Slingsby T.38 Grasshopper (Under Construction)

Span 11.886m Length 6.99m Height Weight empty 132.9kgs loaded max. 250kgs Wing Area 16.16m2 Wing Section Göttingen 426 Wing Loading 15.13kg/m2 Glide Ratio 8:1

The T38 was an 'anachronistic' glider in the sense that it was a single-seat primary glider, built in a period when all standard trainers had become dual-seaters. The market for it was mainly due to the British Air Force using it for initial Air Cadets training. It was not intended to 'fly' in the real sense - it was mostly intended for short hops of at a height of about 3 meters at most.

The structure of the Grasshopper comprised of open framework made of wood, with a seat and elementary controls. The wings were wooden framed and covered in fabric, with Ailerons only for control, no landing flaps or air brakes were fitted. DFS SG.38

In 1951 the British Air Force ordered 65 Grasshoppers, which married the wings of the Cadet to a fuselage similar to the early German glider, the DFS SG.38. Many cadet wings were held in storage after conversions of Cadets to Tutors.

It was flight tested by Derek Piggott after being aero-towed up to 900m, so this particular version was airworthy, but in general, the Grasshoppers were not expected to fly, so the standards for the production aircraft did not need to be fully airworthy.

Production continued during the fifties, with a further 40 being delivered to the RAF. The gliders appear to have been used primarily by CCFs (Combined Cadet Forces). These were usually based at large schools, and the gliders were flown by means of bungee launches from the school playing field. The Grasshoppers were intended to provide experience and feel of flying controls, as only straight and level flight was officially attainable at a height of about 3 metres.

Strictly speaking, the Grasshoppers were not even originally supposed to achieve this level of flight - they were expected more to ground slide rather than fly. This presumably is the source of their name, although I never seen that stated anywhere.

Part of the hazard associated with this kind of solo traing was removed by the use of the German-invented pendelbock, or tripod, on which the primary glider could be suspended close to the ground enabling the student to experience the effect of the control while pointing into the wind.

However it would appear that more adventurous flights were sometimes undertaken with resultant heavy landings requiring repairs by the RAF who luckily didn't ask too many awkward questions. With advances in technology the need for basic glider training had disappeared by the late eighties, as cadets were now able to fly flight simulators on PC's. Also the RAF were unwilling to pay maintenance and repair costs on the old machines.

One commentator has noted that at least by working with the Grasshopper, the school pupils did learn a great deal, although not necessarily about flying.

The Cadet had been manufactured during the war by Slingsbys for use by the ATC squadrons (originally called Air Defence Cadet Corps), superseding the Daglings, and they continued to be made until the late fifties. These were capable of proper flight and so able to provide better experience than before.

Early Gliding in Deutschland

By virtue of the terms of the Versailles Treaty, the Germans were the first to develop gliding in a big way - by 1930, flights of 150 km. were being achieved. This was at a time when gliding was almost unknown in Britain.

Annual events were held since 1920 on the Wasserkuppe, in the Rhön Mountains of the Fulda district.

Permanent gliding schools were established in the Wasserkuppe, and at Rossitten on the Baltic coast.

Factories included

Early Gliding in Britain

The British Gliding association was founded in 1929, and was heavily influenced by Deutschland in its early days.

In Deutschland, Alexander Lippisch had designed the Zögling, which became the standard primary glider (i.e. a simple one-seat glider).

In Britain plans of the Zögling were actually available at the cost of £1 10s to enable the type to be built at home by glider enthusiasts.

A British version was built in 1930 by R.F. Dagnall, head of the RFD company which built balloons and airships. This glider became known as a Dagling - 28 were built and all similar gliders built in Britain were also given this name.

Demand for this type of primary glider grew, and it was put back into production in 1934 by Slingsbys as the T.2 Primary. These were used by civilian gliding clubs, but on the outbreak of war most were taken over by the RAF for use by Air Training Corps squadrons.

Slingsby Gliders

Fred Slingsby fought as a gunner in the Royal Flying Corps during World War 1, and earned a military medal for landing his aircraft himself after the pilot had been killed. He left in 1920 and set up a furniture factory in Scarborough.

In February 1930, Scarborough Gliding Club was formed, of which he was a founder-member - by the end of the year, it had 40 active flying members.

The Dagling Glider they used needed constant repair and maintenance, which Slingsy carried out in his furniture factory.

The first gliders were built in his factory in Queen Street, Scarborough. This was transferred to the town's abandoned tram sheds, before a completely new factory was built in Kirbymoorside in 1934.

His first glider, in 1931, was a Falcon. The Falcon, was a British version of the Falke, built by the RRG (Rhön-Rossitten Gesellschaft), and was designed by Alexander Lippisch.

In 1933, Slingsby started producing Daglings, as the Type 3. This type of glider was not the best for teaching - no doubt clubs were put off by the cost of a dual-control glider but it is arguable that this would have been cheaper in the end, if it proved more successful in producing qualified glider pilots (who would then have increased the funding of the clubs). Definitely, the initial wave of interest in gliding in Britain tailed off with the low success rate in producing qualified pilots, and by 1932 Scarborough Gliding Club was in dire straits. It merged with another club, and further mergers produced the Yorkshire Gliding Club, based at Sutton Bank, near Thirsk.

In 1934, he abandoned furniture-making

In April 1939, Geoffrey Stephenson, flew across the Channel in a Kirby Gull, flying from Dunstable. By this year, Slingsby Sailplanes Ltd were offering new gliders from £99. A Kirby Kite 1 cost £159.

Late in 1939 all private gliding in Great Britain had come to a stop because of the war with Germany and the work at Slingsby's soon came to a standstill. In order to keep his company alive, Fred Slingsby had to find some work to keep his men busy. The company got a contract to build rudders for the A.V. Roe Anson twin engine utility and training plane and also sold a few gliders for radar experiments.

This kept the company in business until an order was received for the design and production of the Hengist troop carrying glider. In addition, Slingsby also received orders for primary training gliders for the Royal Air Force - Air Training Corps (ATC). With the Hengist and training glider orders along with the repairs and manufacturing of spare parts, the Slingsby company was kept busy throughout the war. Anticipating the end of the war and the need for better training gliders for both the ATC and private clubs, Slingsby designed and built both a tandem and a side-by- side prototype glider to meet this need. This later design became the Slingsby Type-21.

The surviving Slingsby Company was merged into the Vickers Group during late 1969, and the well-known British engineer/contest pilot George Burton was appointed its director. George knew the advantages of the modern glass materials, and he led the company into that technology. Their early sailplane project was the manufacture of the then popular high-performance 17 and 19-meter span Kestrels under license from Glasflugel of Germany. In 1979 the company was reorganized into Slingsby Engineering, Ltd.

The 15-Meter Vega design originated during the mid-seventies. By early 1978 it began series production, and it is now flying in many parts of the world. More recently a simplified club Vega version of this fine sailplane was developed. It features a nonretractable but sprung landing wheel, and has no wing flaps, yet retains the Vega’s outstanding trailing edge airbrakes.

Production of gliders ceased in 1982. A company still exists with the same name, but they produce entirely powered aircraft, and hovercraft.

List of Slingsby Gliders

Air Training Corps

In early 1942, the first Gliding School for the ATC was established at Kirbymoorside.
Slingsby Sailplanes by Martin Simons (Author) Publisher: Voyageur Press; ASIN: 1853107328;

Other Grasshopper Pages on the Internet

Brian Daugherty.