Front Hinged RS-15 Canopy
Bill Hill

Like most homebuilt sailplanes, built by good, conscientious builders, mine is very well constructed and a real pleasure to fly.  However, like most of us, I can not help but want to ‘tweak’ some things to get better performance, more comfort or just refine the look of the ship.  This year’s project was to replace the side hinging canopy system with a front hinging mechanism.  It might not be everyone’s priority, but for me I wanted to fly in a quieter environment and have an easier time managing the canopy how’s hinging system was a bit awkward..

There were actually several problems with the existing side hinge that needed attention.  First and foremost was the fact that the canopy wasn’t sealing well and some work was needed just to get it to close properly without external assistance.  The second problem was that the hinge, especially the front hinge stuck out to the side fairly far.  While I wish it was true that I fly well enough that this little bit of drag would make a difference, the fact of the matter is that it was one of those things that just bothered me.  Lastly, the canopy release mechanisms were all inside the cockpit and the hinges were on the same side as the side window.  This meant that one had to reach inside via the side window to unlatch the canopy then reach over the top of the cockpit to the far side to lift the canopy up and back toward you.  It was very cumbersome at best and I was constantly afraid that my leaning on the canopy to open it would sooner or later break it. 

After reviewing most of the material on this site I decided to have a front hinging canopy system installed on my ship.  I say having it installed, because simply looking at the problem and reviewing the material on this site about front hinging systems it became readily apparent that the task was well above my skill level. 

A local company, Glassfiber, located near the Philadelphia Glider Council site did an excellent job designing and crafting a hinging system that looks great and works extremely well. The only challenge is that the original canopy frame is a bit fragile, so we’ve not installed the gas struts that will eventually lift the canopy until we build a new frame.  You’ll see in the pictures that the canopy is temporarily held in the open position by a pair of steel rods. 

The difference this has made is incredible.  The canopy, even with the current frame, seals extremely well, the ship is infinitely quieter and much easier to manage on the ground.  Hopefully, we’ll finish the new canopy frame this winter and the ship will be even quieter.