in to the Ultralight-Soaring-Scene over here in Germany, after being 40 years glider-pilot, when I first found the Archaeopteryx in the internet, I was very sceptical about this funny flying-machine, one does not embark like a normal glider, but pulling over your head and slipping in to it from underneath.

“[For the last] four years, I [have done] 1-1/2 hour presentations and lectures about Ultralight-Soaring [for] flight-instructors during recurrent training as well as at AERO-Friedrichshafen, Deutscher Segelfliegertag (similar to the SSA-convention) an overall look at the Ultralight-Soaring scene right from the beginning in 1974 until now.

“In my first presentations I remember very well, I commented on the Archaeopteryx with the words: ‘Slipping into it from underneath and running down the hill with some hope, wings producing lift before I stumble over my legs and get stuck nose-down in a juicy green cow-pie, that´s just nothing for me in my age of 67 – and by the way, for $100.000 one can get a real glider’.

“Meantime, after I saw the plane in real and have been flying it, I know the Archaeopteryx is a real glider and worth any cent it costs. [It is ] built in an outstanding perfection I´ve never seen before, not even in gliders of well-known German manufacturers.

“I hope I have the opportunity to test-fly the Elec´teryx this summer, I´m excited to do so of course!!!

Klaus sent the pictures seen here in 2012 in Bad Sobernheim/Germany.

He is a gifted aviation reporter, witnessed by this letter, his great web site, an excellent overview of ultralight sailplanes in the magazine,  Soaring New Zealand and a flight report on his first experiences with the Arch.

Ultralight sailplane load factors - tougher than they look

Ultralight sailplane load factors – tougher than they look in slide 1

He explains a problem he faces in convincing “old-fashioned” glider pilots to try the “new-fashioned” ultralights that these lean craft are not fragile and will not break into parts in mid-air.

“For my last presentation at the AERO-Friedrichshafen, I therefore included a new slide into my presentation, showing the load-factors of different “ordinary” gliders compared to those of some Ultralight-Gliders of our 120 kg-Class and those foot-launchables weighing only half of the 120kg-class gliders. 

But might leave qualms for those departing on home-bound commercial flights

But slide 2 might leave qualms for those departing on home-bound commercial flights

This [leaves] them wondering and most of them starting to think about it and seeing things with a different view, especially when I then show the common load-factor of airliners.  Sure, those Ultralight-Gliders have to be treated differently to what they are used to in their clubs.”

These types of sailplanes with small electric motors and compact battery packs could open up a new realm of sport flying, one much less expensive than standard sailplanes and their towplanes can offer, but every bit as rewarding.

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