It may not be a world first, but it always sounds strange when an aircraft designer says they will put a jet engine in a sailplane. Take a look at U.K.-based ProAirsport and their Project GloW, a self-launching glider that packs a sleek little turbine engine behind the cockpit.
Other jet-powered sailplanes have engines that extend and retract from within the aircraft’s fuselage. What might make Project GloW different, though it is still in development, is that its engine stays within the body of the aircraft. According to ProAirsport’s website, the only thing opens and closes is the airscoop to provide intake air for the engine.
Jet engines take time to spool up, and a small one like this will not accelerate quickly enough for a reasonable takeoff distance. To get up and flying sooner, Project Glow also carries an electric motor to power its landing gear. This gives the aircraft an extra boost of speed during takeoff and allows the plane to taxi like a normal aircraft would.
Once airborne, the GloW can fly as a sailplane. But should the pilot need it, the extra power of a jet engine is available with the flick of a switch.
ProAirsport estimates that Project GloW would have a lift over drag ratio of 36 and would weigh 180 kilograms (397 pounds) when empty.
Another potential use for the GloW may come as a remotely piloted aircraft, especially with no noise footprint during soar mode. And by removing the pilot and an estimated 120 kg (265 lbs) of payload weight, there’s extra space for additional fuel or instrument packs.
ProAirsport is focusing on U.K. and U.S. markets and hopes to be producing the GloW by the end of 2015. The company is currently working on two demonstration planes and plans to show off their first test flights by September or October.