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The 1-26 From A to E

Jim Foreman

Updated 03-05-97

At a time when every soaring pilot was saving his coins to buy a "Supership with 30:1 L/D," Paul Schweizer dropped the 1-26 bomb. Bomb was almost the result at first as it soon became known as the "Poor Man's 1-23." SOARING magazine classed it as being capable of limited soaring, but adequate for silver badge performance. Schweizer kept hacking away at the 1-26 production and, realizing that there were some pilots who could not afford even the lowly 1-26 in completed form, offered a kit with the really difficult structural work done. The kit immediately started outselling the factory finished product. It soon became apparent that Paul was listening to the light drummer. Ultimately the factory built 22 Standards and customers built 114 from kits. The factory ship was designated as the Standard and the Kit was designated as the A Model.

Empty weight of the Standard was 348 pounds with a maximum gross weight of 575 pounds. Flown at 500 pounds, the minimum sink was 2.5 fps at 30 mph. Maximum L/D of 23:1 came at 44 mph. At 575 pounds minimum sink was 2.6 fps at 32 mph with maximum L/D at 48 mph. The A Model had an empty weight of 355 pounds, but many of the kit versions probably weighed closer to 375 pounds due to changes in bulkheads and formers by the builders to make them stronger.

Schweizer wanted to upgrade the 1-26 in keeping with trends in sailplanes and aircraft construction but without changing the basic design or performance. The B Model was produced with metal covered wings and some refinements for pilot comfort and visibility. Along with the metal covered wings came another 25 pounds in both empty weight and maximum gross weight. The minimum sink went up to 2.7 fps and maximum L/D was 23:1 at 49 mph.

The C Model was the kit version of the B. It never enjoyed the acceptance of the A Kit with Schweizer selling only about one-third as many as the factory finished product. Along with the C came a multitude of extras or options such as fiberglass nose, wheel cover, stick boot, swept tail, oxygen rack, adjustable rudder pedals, and fairings. A completed but uncovered version also was available.

The D Model was not just a facelift but was a major modification with pilot comfort being foremost. The D Model also sported balanced dive brakes with larger spoilers, a lower nose profile, adjustable seat, much better visibility, especially on tow, and a metal, monocoque nose. Empty weight crept up, again, to 400 pounds with a maximum gross of 700 pounds. Minimum sink was now 2.9 fps with maximum L/D (still at 23: 1) coming at 52 mph. A metal turtle deck and a new canopy seal made for a much quieter ship.

The E Model has all the features of the D plus a larger canopy and all metal monocoque tail cone. The fabric is gone except for the movable control surfaces and assembling has been made easier with fewer little parts to get lost. Empty weight is 445 pounds with a maximum gross weight of 700 pounds, Maximum L/D still stands at 23:1 but comes at 53 mph. Minimun sink is 2.9 fps and comes at 40 mph.

In talking with several 1-26 pilots who have flown all the models I find one thing in common: each feels that there is not a whit of difference in the performance of the ships over a wide range of flying. Naturally the very light Standard or A Models will climb a bit faster than the heavier ones and by the same token the higher wing loadings will give the heavier ships a faster penetration speed. I suppose that a light ship would have a slight edge under very weak conditions and an E Model with maximum weight would be superior in very strong conditions. But throughout a contest, they come out about even.