Dream Building by Tom Wolf

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Here is the story of a 12 year pursuit of a dream -
building your own powered glider. Tom Wolf - one of our new students -
describes his building of the ultralight powered glider
"Cumulus" (plus trailer) that is nearing completion.
Hats off for his perseverence and best wishes for the completion! 
And of course, will it get close to its hoped for 1-26 performance?

- Editor

by Tom Wolfe

dreambuilding.jpgI believe my love for flying began about age 5, my first flight in a glider did not happen until age 20. I was stationed in Mons Belgium with the Army and discovered that one of my benefits was a NATO sponsored gliding club. I was hooked!

I think we all dream of having our own ship someday, following our first exposure. My someday began to take shape in 2004 (I was then 55) when I was able to put money down on a Motor glider kit, a Cumulus.

The Cumulus kit was a single seat, low wing, pusher with a reported l/d of 20: 1. Not high performance, but on my budget I was thinking more like an Ultralight anyway. When the kit began to arrive, I quickly discovered that I was nowhere near having enough work space to keep it altogether, so it was time to redirect attention to constructing a trailer. That process took basically an entire year of part time building.

Building the Cumulus was an on and off process at best with the largest amount of “off” time being another year, which was the result of making (what I thought at the time) the dream ending mistake. The short story here is that after a year of trying to convince myself that it was time to give up, I finally found the fortitude to wage on, beating that and each subsequent challenge one at a time. I now know first-hand what makes some builders quit early on.

The Cumulus kit was originally designed as an open cockpit with external BRS, carb, muffler, and fixed prop. All nasty drag producers which had to go. First off I opted for the slightly lighter MZ 201 which had dual electronic ignition and side mounted starter, which freed up some space for an internal BRS. The carb was vertical instead of horizontally mounted and made it easier to keep out of the airstream. The muffler was a challenge, but I borrowed an idea from a Strojnik S2a and mounted the muffler along the boom just aft of the trailing edge. With this adaptation came the need for a custom header to connect up to the muffler and negotiate all the internal structures.

The primary goal in these changes was drag reduction and ultimately an enclose cockpit. This necessitated a major redesign of the fiberglass engine and nose pods, actually several redesigns, but I digress. Once everything was neatly tucked inside, it was time to deal with that rotating air brake called a propeller, that does nothing to propel a glider when it is not turning. After much searching I settled on the Graal folding hub and IVO Carbon prop blades. Now of course it was time for the canopy, and I stole ideas from wherever I could find them, stealing most from the 126 I think.

I kept no log of hours but I am sure I have long ago exceeded 1000 hours. 150 hours to build, haw! I must admit that all the mods and plans changes and reversals added a lot of hours to my project. OBTW, with very limited panel space, I opted for the LXNAV electronic vario with audio and alt..etc.. For engine monitoring the EIS two stroke package gets it all done. For comms; leaning toward the ICOM A24 handheld dropped into a holder at base of instrument panel and coupled to an external antenna.

So, here we are, 12 years later, my trailer is ready for inspection and licensing (it did, however, make one shakedown trip to Arlington last July for the Airshow). The Cumulus is painted and 99% complete and will likely go for its FAA inspection later this year. N563LS, will most likely take to the sky next Spring or whenever I believe that I am ready.

I think for the first time in my life I am not in a hurry for something. I am going to enjoy each learning experience at Evergreen and continue to develop the skills necessary to make a smooth transition back to solo glider pilot and eventually to Cumulus pilot.


Span - 42 ft

Length - 20 ft

Gross weight - 740 lbs

VNE - 90 mph

Cruise - 35 to 75 mph

Stall - 32 mph

Sink - 190 fpm (advertised)

L/D - 20: 1 @43 mph (advertised)

Rate of Climb - 1000 fpm (advertised)