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Frequently Asked Questions - Launching Winches

Q1 Are skylaunch winches easy to operate and maintain for non-professional drivers?

Q2 Can skylaunch winches launch the heaviest gliders? What about the lightest?  How accurate is the launching?

Q3 Why are many skylaunch winches not  mounted on a lorry?

Q4 What type of engine/drive system is fitted?  Is it a lorry axle?

Q5 Why are most skylaunch winches supplied powered by propane (lpg)?

Q6 Why don’t you use large industrial diesel engine systems, are there any pneumatics, hydraulics or computer controls?

Q7 D
o your winches give constant cable tension for each weak link type?

Q8 H
ow many skylaunch winches are in use and how successful are they?

Q9 D
o you make an electric winch?

Q10 How long does the transmission last in your winches?

Q11 What modifications are needed to operate skyrope or synthetic cable (ie drums, guillotine rollers, etc)?  What about different sizes/ types of cable?

Q12 O
ur club has never used a winch before – can you help with training, what about pilots?

Q13 I
s winch manufacturing your main business, a small sideline of a different company or a retirement hobby?

Q14 W
hat knowledge and experience have the skylaunch designers?

The Answers...

Q1 Are Skylaunch winches easy to operate and maintain for non-professional drivers?

A: Skylaunch winches feature simple design and ergonomic control layouts.  Existing winch drivers can learn to operate the Skylaunch within 6 launches.  Selectable power control guides and colour coded controls ensure operators easily/safely produce accurate, high launches.  Throttle damper controls glider acceleration.

With very few daily checks, this gives a rapid set up time.  Service intervals are normally every 6,000 launches.  Servicing requires only a basic mechanical knowledge.  The body panels are designed for quick/easy access to all areas, the low level of the winch improves safety and maintenance access.

Design does NOT require cable ‘paying-on’ gear, pneumatic, hydraulic or complex electrical systems.  Logical design ensures a low maintenance and driver friendly winch.  The chassis design allows major mechanical units to be removed quickly from the winch as complete assemblies if required.
 

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Q2 Can Skylaunch winches launch the heaviest gliders? What about the lightest?  How accurate is the launching?

A: Skylaunch winches have sufficient power and speed to give high launches to the largest twin seat fibreglass gliders, even in zero wind, but also has the precise power control to safely launch vintage gliders.

Glider air speed is precisely controlled with ease using the Skylaunch unique preset control system.  This allows the glider type and head wind speed to be selected before the launch to give the correct amount of glider air speed for each glider launched.

Skylaunch Operators’ Manual has full listings of data and setting positions for all glider types, so operators can ‘launch by numbers’ (see throttle guide setting chart).

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Q3 Why are many Skylaunch winches not  mounted on a lorry?

A: The Skylaunch Evolution winch weighs less than 3 tonnes, so can be easily towed on an airfield or legally on the highway.  Skylaunch winches are often towed to other sites when touring or for relaunching landed out gliders.

Twin axles with four wheels ensure low ground pressure on soft airfield surfaces and stability for safe, high speed on a highway.

Eliminates the requirement to maintain two sets of engines and drive systems.

Towing vehicle is unhitched and used to retrieve cables to the launch point.

Ensures heights of cable entry points are at a minimum (for safety).  Machine will also fit in most glider hangers.  Low level gives easy/safe access to all mechanical components and cable.

The Trailer sub-frame is manufactured as a separate unit, so the winch can be Lorry mounted if required.

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Q4 What type of engine/drive system is fitted?  Is it a lorry axle?

A: Skylaunch use the marine type V8 engines (LPG / petrol).  These are designed for high power duty cycles in ski boats (the nearest similarity to launching gliders) and have proven to be best for performance and reliability.

Transmission is a heavy duty automatic unit.  The smooth gear changes are not noticeable to the glider or winch and perform the best acceleration/ speed control characteristics.  Cooler unit fitted ensures exceptional life.

Final drive system is designed and manufactured by Skylaunch specifically for long life and ease of operation with standard metric bearings, seals, fasteners and high grade steels throughout.  Drum selection using hardened  spline couplings ensures trouble free changeover with no maintenance required.  Efficient standard automotive Lockheed disc braking system gives long life and very easy servicing.

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Q5 Why are most Skylaunch winches supplied powered by propane (lpg)?

A: Propane (LPG) produces much cleaner emissions than petrol or diesel fuel.

Maintenance is considerably reduced and engine life extended (proven to be beyond diesel engine life) because of its very clean burning characteristics.

