GP Gliders – My Visit to the Factory

After the conclusion of the 34th WGC in Pociunai, Lithuania in August, I made the trip to Krosno, Poland and the factory space of Peszke S.C. and their GP Gliders. Without any news of GP 14 first flight and production gliders going out the door, many of you may have come to the conclusion that the project had hit some obstacles, maybe even insurmountable obstacles for a project of such scope and by an aspiring, new glider manufacturer. I can report to you all in good faith and without reservation that nothing could be further from the truth.

The first glider, GP 14 E Velo, continues on a go-slow and eliminate weight/engineering risk approach, while working toward freezing the production details during the development of the new larger, more powerful propulsion system in preparation for the prototypes first flight and test program. See the video of the wing test to failure.

The move to the new, more powerful propulsion system beginning in early March has not been without its issues, but the partnership between MGM-Compro and Peszke S.C. has seen the development and installation of a largely proprietary system. The prototype with installed propulsion system arrived back in Krosno just before my visit and looked very close to being flight capable. In fact, the final adjustments to the thrust line were being undertaken as I toured the factory floor. Additional testing has allowed for the development of a smaller diameter propeller system with even better efficiency to make the use of the power upgrade to the standard installation.

Probably the last holdup to first flight and then the flight test program is related to airworthiness and certification. Certification efforts for the line of GP Gliders is to ultimately be focused on the UL (Ultralight)-Glider category as it is being conceived in Europe. This is a rapidly evolving space within glider airworthiness and certification in Europe. A process being overseen and ultimately implemented by EASA will create a space for certification of gliders under a certain MTOW when it is passed. Once passed, the various European National aviation authorities can then possibly devolve airworthiness and certification for UL-Gliders down to various national associations or other bureaucratic structures. UL-Glider certification should make for cheaper and more innovative gliders at the lower end of weight/span market.

However, until then, various national aviation authorities have or are implementing their own details for this type of glider, the important issue being the MTOW. In various countries it is anywhere from less than 300kg to much more than 400kg. Pretty difficult to define a product when the goal posts are moving around. For maximum flexibility, Peszke S.C. chose to certificate with an authority that, while offering a much greater MTOW, is still coming up to speed with the process. Luckily, the Peszkes’ long and successful association with other certification authorities is helping to move the process along, slowly but moving along. When the paperwork is finished and signed-off. The glider, ready to fly, will fly.

This delay has allowed Peszke S.C. to re-think various aspects of the prototype. Among these has been a very substantial upgrade of the landing gear assembly including upgrading the standard wheel to the Beringer 5 inch wheel/disc brake system and adding shock-absorption, as well as a re-design of the fork and operating mechanism to make way for more room in the fuselage for electric propulsion components. Further, a move to a softpack for the GRS system and a move to a lighter weight canopy frame will save up to 3+kg for other uses. A decision to offer small and large instrument panel options, a revised seating position, relocated and revised trim system, etc. all show that attention to the details is what GP Glider is all about. The project remains very much alive and progressing toward getting this all new 13.5m Class glider into the air, into flight test, and into production.

With final engineering and pre-production work being completed on the GP 14 E Velo, another new phase for the company is revealing itself as much work has already been completed on the new wing and tail moulds for the GP 15 E Jeta. In fact, the fuselage for the prototype GP 15 was in the moulds during the visit. More on this exciting project to come as it evolves. The GP 11 is still also being offered with its low-cost, simplicity, strength and performance as a pure glider, as well as new direction with possible propulsion options(!). However, GP 12 Flex model has been eliminated from the product line from now going forward.

With all this work going on, the propeller production and glider prototyping factory space is full to the gills with GP Glider moulds, parts, unfinished fuselages, etc. Alongside the ongoing production of Peszke propellers, the space constraints are very evident. It is with this in mind and the impending serial production of GP Gliders that Peszke S.C. is all set to move to a new production facility. The space is identified and now under lease, with the move to the new space only being delayed by the prior tenant’s delayed departure and a no immediate need for the space by Peszke S.C.

Between ongoing propeller production and sales and other revenue sources, the business is on track for completion of the prototype, first flight leading into flight test program, and then a move to immediate production when the green light is lit. In spite of there having been much to learn – and still more to learn – about glider manufacturing and serial glider production, if the quality and innovation I, customers, and other outside observers have see in the prototype is any indication, the wait will be well worth it.

While the waiting and anticipation has probably been excruciating for many of you – customers more than others – the product that will leave the factory doors and take to the skies in pilots' hands around the world will be of the highest quality and fit, form, function, and performance.