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Thread: Homebuilt Motorgliders

  1. #1

    Homebuilt Motorgliders

    I have been doing some reading, and motorgliders are popular in Europe, but not so much in the USA. They seem to excel at high-efficiency cross-country flying, with some burning less than 3gph at 120+ knots. That seems like it would be great flying around the US, and some (like the Pipistrel Sinus) short field takeoff and landing in under 500 feet.

    I'm not planning a homebuilt project in the near future, but I am thinking my first homebuilt may be a motorglider based on what I have been reading. The trouble is, other than the Xenos, there don't seem to be many options.

    I'm curious: Why are motorgliders not as popular in the US? What homebuilt options exist in the US? What are everyone's thoughts on the class?

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    NW FL
    Pipistrels are imported from Slovenia. Nice, but pricey. Looks like you could buy three Sonex Xenos kits for one Pipistrel. There is always Barnstormers.

    You may already be certified & endorsed for self launching gliders. If not, the reference is Advisory Circular 61-91, found on the FAA home page. I'd like a self launch endorsement, but cant find a CFI with aircraft within 500 miles of Pensacola.


  3. #3

    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    As a G109 owner, I would not say most motorgliders excel at cross country flight. Typical cruise is 80-90kts at 5gallons/hr.
    Generally unpleasant in bumps for a passenger.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Clarklake, MI
    Lightplane flying in Europe has a history of being expensive with the price of petrol and all so it evolved with gliders, self-launch or powered gliders to touring class motorgliders. Touring class motorgliders is where they quit pretending like they are powered sailplanes and are more like light airplanes.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    The Xenos is the most obvious homebuilt traditional MG, although there is also the Europa, which can be built short or long-wing. In the tri-gear form the Europa seems like a versatile aircraft. Various Pipistrel offerings can also be built as kits, but $$$. There are many factory-built European or South American MGs available - Pipistrels, Grob, Diamond, SZD Ogar, Ximango, Stemme, Vivat, Valentin Taifun, Fournier, Lambada / Sundancer, Phoenix etc. The main issue seems to be that the older MGs use variants of VW engines - Limbach or similar - that really aren't powerful enough for the purpose, particularly in the US where you often need to fly high or far. The newer generation MGs with Rotax engines - Diamond, Lambada, Pipistrels, Stemme, Phoenix - seem to be really good cross-country planes.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Aug 2011


    Quote Originally Posted by thisadviceisworthles View Post
    Why are motorgliders not as popular in the US? What homebuilt options exist in the US? What are everyone's thoughts on the class?
    You have to define what you want more definitively. There are generically 3 categories of what you have referred to as "motorgliders"
    1) A motorglider to perform both cross country flight (point A to point B under power all the time)
    2) A glider that has a motor for takeoff, initial climb before (motorless) soaring and maybe as a sustainer (to keep from landing off airport)
    3) A glider that has a sustainer motor only (from having to land off airport).

    The latter two, 2) and 3), have many (but often expensive) options, but are good for soaring, including competitive soaring.

    1) on the other hand (as in all aircraft design is a compromise) is a poor compromise of both a soaring aircraft and a go somewhere aircraft. The requirements are so different that there isn't a good compromise. An aircraft that soars well will not be fast enough or comfortable enough to use it for A to B transportation.

    Motorgliders are popular in Europe because powered airplanes are expensive and expensive to operate.
    For 1) above, typical flights in Europe are shorter. IOW, many flights cross country borders (like we cross state borders.
    For 2) above, it saves the costs of the tow airplane (significant in Europe). For 3) above, it saves the risk of landing in hostile territory (unsuitable terrain).

    No airplane/sailplane/glider can do it all. Figure out your highest priority and buy/build an aircraft that meets those requirements. Borrow/rent/buy a second aircraft for your second priority if it is that different.

    My (more than) 2 cents,
    Ron "Blue on Top" Blum

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