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Improve performance and reduce noise

It is an art. Back in the day before kids, I was into tuning my trusty new to me Discus 2AX. In the evenings and on rainy days I sealed it. I spent roughly 100 hours sealing the glider. How much did it help? “If you make the ship one percent better, you fly five percent better!” Klaus Holighaus from George Moffat’s book, Winning 2.  If you have not read Winning 2, then it should be on your winter reading list.

Rubber tubing

PIK had a pretty neat idea with rubber tubing and a bulb to inflate air into the tubing that rested in a channel on the canopy frame, despite the temperature change you could always get it to seal… in theory… Remember that as the temperature changes the fit of the canopy is going to change.

Temperature effects how a canopy fits

I flew a freshly refinished glider at the Pre-WGC in Uvalde TX, the glider came from a nice cool winter in UT. As you can imagine Uvalde TX in August is not cool. We had to sand the canopy frame to remove gelcoat, which eventually wasn’t enough. I was saved by Mrs. Jaeger (Team ARC) who had ice packs from ULine and I would put them on the canopy about 30min before takeoff and put blankets over the canopy to help insulate it. It was just enough to get the canopy to shrink so I could lock it. 

I remember a similar situation with the 2 seat EB’s at another WGC and they would pour a gallon of cold distilled water over the canopy, that would allow them to lock the canopy, then it was full power as the water boy would duck under the wing.

So we have to make sure whatever we seal the canopy with is going to be flexible enough to take the change in the gap. So using silicone that has been glued to one side of the canopy probably will not work in the wide temperature spread we see.

Use of yarn as a canopy sealant

One of the simplest things I have seen is yarn. Use very small pieces of tape to attach it, you could even use an adhesive like super 77 spray, but use very sparingly and don’t glue your canopy closed. Yarn might not last the entire season, however, you could seal the canopy in about 15min with about 50 cents of material… If the gap is larger then you are going to want to use something like open cell foam. Many times this will have to be cut down and shaved to get it to fit. How do you know where it is too high? The canopy bulges out.

Use paper to test for gaps

I have used strips of paper and slide it around to see where the canopy is tight and where it is loose. I have used a shop vac on blow, tape, and a candle to determine where the leaks were also. You might only need to seal one section of the canopy. One trick is to think about how the canopy closes. How are the two surfaces going to make contact? You want the foam to be pushed straight down and not rolled out of position. This is more complicated on a side-hinging canopy, there will be a transition to a different part of the frame.

Routing out a channel

Now if you have A LOT of patience and nerves of steel you could even route out a small channel that is tapered to help the foam stay in that section. I know of 3 gliders running around with said channel. It prevents the foam from being pushed out and makes a much better seal. However, you need to only route into the filler and not the structure or you have some problems. If you are in doubt about your abilities DO NOT DO THIS!!! Think Yarn…


We also have a great product called V seal. Once you figure out how to use it it is great. However, the learning curve on how to manipulate it around the front of the canopy is pretty steep and you probably will not get it on your first few tries.  You might have to make small v cuts on the inside to get it to make the curve without wrinkling. This is best when there is a large gap between the canopy and the fuselage. It is definitely faster and cheaper than adding gelcoat to fill It in. The canopy caps will, unfortunately, shorten the life of the v-seal.

When I did this on my Discus it was before smartphones with cool noise decimal apps, but with the vents closed at VNE I thought the ASI had broken because there was no way I could possibly be going that fast it was so quiet.

Alexander Schleicher Logo

Alexander Schleicher Logo

Alexander Schleicher GmbH & Co is the oldest and one of the largest sailplane manufacturers.

Founded by Alexander Schleicher in 1927 the company still remains a family enterprise and is now owned and operated by his grandsons Peter and Ulrich Kremer.

AS is known for gliders with the highest handcrafted quality. They have close relationships with research institutes and universities all over the world.

Designers like Rudolf Kaiser, Gerhard Waibel, Martin Heide, and Michael Greiner are internationally recognized and highly respected development engineers.

MK IV Yaw String

MK IV Yaw String

The MK IV “high tech” Yaw String has a clear turbulator base, synthetic yarn and removes easily with no adhesive residue. This is not your ordinary yaw string. Each yaw string is handcrafted through a 28 step proprietary process under a magnifying glass yielding the best quality and clarity. The base raises the synthetic yarn 0.038″ above the canopy eliminating scratches and reduces static charge.

The yaw string is the most effective, yet least expensive, slip/skid indicator. It is made from a piece of yarn mounted in the free airstream in a place easily visible to the pilot. The yaw string indicates whether the pilot is using the rudder and aileron inputs together in a coordinated fashion. When the controls are properly coordinated, the yarn points straight back, aligned with the longitudinal axis of the glider. During a slipping turn, the tail of the yaw string is offset toward the outside of the turn. In flight, the rule to remember is simple: step on the head of the yaw string. If the head of the yaw string is to the right of the tail, then the pilot needs to apply right pedal. If the head of the yaw string is to the left of the tail, then the pilot should apply left pedal.






Banner photo by aeroklub krnov z.s

garret willat  Garret Willat holds a flight instructor rating with over 8000 hours in sailplanes. His parents have owned Sky Sailing Inc. since 1979. He started instructing the day after his 18th birthday. Since then, Garret has represented the US Junior team in 2003 and 2005. He graduated from Embry-Riddle with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Aeronautics. Garret represented the US Open Class team in 2008 and 2010 and the Club Class team in 2014. Garret has won 3 US National Championships.