The Vintage & Classic Glider Club of New Zealand Inc

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  Taumaranunui National Rally - 2015                

The Vintage Kiwi Rally at Taumarunui attracted some 14 sailplanes including an ASK 21 and a Grob Twin Astir [MK3]. Other than three pilots who had towed behind a Recreational Light Aircraft before, the rest were flying a little in to the unknown. We used the shorter towrope that came with the aircraft that was successfully used launching at the Drury Champs a couple of weeks before hand. This worked very well and allowed the Fox Bat to easily climb out at 400 – 500 ft per min rate of climb. Obviously with only 100 h.p on hand there were no real margins to play with in this towing environment , as Taumarunui airfield is surrounded by hills and very high country, so very accurate flying was required by all.[Reminded me very much of towing behind a Tiger Moth, same overall skill set applies – accuracy.]There was really was no wind for the whole week [only when a thermal came through] and the ground temperature was some 28 – 30 Degrees C. [very warm]

The Fox Bat was utterly reliable and performed very well. Overall it did a total of 48 launches. On one day it did some 14 launches. We were able to launch the ASK21 with two POB, but felt more comfortable with launching the Twin Astir with only one aboard which is where it was felt the Fox Bat’s limit was, with this operation, from this airfield, in these hot arid conditions. However, that decision may well have been changed if this combo were flying from a flat and more benign area. [Such as Matamata as an example]

However, we did have one ‘upset’ at 600ft and one aborted take-off to be fair. The ‘upset was caused by a very powerful King Country thermal that tossed the Fox Bat badly off line. The glider pilot released straight away- problem solved. The aborted take-off was caused by low acceleration and a bad wing runner. The glider released - problem solved once again. However after a slightly different approach to the operation by the tow pilot and wing runner, there were no further issues and every one continued to be launched behind the Fox Bat absolutely trouble free. I am told that the visibility from the Fox Bat is apparently au sum, especially on its way down after release, when one can imitate a very steep descent profile because the engine remains at a constant temperature [no air cooled potential spiking issues here]


The Big Question that I have always asked myself is, Can a Recreational Light Aircraft fit into the NZ Gliding Club scene as a ‘stand-alone’ club work horse.

For me the Jury is still out I have to say mainly due to my still limited overall exposure to operating with such an aircraft. However as far as the Vintage and Classic Glider Club were concerned, it did perform very well with the range of gliders that turned up for that week and slotted into our operations like a ‘pro’. However we were operating in very good pristine conditions. How a Recreation Light would have performed with a descent gusty x wind, and with some real wind bouncing off the many hills that surround the airfield I am not sure. However, a club such as Aviation Sports based at the Whenuapai Air force base in Auckland, who have operated a F.K.9 for a few years now would be far better placed to comment. The Taranaki Gliding Club at Stratford is another club to have gone down the Recreational Light direction having just unpacked their new Euro Fox Recreational Light to take over from their big Pawnee, which is now been retired. It should be flying shortly. The Canterbury Gliding Club has also recently received their new Recreational Light to supplement their operation I understand. So there is defiantly a move into that direction and the next 12 / 24 months or so will more truly reflect on their towing abilities, as well as their true maintenance and operating costs as the towing hours and cycles start to build up. However for a small – low hour - club it could also turn out to be the actual saving of such a club just in the sheer economics of operating such a tow plane, all things considered. For a bigger club it would certainly price average their launching and operating costs for their members to benefit from. Service life span as a tow plane? Who knows, but really who would have thought that clubs would still be operating tow planes that date back to the 1960’s and are still towing with them some 54 years later. I certainly would not have put money on that one, I have to say.


The Vintage and Classic Glider Club of NZ Inc. wish to thank Ian Williams, and Jim Lyver for bringing the Fox Bat down all the way from Mercer and to tow for us. And of cause to Doug King, the owner and NZ Distributor for the Fox Bat for allowing a group of people whom he had never really met before, to commandeer his aircraft so as to have a wonderful weeks-‘boys with their toys’- gliding in the heart of the King Country and its amazing soaring areas. We were truly grateful for your support.


Roger Brown: VK Chairman

Rally Photos

Dart 15 ready to Rig

Taumaranuni Airfield looking North

Rigging a Modern Classic