The Piccolo concept
The Piccolo is a small motorglider that in many ways resembles a modern microlight. It's soaring performance is very modest with best LD of just 23, however with a low wing loading it does thermal very well.
Most motor gliders have a retractable engine. The Piccolo doesn't, instead the motor is always in the breeze and the "pusher" prop simply folds rearwards when not in use. Although somewhat draggy this simple solution has advantages which underlines the thinking behind the Piccolo: simplicity and ease of use. MGs such as the DG400 offer twice the performance but at a cost in $$ and in complexity.
The Piccolo has a fixed tricycle undercart. Again performance robbing but simple and convenient: Taxi to and from the hanger.
The wing is strutted. Draggy, but simple, strong and light. There's still a lot of wing beyond the struts so the wings still flex for a soft ride.
GOQ is number 18 off the Technoflug factory floor 31/10/1988 and had it's first NZ flight on 22/2/1989. The price was quoted as NZ$60,000 with basic instruments and no trailer. It appears to have been imported for the NZ agent in Tauranga, Mr K. Dodssuweit, with Roy Russell as the demonstration pilot.
Paddy McDonnell (Asburton) seems to have purchased in 1990 when it had just 57hr of demonstration flying on it. Paddy owned it til 1997 at which stage it had 300hrs total time (with half that on engine).
Then it was up to Hobsonville for a rest doing just 20hrs over the next 5 years.
In 2002 Mr Motorglider (Neville Swan) bought it at 319hrs. Neville has built and owned several motorgliders, from PIKs to Piccolo (and recently bought a Russia MG). I bought OQ from Neville in June 2005 with 364hrs total (again half on engine).
I sold 'OQ back to Neville Swan in 2008 and he has had it nicely repainted. In 2010 he has upraded again, and unfortunately OQ was sold overseas, to China I believe.
By 2007 I'm into my third winter with OQ and the SW wave flights are
developing a distinct pattern! I'm usually the first (or only!) one to turn up
Sunday morning. I'll know if there's any wave likely by either the sky, or by
looking at the predicted sounding on NOAA. Within 10 mins of arrivng I'll be
airbourne with all by warm clothes on and a hot thermos of Earl Grey. There's usually
little or nil wind on the ground but its influence starts at about 3000'.
Generally I climb at reduced power and circle in anything that gives better
than 3-4 kts. Sometimes the push west means some descending with the motor
going but usually a climb to contact wave is about 15 mins (to about 5000').
Often I'll throttle back to 4000 rpm and keep the engine warm until I'm certain
I'm established. Then off with the ignition keep pointing SW going more S at
height. Usually our SW wave is in 30-50kt winds. It's easy to go backwards in
the Piccolo! A gps is very useful.
Anyway I'll climb to 13000' or so, tack down to Roxburgh and explore the lennies while drinking my rapidly cooling thermos of tea. Often I get to encourage other members into a high tow to join me. 2-3hrs is more than enough in the cold, really this machine could do with a heater!
Iced up in winter wave
High in wave
Sure looks odd!
OK, it's ugly up close!
Further flights in local wave show the benefit of having an engine available.
Sometimes the sky just doesn't look like it's worth taking a tow. There is some
wave pattern but the club members are undecided. So up I go to check it out!
Having the engine allows me to throttle back in scraps of lift but open up
again to traverse the sink. I'll nearly always find some wave on those days.
Sometimes I'll still have the motor on at 7000', but by then I'll be able to
confirm that a high tow to even 6000' will be worth a shot. As a result of
having 'OQ I think the other club members do a bit more flying.
I've had some good thermal flights too. One of the best was Alex to Ohau skifield and (almost) back. OK I had to motor the last few km home, but I did thermal the rest. That's a return trip of well over 200km. And I only climbed to 800' before switching off at the start. In really good days I just dolphin along under streets.
Here's a GPS map of this good flight.
Line up and apply brakes (spoiler handle fully open). Check fuel pump is on, clear ahead, radio call etc. You can do a brief full power check if you like. You should achieve about 5800 rpm. Release the brakes (they spring shut), and apply full throttle. Acceleration is brisk. With the stick back it should lift the nose wheel after a few yards. This is desirable because the nosewheel does vibrate and feels like it's the most delicate part of the glider. Run on the mains with the nose wheel just clear. On rough short grass I get airborne in less than 120m (no wind, elv 750 ft, cold winter conditions). The roll is even shorter on seal.
