Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Schulgleiter 38 - Vom Bauernadler zum Kultobjekt

Heike Umbach, Motorbuchverlag, Stuttgart, Deutschland, 2010, ISBN 978-3-613-03223-1. Illustrated, hardcover, 235 x 300 mm, 120 printed pages, published in German.

Cover image © by Motorbuchverlag, 2010.

What a beautiful, magnificent book this is. Moreover, it's nice to see that such an utterly unspectacular and unglamorous aircraft is the subject of such detailed attention and such a lavish publication. For in spite of being a drastically basic - even primitive - design, the Schulgleiter 38 (or SG 38) was also a crucially important aircraft. One wonders whether it is even possible to determine the number of German pilots who learned to fly on the Schulgleiter 38 in the 1930s and 1940s.

The existence of this publication was entirely unexpected to me, and I learned about it by accident. Its concept is slightly different from most other specialist books on pre-war and wartime German aircraft. Heike Umbach's Schulgleiter 38 [Training Glider 38] is more reminiscent of a typical coffee table photo book, but it still provides sufficient serious historical research and technical details to also render it an expert reference. In addition, the book's heavy focus on high-quality images (the vast majority of them in color) mean that it is a valuable source of information even for a reader unable to understand German. It is for the same reason that Schulgleiter 38 is an ideal one-stop source for the modeler.

Umbach begins with a narrative on the SG 38's history. The chapter is sumptuously illustrated, a hallmark which applies to the whole book. There is, for example, a beautiful fold out page which provides profile illustrations of the main training gliders of the era, starting with the Hardt/Messerschmitt glider and ending with the SG 38. This is completed by three-view drawings and size comparisons of these gliders as well as photos of their designers.

The next chapter details the SG 38's technical configuration. There are numerous fantastic detail photos of restored SG 38s, three-dimensional computer renderings, drawings, and photos of original documents. The extent of the photographic coverage is astonishing, there are even photos showing the inside of the wing or the complex rigging.

A further chapter provides a historical report on what it was like to fly the SG 38. This is subsequently expanded upon by tracing current SG 38 flying activities and detailing launch procedures for the aircraft. A brief additional chapter provides proof that the SG 38 was, astoundingly, also flown as an improvised two-seater.

And as if there hadn't already been an amazing wealth of photographs up to this point, the book ends with yet another photo gallery which also includes further detail shots. Schulgleiter 38's landscape format means that it was possible to print many of these photos to a sufficient size, which enhances the visual impact tremendously.

All in all a delightful book that can be recommended without any reservations.

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