© Martin Gregorie, August 2011. Last updated April 2014.
The chief problem with Libelles, if you're thinking of buying one, is cockpit size. The cockpit is generally long enough for most pilots but is quite narrow, so if you have more than averagely broad shoulders you may not fit. If there's a local one you should try sitting in it as the first move. If you do fit, it should be pretty comfortable. I have no complaints on that front.
All Libelles come with both nose and belly hooks and are draft-free due to a glass disk bolted in place behind the nose hook. Ventilation is generally good provided you don't tape up the 10mm gap between fuselage and lower wing skin just in front of the trailing edge. The tiny adjustable vents on the front coaming do a good job of clearing the canopy and in extremis the front of the canopy can be lifted 30mm in flight, which will instantly clear anything that's not ice.
There's little space for 'stuff'. The stick is mounted on a beam with space under it that I've heard can be used for water, etc. but I've been unable to discover how people secure anything under there. I have a semicircular 'saddle bag' that clips on the spars behind my head. Hansjörg Streifeneder (Glasfaser) supplies them. This doesn't restrict the rear view at all. I can still see my fin with it fitted. Having sat in a Std Cirrus once (though never flown one) I can say there's no comparison in rear vision - the Std Cirrus doesn't have much, being similar to a Junior in this respect.
Since the panel fits under the cockpit coaming and is actually ahead of the canopy frame, you can't easily mount PDAs etc so they stick up over its top. See my panel rebuild page for details of how I've arranged my panel and the battery box page for ideas on carrying a pair of 12v 7.2 AH batteries in the standard battery box. This last season I've been flying with LK8000 on a Binatone satnav on a flexi-mount in front of the panel. This worked out very well.
I've recently fitted an LX RedBox FLARM. This unit is small and light, so I had no problem in fitting it on the instrument tray. The chief problem is where to fit the antenna, which had to be remote from the FLARM because otherwise the upper row of instruments prevented it 'seeing' other gliders lurking behind me. I know of two solutions to this. I'm using the first, which came from Thorsten Mauritsen, a Danish Libelle pilot:
I was able to rearrange my panel to hold the FLARM display, the standard 40mm x 60mm LX Red Box unit, without removing anything and still managed to keep space for a Trig TT-21 display in case we get forced to fit transponders.
The Standard Libelle is pretty much a viceless glider. Handling is light and precise with control forces remaining light at all airspeeds up to Vne, though the trim range is minimal on mine. Like most gliders you tend to run out of trim in a steep thermal turn but mine also runs out of trim at the other end of the speed range so I find myself holding the stick forward above 60-65 kts though the forces are still light. Its more a matter of needing to monitor the speed than of noticing you're having to push the stick if you see what I mean. The automatic trim control is a nice touch.
There are only three handling items that need comment:
I've never been outclimbed in a thermal in mine, even by Sarah Kelman in a T-21 when she was really coring it. I hear that the Std Cirrus has a better high speed polar and that this is due to flow round the wing root. Glasfaser sell an approved root fairing kit. Mine doesn't have that, but does have a full span lower surface turbulator which seems to help a lot: my SDI C4 seldom shows an L/D less than the Glasflugel figure of 36:1 and the turbulator affects the BGA handicap too, so its not just my imagination. There's also a set of tiplets available though I've not seen a Libelle with them fitted (only photos) so don't know how much good they do.
All control deflections are fairly minimal. This has no effect in normal flight, but does mean that control effectiveness is low at the start of both aero tow and winch launches. This has no adverse effect on roll rate in flight.
My Libelle is the most spin-resistant single-seater I've flown. I can't spin it from level flight and last season, when I was a bit slow pushing over from a zoom entry into a thermal it merely mushed round the first 90 degrees without any hint of wing drop: I'd lowered the nose, of course, and it just picked up speed and went on circling. It will spin if crossed-up with a nose high attitude. Recovery is normal, though it takes 1/2 a turn rather than the usual 1/4 turn, probably due to the rudder deflection being only 25 degrees.
Its difficult to tell when the original H.201 became an H.201B because this took quite a time to do. Here's what I've found out:
Balsa Libelles don't generally suffer from the mysterious inner rottings that bite the ASW-15 though I suppose its possible if they've ever been retro-fitted for water since leaky water bags reportedly did for a number of H.301 Open Libelles. A few (including mine) were briefly fitted with Kestrel bags.
My wings have no sign of waviness after 45 years and a refinish in polyurethane in 1983, but I have no way to know if that is the result of having balsa surfaces or not: my considered opinion as a model aircraft designer and builder is that balsa might make a stiffer, more damage-resistant skin than foam.