The Vintage & Classic Glider Club of New Zealand Inc


  Taumarunui 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 previously towed behind a Recreational Light Sport aircraft, the rest were trying it for the first time. We used the shorter towrope that came with the aircraft which was successfully used launching at the Drury Champs a couple of weeks before.  This worked very well and allowed the Fox Bat to easily climb out at 400 to 500 ft per min rate of climb.

Obviously, with only 100hp on hand there were no real margins to play with in this towing environment with a fairly high density altitude, as Taumarunui airfield is surrounded by hills and very steep country, so very accurate flying was required by all.  It reminded me very much of towing behind a Tiger Moth, same overall skill set applies – accuracy.

There was little or no wind for the whole week other than when a thermal came through and the ground temperature was around 28 to 30 Degrees C. (very warm).

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

We had one premature release at 600ft and one aborted take-off.

The upset that caused the premature release was caused by a very powerful King Country thermal that tossed the Fox Bat badly off line. The glider pilot released immediately and managed to climb away, so the problem was solved. The aborted take-off was caused by low acceleration and a wing runner letting go too soon. The glider released so the problem was solved once again.  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 awesome, especially on the way down after release, when one can imitate a very steep descent profile because the engine remains at a constant temperature with the water-cooled cylinder heads.

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

For me the jury is still out 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 calm conditions.  How a Recreation Light Sport aircraft would have performed with a descent gusty cross-wind and with some real turbulence off the many hills that surround the airfield I am not sure.

Aviation Sports Club, based at the Whenuapai Air force base in Auckland, 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 LSA direction, having just unpacked their new Euro Fox LSA to take over from their big Pawnee which has now been retired. It should be flying shortly.  The Canterbury Gliding Club has also recently received their new LSA to supplement their operation I understand, so there is definitely a move in that direction and the next 12 to 24 months or so will more truly determine their towing ability 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 1960s and 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 to tow for us.  And of course 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 for a wonderful week of ‘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

Taumarunui Airfield looking North

Rigging a Modern Classic