Almost exactly 110 years ago, 8 years after their famous powered flight, Orville and Wilbur Wright went back to the Outer Banks in North Carolina with the sole intention to do more flying without engine power. On October 24, 1911, Orville Wright was able to sustain motorless flight for 9 minutes and 45 seconds, a record that remained unbeaten for nearly 10 years and can be considered as the beginning of modern soaring. Since then, the sport of soaring has had its separate, independent development in aviation with impressive achievements, such as long-distance flights of over 3000-km, flights above 50,000 feet altitude, and average speeds of in excess of 160 kph over 1000-km distance flights. Besides the sportive challenges, the technical aspects associated with soaring are quite fascinating. Low speed requirements during thermaling often fight the needs for low drag during cruise. As a result, sailplanes have always pushed the technological boundaries in aviation. In some aspects, sailplanes can be considered as the “canaries” of aeronautics. Such advances include high-efficient wing designs, low-drag airfoils that use extended laminar flow, composite materials, and improved understandings of meteorology. This presentation will include an overview of the sport of soaring, which includes a historical reflection, the discussion of the current state of the sport, new developments, as well as an introduction to the general challenges that the sailplane designer face.
Götz Bramesfeld is an Associate Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Ryerson University. His research focus is applied aerodynamics and aircraft design, in particular with respect to small UAVs. Besides his professional involvement in aviation, Götz is an active glider pilot with over 1000 hours in gliders and a member of the York Soaring Association. He is also a board member of OSTIV, the International Scientific and Technical Soaring Organization.