Bye, Bye Blanik

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With the sale of Evergreen’s last L-13 Blanik – N 2414J – the era of the Blanik seems to have come to an end, for Evergreen and probably the US.  While 14J is supposed to continue its career as an exhibition model in Auburn (hopefully providing some advertising for soaring and Evergreen) no L-13 has flown in the US since 2010, when a mid-air breakup in Austria grounded the L-13 worldwide.  blanik-400x308.jpgA major wing root rework approved by EASA is generally regarded as too expensive for such an old glider and the Llewellyn modification developed and certificated in Australia has only been applied to 9 Australian Blaniks (with the new designation L-13A1).
The L-13 first flew in 1956 and became a standard training glider in the old East Block.  But later it was also certificated in the West and hundreds of this sturdy all metal trainer found their way all over the world.  Altogether some 2650 were built before production switched to the T-tailed L-23 (the Super Blanik) which generally was less liked than its forerunner.  There were also a powered version – the Vivat – and an aerobatic version with a shorter wing span – the L-13AC – which were not grounded and which are still flying in small numbers.
Blanik 2414J is the last of a substantial number of Blaniks that have been operated in the larger Seattle area.  In addition to their use by the various clubs they were also used extensively by commercial operators like Issaquah Soaring and Alpha Soaring, not to mention several privately owned ones.  The former BESGC used to have two before switching to the L-23.   One of them went to the Pemberton Soaring Club in Canada only to return later back to the heritage Evergreen Soaring Club – as 2414J.  After having been tied down outside for 40 years it is now finally finding a place inside an exhibition hall (according to current plans).  Its less fortunate stable mate - Blanik N68029 – was totaled in a landing accident several years ago and has probably been re-incarnated in the form of beer cans.
During their long career with BESGC and ES the L-13s provided initial training and first solo flights to a whole generation of Northwest soaring pilots.  But they were also used for quite a bit of XC flying and even record flying.  Two records that still stand are for Multi-place Out-and-Return distance (215 miles, set by Chris Lomax in 1975) and for Multi-place Goal distance (137 miles, set by Scott Imlay in 1981).
So, as a parting tribute to the Blanik era, here is a picture of  2414J in its element.  The occasion was on October 25, 2005, when 5 Evergreen sailplanes were enjoying wave lift of up to 12,000 ft over Mount Pilchuck.