Schweizer SGS 232
Flight Notes - how to fly the Schweizer 232 Sailplane
Through the late 1960s and much of the 1970s, one aircraft stood apart as the world's highest performance multiseat sailplane: the Schweizer SGS 232. Many world soaring records were set in 232s in both men's and women's categories, including a distance run of 505 miles.
In the early 1960s, it was apparent that European manufacturers were beginning to cut into SAC's position as the premier builder of high-performance sailplanes. The European companies could build quality aircraft at 50 percent of the labor costs of the U.S. manufacturer and deliver them to U.S. shores at a price that Schweizer couldn't match. In order to compete, Schweizer had to produce a superior aircraft.
In 1962, SAC began development of the 232. This aircraft took twice as many hours to design, tool, and build as previous Schweizer sailplanes. Initially priced at $8,000, the production and development costs of the meticulously designed aircraft eventually pushed the price tag up considerably.
The 232's 57-foot wingspan provided a glide ratio of 34 to 1, which meant that at an altitude of 1 mile, the plane could glide a distance of 34 miles. The interior was luxurious and comfortable for a sailplane. It had dual flight controls, and though technically a two-seater, it could actually carry two people in the rear in addition to a pilot in the front. A large bubble canopy provided excellent visibility.
The highly efficient wing and aerodynamically clean fuselage of the 232 made it a candidate for an early attempt at nonstop flight around the world. Although that record was not set for many years (in 1986 by the Burt Rutan-designed Voyager), a modified 232, sporting a small engine, did set a nonstop distance record of 8,974 miles (14,442 kilometers) in 1969.
When the 1,000th Schweizer sailplane (a 232) was built, SAC held 57 percent of the sailplane business in the United States. But this was not to last. The all-metal SAC planes last indefinitely, and by the mid 1970s, they had nearly saturated the market. Sleek new European fiberglass sailplanes had lower prices and carried a certain cachet that domestic sailplanes did not. SAC eventually ceased production of their sailplane line.
When manufacture of the model ended in 1976, a total of only 87 had been delivered. Nevertheless, the 232 had already earned a permanent place in soaring history, and remarkably, a 232 in good condition today can fetch as much as $50,000. The model is still a popular choice for commercial soaring rides, and if you go to a local soaring center to take a ride, you may find yourself in a Schweizer 232.
|Maximum Speed||137 knots 158 mph||254 km per hour|
|Glide Ratio||34 to 1|
|Empty Weight||1000 pounds||454 kilograms|
|Length||26.75 ft||8.78 meters|
|Wingspan||57 feet||18.7 meters|
|Wing Area||180 square feet||19.37 square meters|
|Maximum L/D||~57 knots ~66 mph||~106 km per hour|
|Minimum Sink||~47 knots ~54 mph||~87 km per hour|
|Seating||Up to 2|
|Useful Load||430 pounds||195 kilograms|