Manfred Radius Interview
He has been described as a “Sailplane Superstar” and “The King of Sailplane Aerobatics.”
And for good reason.
Since starting his career flying sailplanes in 1961 at the age of 17 in Hamburg Germany, he’s logged in excess of 5000 flights and accumulated over 2000 hours in at least 60 types of sailplanes.
For years he was the only person in North America who competed in glider aerobatic championships.
In 1977 he received an award as the “Best Foreign Aerobatic Pilot”.
He’s been featured on television shows such as “That’s Life,” “Stunt Masters”, “Magic In The Air”, “Sky Bound”, “Science Of Fun”, and The Aviators. He’s also been featured in the books “Tradition Of Excellence” by Daniel V. Dempsey, The Cannibal Queen” by Stephen Coonts, and “The Flyers” by Noah Adams.
He performed his daytime and night acts at the Australian International Airshow and Aerospace Expo near Melbourne in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001.
In April 2015 he was inducted into the Sun ‘n Fun Flight Path of Fame at the Sun “n Fun International Fly-In Expo in Lakeland, Florida.
As an experienced skydiver he logged over 1100 jumps in more than 30 years in the sport.
We are talking about Mr. Manfred Radius.
Q – Manfred, let me start off by asking you a non-pilot question. You did grow up in Hamburg, Germany didn’t you?
Q - Would you have gone to see the Beatles when they performed in the Hamburg clubs?
Q - You didn’t like rock ‘n roll music?
Q - Did you hear about the Beatles when you were growing up?
Q - It’s just too bad you didn’t go down to one of those clubs to see them.
Q - Do you know scalpers are selling two tickets to see Paul McCartney for $10,000?
Q - You became interested in sailplanes because the neighbor took you for a ride in one? Is that how you became interested?
The club did not have aero tow at that time. They had only winch tow. A winch is a strong engine with the transmission and a big drum mounted on a chassis. The winch is stationary. It’s at one and of the glider port and the cable is put out across the entire field. At the end of the cable the glider is attached. So, when the winch operator gets a signal he starts the engine and pulls in the cable and within seconds the glider has flying speed and it climbs at a steep angle. Now the height the glider gets depends on the length of the cable but also on the headwinds. Now, in that case we didn’t get much height. We got maybe 1000 feet. After the release from the tow there were no rising air currents so all what we did is the winch launch, circuit and landing. The flight was five minutes at the most. I liked it so much. I was so impressed I joined the club in that was in 1961. I was 17 years old at the time.
Q - Are there any gliders that have engines?
Q - You are based in Canada. How do you get your sailplane to Australia?
Q - Was it expensive to have FedEx ship airplane to Australia?
Q - You have to have a license to fly a glider plane?
Q - And you have to have so much flying time to get the license?
Q - Is there a certain number of hours you need to get the license?
Q - What if something goes wrong, are you able to land the plane? Do you have to parachute out?
In order to stay up for a longer time or fly a distance across country we need rising air currents because gliders normally don’t have an engine. The glider is to descending. So we are looking for rising air currents and the most common rising air current we are using is a thermal. Thermal is a column of rising air. Once we have found a thermal we turn and we circle within the thermal so we don’t fly through it. And, we are gaining height in the thermal.
Now, other rising air currents we are using is ridge lift. For instance where there is a ridge and the wind blows against the ridge it gets deflected upwards. This is a rising air current where we can fly as long as the wind blows onto that ridge we can fly. All day long.
A mountain wave. Under certain weather conditions when the airdrops behind the mountain down it bounces up again and produces a wave in this wave high-altitude flights are being made. Many years ago I had one at approximately 35,000 feet. It was in 1974 I went up to approximately 35,000 feet above sea level. That was near Colorado Springs over Pikes Peak. That was in the mountain wave, the highest you can get in a glider is in the mountain wave.
Now, to answer your question: assuming we run out of lifts or we do not find any more rising air currents - we have to land. Now, it’s a pilot’s job to make sure that we always fly over terrain where we can land. where there are fields we can land. If we don’t make it back to our glider port we land on a farmer’s field. In many areas there are a lot of farmers’ fields where we could land. In other areas there are no fields where we could land. But, we shouldn’t be there in the first place; we shouldn’t be low over an area where we cannot land.
Q - How much work it is there for shows such as yours?
Q - You have such a unique act. You should have more!
Q - That night act of yours is really spectacular.
Official website: www.radiusairshows.com
© Gary James All Rights Reserved