I recently became interested in nostalgia A/2 gliders (also known as antique or oldtimer A/2 in Europe). To compete against my buddy Lee Hines (and others) in the newly created NFFS "Classic Towline Glider Cup" here in the US, I was scanning some of the vintage A/2 designs that we are all so familiar with. Czepa, Hacklinger, Thomann, you name it, I looked at it. All of those share a certain "magic" but in the end, my heart was lost to the "Spinne" designs by the well known Rudi Lindner.
Being born in Germany and sharing the same initials with Rudi (R.L.) sealed the deal - I wanted to build a Spinne. Lee provided an old Graupner plan of the 54 Spinne, so I employed the good old Internet to find out more. While browsing some of the pages Google turned up, I came across a page of a German full scale sailplane company named "Rudi Lindner". Comparing their location to Rudi's old aeroclub from 54, I thought this might not be a coincidence. I decided to mail the owner of the sailplane company, Mr. Helmut Lindner to see if there is any connection. To my surprise, the next morning, I had an e-mail back from Mr. Lindner confirming that his father is indeed the famous A/2 Rudi Lindner. After a couple of back and forths with Helmut, I was able to acquire Rudi Lindner's phone number. I was quite excited.
So last Saturday I gave Rudi a ring and it turned out to be much more than I had hoped for. Rudi was extremely nice and open, we had a great conversation which lasted well over 2hrs. As it turned out, Rudi lives with his wife in a small village not far from the Bodensee in southern Germany. He is now 75 and in good health. Rudi explained to me that he got lured into full scale sailplane design and production by Dr. Eppler in 57 and also became a sailplane pilot where he met his wife, who is also a pilot. Rudi and his wife enjoy sailplane flying even today, btw. Later on Rudi founded a small company which focuses on the repair and tuning of some of the planes he helped design. Rudi has just recently stepped down from leading the company which is now run by his oldest son, Helmut. Rudi also has another son who is a quite successful RC pilot. Now that he is retired, Rudi has re-discovered his love for Freeflight and is starting to get back into it.
As the conversation went on, I eventually asked quite a few questions about Spinne. Rudi began by telling me that the 54 Spinne was in fact NOT the original Spinne. In 53, Rudi built a (for the time) very high aspect ratio plane, which had only 122mm root chord. This would make the span well over 2m which was quite long for the time. When he flew this plane in Yugoslavia as well as in the Bavarian Championship, people looked at the plane in the air and called it "Spinne" (german word for spider) due to the thin and long wings and fuselage which resembled the legs of a spider - thats how the name was born. The original Spinne was quite the performer, being on the leading edge for still air time for that era. However, because of the high aspect ratio, the original Spinne was a bit fragile, so Rudi decided to build a shorter, more robust version of the plane. Also, since the cross-section rule had been dropped, Rudi decided to build the fuselage as small as possible - a pencil pod. This is what became the 54 WC model, the one we all know.
After the 54 WC winning flight, at the EC (in germany), that Spinne had another almost fatal flight. In one of the rounds, Rudi reports, the plane would glide in about 2m altitude, hitting a cyclist in the head. Although the pencil-like fuselage had a bullet-like aluminum tip, the cyclist remained unharmed (only his glasses broke). Nevertheless, this event made Rudi reconsider the pointed pencil type tip and for 55 he build a new plane, the 3rd Spinne if you so will. This new Spinne had a rounder nose tip, almost resembling the pods we fly today. In addition to that, Rudi also added solid balsa sheet across the entire upper surface of the wings, while the bottom remained to be jap-tissue covered. Because the wings where basically identical except for the balsa sheeting, the wings of the 54 Spinne were flown on the 55 big nosed body. This was the glider used to win WC 55.
The 54 and 55 Spinnes are now in the German Aero Museum in Munich. However, the original high aspect ratio Spinne from 53 is still in Rudi's possession. In fact, some weeks ago he pulled it out of a box and it turned out to be in great shape, except for a broken stab. Rudi is currently in the process of repairing and restoring this original Spinne with plans to fly it very soon. In addition to these restoration efforts, Rudi is also in the process of building a copy of the 54 Spinne, as he plans on giving the 53 and replica 54 Spinnes to a new museum.
It was quite interesting to hear that Rudi still has a large stockpile of balsa from his past efforts. He even offered me some of this balsa as well as tissue and hand drawn plans of his 3 Spinnes. If I am able to obtain these plans from Rudi as he promised, I will make sure that these will be shared with the freeflight community. After all, I might find myself building a Spinne from original hand drawn Linder plans, Linder wood and Linder tissue - I wonder if I could ever get myself to actually put such a plane in the air and see it scratched up by the rough Lost Hills ground on landing?
After all this amazing historical information, our conversation went on to discuss modern A/2 designs and current technology. I was amused to hear Rudi's enthusiastic reaction when I explained "bunting" to him. He immediately regretted not being able to run that fast anymore - I could feel the sportsman in him resurfacing. He made it very clear that he is very interested in modern technology and I will work on getting Rudi in contact with some active A/2 flyers in his area of southern Germany.
Once one is infected with the spirit of freeflight, it will never let go. Vintage or carbon, A/2 is magic. Rudi and I have pledged to stay in contact on a regular basis, and so, on my next visit to Germany, I will be sure to stop by and give him a launch.
Soon after his double Nordic World Chanpionship win, Lindner became heavily involved in the design and construction of the first glass reinforced plastic composite gliders. This was at least partly due to his modelling connections.
The first glass glider, the FS-24 Phönix, was designed by Herman Nägele and Richard Eppler (both modellers). Rudi Lindner joined the team during construction but probably had no hand in the design. It first flew in 1957 and was an immediate success. It had the then unheard of glide ratio of 40:1. Eight examples were built. Most were still flying in 2000.
The second glass glider to be built was the Hirth Hi-25 Kria. It was designed by Wolf Hirth, who had been involved in sport gliding since 1921. He was one of the true pioneers and a founder of the well-known Schlemp-Hirth firm. Lindner was probably involved in building the Kria and was the test pilot.
The Phoebus, one of the first designs specifically for the Standard Class, was a joint effort by Nägele, Eppler and Lindner, with Rudi doing the test flying and scoring its first competition placings. It's first flight was in 1964. Production ceased in 1970 after a total of 253 (A,B and C models combined) had been made. A number of these are still flying.
Lindner's activities during the second half of the 1950s are documented in much greater detail in Sailplanes 1945-1960 by Martin Simons (Eqip, 2002). Martin Simons is well-known modeller and glider pilot. This book is volume two in a three volume set that covers sport gliding from its start in 1920 to the end of the century and is a fabulous set to own. They are coffee-table sized, hard cover books with excellent text and photos and 1:50 3-views of most of the gliders it describes. The series concentrates on the technical development of gliders rather than the personalities involved. There is a lot of interest in big scale gliders amongst the RC soaring fraternity and they love these books.
Lindner then founded Fiberglas-Technik Lindner GmbH & Co. KG, which is currently run by his son. It provides repair and post-sales modification services to composite glider pilots. The firm designs, makes and sells winglets for the Phoebus, ASW-20 and Grob Twin III Acro. They also make a tail wheel that fits all Schlemp-Hirth and Grob single seaters.