GP 14 Wins at Worlds!

So, after a long wait full of hope and promise, the GP 14 had its baptism of competition fire in the hands of Sebastian Kawa at the 2nd 13.5m Class WGC in Szatymaz, Hungary July 3rd -16th, 2017. With Sebastian’s impressions nothing but extremely positive and flight test data confirming design targets, the GP 14 was set to rock the competition. With racing now concluded, Sebastian Kawa and the GP 14 are WORLD CHAMPIONS. We at GP Gliders USA are tremendously proud of the GP Gliders factory team and look forward to customer deliveries beginning and picking up steam this fall and moving forward.

The Peszke family and dedicated employees celebrate with multi-world champion Sebastian Kawa (standing second from right) and his father Tomasz (standing far left).

The GP 14 design philosophy was always to create a no-compromise performance/racing glider within the 13.5m span limit of the FAI 13.5m Racing Class. Designer Grzegorz Peszke appears to have hit a home run right out of the box. As a true, clean-sheet design, the GP 14 combines the latest aerodynamic philosophy, the most modern construction materials and techniques, and the ultimate self-launch freedom of optimized, cutting edge electric propulsion. With a new, optimized span of 15 meters, the GP 15 is set to bring the same cutting edge design philosophy and capabilities of the GP 14 to the 15 meter span. Outside of the competition world, both the GP 14 and GP 15 bring new performance and new thinking to the travails of daily glider flying with their light weight, ultimate performance, and self-launch capability. For those of you just interested in flying, both will perfectly suit you…and make your friends jealous. But I also wanted to say a few words to the racing pilots out there about IGC 13.5m Class racing, the ultimate goal of the GP 14 design.

The GP 14

Of particular note was that the GP 14 SE Prototype was flown at the WGC without the propulsion system installed due to the combination of the heavy prototype and a slimmer, but not quite slim enough, Sebastian Kawa, putting the combination over the IGC's 35 kg/m2 wingloading limit for the class. I wanted to address the direction of the 13.5m IGC Racing Class that the IGC faces as the class develops and in particular the continuation (or not) of the 35 kg/m2 FAI wingloading limit. Sebastian, and other big names in the sport, have very clear feelings that this limit is greatly limiting the development of this racing class. Other new design gliders, like the Mini-Lak and the Diana VS, with “normal” sized pilots and electric propulsion as well, also had to forego their power units in order to meet the IGC Wingloading limit.

The IGC 13.5m Racing Class was meant to give extended competition life to the failed PW-5/World Class experiment along with other legacy ultralight (UL)/‘floater” glider designs, while incentivizing developments in both safety, performance, and self-launch propulsion in the small-span space. An additional goal of the IGC is to open up a new racing class that offers new possibilities – one intriguing possibility is for contests without towplanes.

The current 35 kg/m2 wingloading limit could be argued to be an interim step allowing for legacy design philosophies AND new design philosophies to co-exist within the racing class while the class builds momentum. BUT it also has the possible effect of greatly limiting design innovation and glider performance within the 13.5m span planform. If you design for a true racing glider, the wing area will necessarily be smaller and wingloading with “normal” sized pilots and the desired propulsion package will be higher. Unless, by virtue of the unnecessarily low wingload limit, you favor existing designs and or wish to hold performance levels to legacy design goals. Most pilots want the best performance they can get. If necessarily racing 13.5m Class means that pilots must take a step back in racing performance, I and many others fear that it will spell the end of the class before it really gets going.

Kawa is probably the most vocal proponent, but by no means the only one, of seeing the wingloading restriction modified. At a minimum, many would like to see the IGC wingloading limitation raised to afford normal weight pilots to race 13.5m Class with the benefit of electric self-launch propulsion AND modern racing planforms to exist in the racing class. Ultimately, a move to a MTOW formula, in line with EASA/National UL Glider Regulations, as used in every other racing class, would be the best case scenario. With a hodgepodge of national aviation authority ultralight glider regulations currently in effect and EASA ultralight glider regulatory reform looming, there is every likelihood that the existing UL MTOW rules will change to something at or above the current 300+/- range in effect in many countries. In the ideal world, from my perspective, the IGC 13.5m racing rules should conform to the MTOW that are ultimately agreed in EASA regs.

However, this is bit of a political football. The IGC wants to reign in costs and open up new possibilities for glider contests. It sees the UL Glider space, with greatly reduced MTOW and increased adoption of innovative electric self-launch propulsion, as the means to make this happen. I do not disagree. However, the IGC is faced with a conundrum. One, maybe two designs are capable of offering regular weight pilots the chance to fly with the benefits of propulsion at the current 35 kg/m2 limitation. The newer designs offer far better soaring performance but with fairly serious restrictions on pilot weight at the current limitation. The IGC has the opportunity to make this new racing class viable. Or to send it into history as a footnote.

With two WGCs under its belt, and a significant performance split opening up between the new designs like the GP 14 and the old designs, the IGC needs to think about where the racing class is to go from here. Does the IGC want the 13.5m Class to be based on legacy design and performance? Or do they want to allow space for competition within the marketplace with new designs that push the sport along? Does the IGC want to make pilots who embrace the new contest format, race in designs that harken back to the days of gliders that “float” and downwind dashes? Or do they want to give pilots who wish to embrace the new, a better way of racing like they know how to race.

IMHO, just the idea of having to deal with less/no water in a smaller/lighter package, with new and better technology and performance equaling 15 m gliders was enough to hook me on the promise of the 13.5m gliders and, as a racing pilot, to get racing in the 13.5m racing class. That's why I have a GP 14 E on order and I cannot wait to do great racing and soaring in it as soon I get my hands on it.

Tim McAllister