Best climb rate appears to be about 40 kts and you should see well in excess of 400 fpm (the vario indicates between 2 and 3 m/s). Even at high altitude there is useful climb . I have restarted at 10,000' and climbed to 11,000' very easily.
The manual gives various fuel and rpm figures for cruising speeds. I've commuted over to Wanaka airport a few times and can vouch for the engine's low fuel consumption Without doubt the Piccolo is a thrifty microlight too.
The easiest method of speedy descent is tight turns with the spoilers out. Alternatively (and faster) is power-on descents at idle and say 60+ kts (also with spoilers).
Landing as a glider
The spoilers are only moderately effective compared to airbrakes. However the Piccolo sideslips very well and fairly steep approaches are possible. Roundout, holdoff and ground roll are all as easy as it gets...the handling is very vice free. It is possible to touch the tailskid first, but only when slow and full spoiler.
Power on landings
These are not a lot different from a normal slippery microlight. The trick is to keep the motor warm prior to entering circuit. The engine does not throttle smoothly when cold, there's a slight hesitation at about 4500 rpm. You are conscious of vibration at low revs (under 4000).
A 500' circuit means less cooling time. Crank up the speed (60-65kts) and then you can keep the revs high and still descend. Open the spoilers too and operate both spoilers and throttle with your left hand. Descent is quite steep at speed with spoilers open and throttled right back. The approach is a little skinnier than other microlights throttle off, but of course if the engine did quit the glide suddenly becomes very good indeed. I think a good rule is to maintain an approach angle somewhat steeper that what you would normally do if it were an intentional glide approach.
Also read flight report from Jochen Ewald
Specifications from original website
From Desser (2005) US$
Front: 210 x 65 Aero Classic $25.95 each, tube $11.95 each Rear: 260 x 85 Cheng Shin $19.95 each, tube $9.95 each
The 2350B is basically the same engine used in nearly every "turbo" (or get-me-home) glider, usually with a direct drive 5-blade prop and simplified engine controls. The turbo'd Discus and Ventus are popular gliders using the Solo 2350. The 2350B has proven very reliable over the last 20 years.
The drive belts (3) used are Optibelt Solo 00 57 199. About 9.5mm wide and 710mm circumference. The actual Optibelt part number appears to be XPZ 710.
The belts are easily retensioned or even replaced by adjusting rotation of the eccentric final drive shaft. To do this remove the fibreglass cowl (2 x 8mm nuts, withdraw bolts), unwind the 2 x 10mm nyloc nuts on the shaft clamp and back off the 2 x hex bolts (which are threaded too). Lastly with a large spanner rotate the square end of the shaft to tighten or slacken the belts are required.
Here's a Manual on the 2350 (not the 2350B though)
Solo agent in NZ can be reached at email@example.com.
SOLO Kleinmotoren GmbH
Stuttgarter Straße 41
D- 71050 Sindelfingen
Phone: 0049 (0) 7031-3010
Technoflug (from web archive) These guys make the Piccolo
My Piccolo came with a good trailer. It's a bit shorter and taller than a standard glider trailer, plus a wee bit lighter. There's a solar panel on the roof which keeps the battery charged up. Tyres are 165R13LT (new ones bought 2006) , bearing is LM11949
Hmmm, light wings! As expected the Piccolo rigs easily. The fuse of course stands up on its own, the tailplane connects easily with 3 bolts and flight controls all connect easily. So the only description needed is those light wings.
Only one helper is needed here. The struts are permanently connected to the wing on a stout hinge. This sounds like a good idea but really the process would be slightly easier if this was not the case (only 2 more pins would be needed). The strut folds back to the wing and is held by a keeper.
Comparison to other lightweight motor gliders
There are a number of light-weight motor gliders available now. Many are available in kitset form too. The trend now is higher performance (30:1 or better) and fully retractable engines. However the cost of these machines is out of reach of most.
Here's a few I've looked at which offer similar performance to the Piccolo.
(approx prices including engine, prop, and trailer)
(45000 Euro ready to fly, or 36000 Euro as a kit )
Piuma http://www.schio.it/piuma/homeing.html (plans only, but esitmate of 4000 Euro excluding engine, instruments etc)
Elf http://www.xcaviation.com £19000
Swift'light PAS http://aeriane.com/swift'light-pas.htm Euro 27K+