M.Simons The World's Vintage Sailplanes 1908-45
THE GRUNAU BABY
Nobody knows how many Grunau Babies were built. They were mass-produced in Germany and several other countries as well as being favorites with amateur builders. The type became familiar in almost every part of the world where
gliding is practised. The first emerged from Edmund Schneider’s factory in Grunau, Silesia, in 1931. The design was Schneider’s. The idea was to produce a cheap sailplane for less-experienced pilots. Experience gained with earlier training gliders such as the Pruefling and Falke was incorporated. It had a single-spar wing of constant chord except for the elliptical tips. The aerofoil section was the Goettingen 535, running out to a thin, symmetrical form at the tip with several degrees of washout to ensure safe stalling characteristics. The ailerons were without differential gearing and the gap between them and the wing was sealed by a strip of fabric glued along the hinge line. A strut ran from the main spar to the fuselage main frame. The fuselage was a plywood box of hexagonal cross section with an open cockpit and a wooden skid mounted on rubber blocks. The tailplane was strut-braced. There were six of the new type at the 1932 Rhoen meeting. Soon afterward drawings were being sold. Twenty-two were built in 1932 by Edmund Schneider alone.
In 1933 there was a major redesign, resulting in the Grunau Baby 2. By extending the span to 13.5 metres, an improvement in performance was gained without much penalty in increased weight or cost. The cockpit was enlarged and the fuselage pylon reshaped to establish an outline that did not alter significantly for twenty years. The GB 2 immediately became famous. On April 3rd and 4th 1933, Kurt Schmidt hovered over the dunes in East Prussia for more than 36 hours to establish a world duration record which stood, officially, until 1949.
By 1933 the manufacturers were claiming that every three days another GB left the workshops. Examples were soon flying in Argentina, Ireland, Holland, Romania and Switzerland, while amateur constructors everywhere were hard at work. At the 1934 Rhoen, no less than 33 Grunau Babies appeared, being easily the most numerous type present.
Wolf Hirth adopted the GB at his gliding school and here made many demonstration flights, including aerobatics. He used a GB to explore the Moazagotl Wave. Eric Collins, the first British Silver ‘C’ pilot, was killed trying to do an outside loop in a Grunau Baby at a display by Cobham's Air Circus, and for some years it seemed that if a glider was required to attempt something unusual it would necessarily be a Grunau Baby. Accidents, thanks to the GB's docility and robust design, were comparatively few.
The Grunau Baby 2A had greatly improved ailerons of longer, narrower planform, and adopted a semi-enclosed canopy with a windscreen. Others were fitted with fully enclosed canopies and the need for glide path control for landings led to many being modified retrospectively by the addition of lift spoilers on the upper surfaces of the wing. Schneider also produced a motorised version.
The first Grunau Baby to be fitted with full airbrakes was the Grunau Baby 2B, and whatever numbers of the earlier versions were built, the combined total must have been surpassed many times by production of this model. The Grunau Baby 2B became the backbone of the massive Nationalsozialistiche Fliegerkorps (NSFK) pilot training programme. According to official figures, during the war years from 1940 to the end of 1944, 4104 were produced. These sailplanes were built under licence throughout Germany and in the occupied countries and there was some production in Sweden and Switzerland. After the war, in spite of the widespread destruction, there remained hundreds of Grunau Baby 2Bs in NSFK hangars all over Europe. A few were salvaged and used by the British service gliding clubs, and a few more were ‘exported' in one way or another.
In Czechoslovakia, Spain and Sweden, production began again. In France, the Nord 1300 sailplane was the Grunau Baby 2B, in England the EON Baby was a stronger, heavier version. It had a landing wheel instead of the drop-off wheeled dolly customary in Germany. The original manufacturer, Edmund Schneider, who had been forced to leave Silesia, salvaged drawings of the Grunau Baby and when he set up a glider manufacturing business again in Australia, the first product was the Grunau Baby 3A, which had a landing wheel and an improved cockpit and canopy. Another type, also called the Grunau Baby 3, was manufactured in Germany by Alexander Schleicher at Poppenhausen. This version differed a good deal from Schneider's earlier design, having a different wing attachment system and a strengthened but rather less elegant fuselage.
The Grunau Baby 3B, designed by Schneider in Australia, was really a new type, with different wing planform and aerofoil, a new fuselage with enclosed cockpit and entirely different shape. Even the tail unit was redesigned. The end of the development came with the Grunau Baby 4, a few of which were built in Australian in the 'fifties.