Propane produces much smoother power delivery.  The fuel system is much simpler with NO pump, governor or complex engine management required and therefore it proves to be very reliable.  Propane carburettor has only one moving part.

Propane is usually purchased without any highway tax (as industrial fuel) so it can be up to 5 times cheaper than petrol and is usually a similar price to agricultural diesel.

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Q6 Why don’t you use large industrial diesel engine systems, are there any pneumatics, hydraulics or computer controls?

A: The proven standard engine/transmission unit simply produces the correct and safe characteristics for high launches of all types of glider, with easy operation.

Using a large industrial diesel engine with excessive torque, inadequate rpm range, response and precise control, complex high pressure hydraulic systems have to be developed to try and achieve the correct characteristics (accepting the extra energy loss with these designs).  This design is difficult for the average winch driver to operate safely, so a hi-tech computer control is required.

(Note:  Due to emissions regulations, all modern diesel engines now incorporate sophisticated electronic management systems).

These systems have been tried with varying degrees of success but this massive additional technical complexity and effort (with increased fuel consumption) will cost many times that of a simple system to purchase/maintain/repair.  Skylaunch winches are very simple for club members to operate/maintain.

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Q7 Do your winches give constant cable tension for each weak link type?

A: Skylaunch winches give safe glider air speed.  This is the most important factor in glider launching.  Constant cable tension designs do not ensure safe glider air speed and with the vast range of different gliders, weak link strength does not directly correspond to glider air speed.

We have been approached by various gliding organisations to advise on the problems encountered with ‘bad winching’.  We usually find the cause is large diesel powered winches with a constant cable tension design producing incorrect cable speed (glider air speed) and control.

The natural characteristics of a powerful (but flexible) petrol type engine and auto transmission gives some excess (but safe) glider air speed for the rotation phase of the launch (giving an airspeed safety margin for any eventuality) and then the optimum speed for the climb, with the operator simply holding the preset throttle position.  With this simple, proven system of power delivery, the appropriate cable tension will be produced without  the need for specialised transmission control.

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Q8 How many skylaunch winches are in use and how successful are they?

A: Currently there are more than 150 Skylaunch winches in use at civilian and military airfields around the world, all with great success, totalling over one million launches.

Due to improved reliability, ease of operation, manoeuvrability, reduction in ‘set-up’ time and cable handling problems, launches per annum usually increase by 10%-20%.

Also with the Skylaunch power system and simplicity of control, launch heights are typically increased by approximately 200 ft / 60 m over other winches.

We invite enquiries to contact or visit any existing customers using Skylaunch winches and ask their opinions (contact details can be supplied).

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Q9 Do you make an electric winch?

A: Skylaunch produced our first Electric winch in 2011 and this model has proven to give exceptional launches, not suffering from the now well know problem with other Electric winches.

As with our very popular and cost effective re-engineering program for any NON-Skylaunch winch, we can offer upgrades and replacements / repairs for existing electric winches in “need of improvements”.

Any Skylaunch winch, Petrol, LPG or Diesel can be upgraded to Electric operation in the future if required.

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Q10 How long does the transmission last in your winches?

A: With more than 150 Skylaunch winches and many transmissions supplied to fit in other winches, totalling in excess of 1 million launches, there have only been a few genuine failures (we suspect that they may have been overfilled by a “well meaning” club member) – cost of reconditioning approximately £1500.

Q11 What modifications are needed to operate skyrope or synthetic cable (ie drums, guillotine rollers, etc)?  What about different sizes/ types of cable?

A: No modifications or adjustments required but pulley / roller options are available.  These are interchangeable for steel or synthetic cables.

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Q12 Our club has never used a winch before – can you help with training, what about pilots?

A: Skylaunch are very experienced in creating new, safe winching operations at air fields around the world, this includes training pilots, ground crew and winch drivers.  

All winches are supplied with very comprehensive and wide ranging on-site training.  We also supply instructor pilots for airfields new to winching if required.

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Q13 Is winch manufacturing your main business, a small sideline of a different company or a retirement hobby?

A: Skylaunch is a long established, dedicated glider winch manufacturer and also has a sister company that assists Skylaunch at busy times. New winch manufacture and club winch re-engineering is not just a job it’s our passion! Ask any of our customers.

Q14 What knowledge and experience have the skylaunch designers?

A: The team (of 4) have launched more than half a million gliders between them and have over 100 years combined experience.  Other skills include professional engineers, professional winch drivers, glider and airline pilots.

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