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OK, a number of misconceptions floating around here.

Ballasting to a higher flying weight increases the airspeed WITHOUT changing the glide angle
or L/D, as several other posters have pointed out. The lift and the drag both increase by the
same proportion, so the ratio of the two ("L/D") stays the same.

On models there can be a subtle secondary effect in that the higher airspeed increases the
Reynolds numbers, which reduces drag. Thus, the L/D may actually improve at higher weights.
However, this effect is subtle enough that in most cases you probably will not notice it.

A glider is powered by gravity; it slides downhill through the air like a sled. The slope of that
imaginary hill is the glide ratio, which for values flatter than about 5:1 is essentially the same
as the L/D, which is why we get away with treating those two terms interchangeably, even
though they aren't quite equivalent.

The glide ratio or L/D tells us how far the plane can glide from a given altitude. The airspeed at
that L/D tells how fast it can get there, but it also helps determine how fast we lose altitude,
i.e.: the sink rate. We're sliding down that imaginary hill at a higher speed, so we get to the
bottom of that hill more quickly, even though the slope of that hill is the same as before.

So, in summary:

1. Adding weight does not significantly change the L/D, if anything it might slightly improve it.

2. Adding weight does increase the airspeed, which increases the sink rate, which means we
need a stronger thermal to gain altitude. It also increases the minimum turning radius, which
also means we need a bigger thermal to gain altitude.

Now, regarding:

Not exactly. Yes, a deflected elevator causes a little bit of drag, but not nearly as much as many
folks seem to think it does. The effect of having the wing at the best angle of attack is far more
important. The elevator deflection required to hold the wing at that angle of attack ("alpha")
may or may not be zero, and in fact the wing and tail incidences that result in best overall
performance are not necessarily the ones that result in the best-L/D alpha when the elevator is

The C/G is correct when you have the amount of static pitch and yaw stability you require.
Period. If that does not result in the in-flight angle of attack you want to fly at, then you need
to change the elevator deflection and/or the wing and/or tail incidences, as required, to get
the alpha and airspeed you want. Note, the airspeed for minimum sink rate is a little slower
than for best L/D. Also, because of Reynolds number effects, the best airspeed for minimum
sink rate on smaller models tends to be a bit faster than what the methods in the aero
engineering textbooks would predict. Trying to hang a typical model sailplane just above stall
will generally not result in the best thermalling performance.

The fact that you had positive pitch stability says that your C/G was correct. The fact that you
had what you considered to be an acceptable glide angle and airspeed with the elevator
neutral only indicates that the designer did an acceptable job of determining the appropriate
wing and tail incidences.

BTW, the "dive test" as it used to be done back in the "bad old days" was an unnecessarily
abusive maneuver that really didn't tell that much about the plane's stability. The technique
then was to shove the plane over into a steep dive (maybe 45 degrees or so), release the
controls, and see if it would pull out by itself. The problem is that not only does this subject the
plane to huge ranges of airspeed, some of which could be dangerous to the airframe, but it
also operates the plane in parts of its flight envelope where its responses could be very non-
linear. Therefore, the plane could have perfectly adequate pitch stability and still fail the dive

A much better method is to push the nose over just a little bit, maybe 3-5 degrees, release the
controls and see if it recovers. Most airplanes with typical amounts of dynamic stability will go
through about 2 1/2 cycles of gradually decreasing pitch oscillations before damping out into
level flight. Pull the nose up about that same 3-5 degrees and see if it also damps out from that
disturbance in about the same number of cycles. Some airplanes with higher than usual
dynamic stability (such as our Chrysalis series of sailplanes) might not oscillate, but just
smoothly return to the original pitch attitude.


This is a variation of the old "downwind turn" myth. It is absolutely false. The plane most
certainly does not "want to glide slower into the wind". That's an optical illusion resulting from
your watching the plane from your vantage point on the ground. The plane is at the same
airspeed as before, but the groundspeed (which is what you see, but the airplane is totally
unaware of) is slower. Between you and the plane, you are the only one who cares about, or is
even aware of the groundspeed.

However, that optical illusion can cause you to make the plane come out of a turn into the
wind a little faster than the trimmed airspeed, whereupon it will go through those 2 1/2 pitch
oscillations trying to get itself back to the trimmed airspeed. If it doesn't, and the oscillations
get bigger instead of smaller, then the tail design is wrong, or you have other problems such as
aerodynamic hysteresis.

Assuming the wind is steady, the angle of attack (and therefore the level flight airspeed) the
plane wants to fly at is the same, regardless of which way it is flying relative to the wind.

If it is stalling, then you had the elevator deflection incorrect to begin with. You were trying to
make the plane fly slower and at a flatter glide than the best it could sustain. The wind had
nothing to do with it, other than maybe the turbulence kicked up by the wind flowing over
ground clutter might create more disturbances that will make the elevator deflection problem
apparent more quickly.

However, even assuming you have a trimmed airspeed with a sustainable angle of attack on
the wing to begin with, there is a good reason to fly upwind with a touch of down elevator. It's
the same reason for adding a little down elevator when flying through sinking air. In both
cases, putting the nose down increases your sink rate, but the increase in airspeed means you
spend less time flying upwind or through the sink, so that overall you end up losing less