The influence of this design on other sailplanes was considerable. In England the Slingsby Kirby Kite was in effect a Grunau Baby 2A with a streamlined fuselage and ‘gull’ wing, the Cambridge 1 and 2 were streamlined fuselage GBs without the ‘gull’ form. In post-war years the famous Slingsby Type 21 which become the standard two-seat trainer in England, was little more than an enlarged Grunau Baby, similar in performance and handling, to facilitate the pilot’s eventual transition to solo flying.
Grunau Baby 1: Span. 12.87 m. Wing area. 14.5 sq m. Aspect ratio. 11.4. Empty weight. 100 kg. Flying weight. 166 kg. Wing loading. 11.4 kg/sq m. Aerofoil. Goettingen 535. Best glide ratio. 1:17.
Grunau Baby 2B: Span. 13.57 m. Wing area. 14.2 sq m. Aspect ratio, 13. Empty weight. 160 kg. Flying weight. 250 kg. Best glide ratio. 1 : 17 at 55 km/h. Maximum permitted speed. 150 km h.
A rare Grunau Baby 2A, now flying in the USA. Externally, the GB 2A was distinguished from the GB 2 by its entirely different ailerons and revised elevator planform.
A brightly decorated Grunau Baby 2B, restored in Germany in 1980. The open cockpit canopy with windscreen had been temporarily removed. The ‘parallel ruler’ type airbrakes distinguish the GB 2B from the 2A which had only spoilers.
The last of the true Grunau Baby type was the GB 3A, designed and built by Edmund Schneider himself after he moved his business to Australia. The GB 3A is seen here at Mildura in 1980. It should not be confused with the Grunau Baby 3 which was also designed by Schneider but was produced in Germany by Alexander Schleicher. The Grunau Baby 3B and GB 4, manufactured in Australia by Schneiders, were entirely new designs.
A Grunau Baby 1 at its home among the Riesengebirge, with snow-capped ridges visible in the background. The GB 1 had a shorter span than the later versions, with tall rudder, straight-backed fuselage and different nose shape. The monogram on the rudder was that of the Deutscher Turn Verband (German Gymnastic Club).
A Grunau Baby 2 at the Rhoen in 1933 with four other Grunau Babies on the ground behind. The registration marks are typical of the period, with the swastika on the port side of the rudder on its white disc and red band. The 10 was a temporary contest number. The aircraft was finished in clear dope and varnish.
A GB 2B at the Wasserkuppe in the NSFK cream paint scheme and registration. The swastika on the rudder had been retouched on the original photograph to conform with postwar regulations forbidding the publication of this symbol. The photograph was a popular postcard subject.
Grunau Baby IIb BGA578/AQN is back at Dunstable again after 40yr. It is seen here while at the Yorkshire Gliding Club, Sutton Bank.
A Grunau Baby sailplane climbing steeply with the aid of the London Club’s winch. The wind is too far north for slopesoaring, but the clouds are evidence of plenty of thermal lift.
AT THE WASSERKUPPE: Herr Wolf Hirth, recently returned from America, is making a fairly sharp turn on the Grunau and is seen over the open girder tail of a practice glider during the competitions now being held by the Rhon-Rossitten Gesellschaft.
A photograph of the Sutton Bank camp taken from Mr. R. F. Stedman's two-seater sailplane. In the air is a Grunau Baby.
This striking photograph of Bradwell Edge shows, down below, the factory chimney known to pilots as the "thermal indicator." Its smoke indicates the presence of a thermal current rising from the valley. When this picture was taken the competitor in the Grunau Baby was struggling to maintain his height.
Sqn. Ldr. Shaw brings the Grunau Baby in after looping down from 1,000 ft.- the cloud height.
A Swiss Grunau Baby 2, with a fairly typical form of cockpit canopy modification. Because the fuselage pylon behind the cockpit was so narrow, a neatly faired canopy tended to restrict the pilot's head movements.
A fine shot of an NSFK Grunau Baby 2B of Region 4 based at Berlin-Kurmark during 1940. The color scheme was mainly standard pale cream. Wheeled dollies of the type shown were often used for ground handling. A smaller dolly would be attached to the skid for take-off, and dropped after leaving the ground.
On the Grunau Baby 2B, four instruments were provided, an altimeter, ASI, variometer and a clock, the last being of great importance for ‘C’ and Silver ‘C’ duration badge aspirants.
A Swiss Grunau Baby 2 after a misjudged landing. The photograph shows the broad aileron form of the GB 2.