This article describes how a glider is made. I have concentrated on the shark glider of which we have six at Parham.
The Shark glider first flew in 2006 and is an 18m class glider with a maximum all up weight of 600kg. Compared with its predecessor, the wing thickness has been reduced from 16.4% to 13.2% the aspect ratio has been increased from 25 to 27.4 and with the use of modern wing sections the maximum glide angle has been increased from 45 to 51.2 (measured).
This has only be possible through the use of new materials.
In this article I would like to explain how a modern glider is constructed both in terms of the materials, constructional technique and also the factory that supports such a production line. In the case of the Shark glider much of the design is done using computer aided design (CAD) techniques. Once the design is complete a series of complex moulds are made to support the production process. HPH have the luxury of being able to produce these moulds in house unlike most of the other sailplane manufacturers, the machine used to make these moulds is about the size of a small house.
Moulds must be made for the fuselage, the wings, tailplane and the control surfaces. These moulds are split into two components such that each side of the components can be made before the moulds are joined to produce the finished item. In the case of the fuselage the structure is made of different materials depending upon what is required. In the case of the cockpit the materials used are carbon and Kevlar which are woven together. This provides maximum impact absorption. Behind the cockpit is made from carbon fibre down the tailboom here strength is important and then part way up the fin.
The top half of the fin is made using glass reinforced plastic so that the radio Aerial can be built inside and still receive signals. The Fin skin is divided with extra rigidity provided using a foam sandwich. Inside the fuselage a number of components are put in place including a large complex GRP fabrication which is made away from the glider and then set into the fuselage prior to closing of the two fuselage halves.
By Craig Lowrie