Mini Nimbus personal observations
While we were standing on the grid many friends stopped and asked about the Mini. How does it run, how do you like it after the Jantar?... This was one reason to write this review, the other one is that I really love this small plane;)
First of all here is my background to read properly whatever I write about the Mini. I’m not serious competition pilot, nor a SAP consultant with unlimited budget. My previous sailplanes were a Cobra and a Jantar Std1, so the Mini is the first German plane I own. I also tried some nice samples from Schempp-Hirth factory: Discus2 and Ventus B 16.6 but these are obviously beyond my reach.
About two years ago on a cancelled competition day it was Istvan who infected me with the ‘flapitis’. He offered his perfect LS3 for a test flight, just to see how it handles compared to my Jantar. Well, right after the take-off I understood his evil smile on his face while he was strapping me into his glider. That LS runs on rails and with the flaps can climb in the weakest thermal you can imagine. While with the Jantar you had to fight all the time except in the strong weather. Of course I do not say that the Jantar is completely worthless, just not the same relaxed feeling and usually you tend to be much more tired after the same flight. So the decision was more or less done. There were other reasons as well to switch from the Jantar. The factory background and the hassle around the major inspections (1500, 3000…hours) made me worried about the future of that plane. Luckily this was not an issue for the new owner who is a Polish gentleman. So I was on for hunt for an affordable flapped sailplane. Options were pretty much these: Pik20, LS3 and the Mini Nimbus. Two of my friends were selling their LS3 while I was advertising my Jantar, and I found some others on Segelflug.de but the really good deals were picked up rapidly. Istvan joined me for a quick tour to Czech Republic to check a PIK20 but that plane and the trailed needed much more work than I wanted to invest in, so I skipped that plane. Then I moved to Sweden for more than a year and managed to find this Mini Nimbus C there. After a lengthy email negotiation at 15th of September we went for it with my family in the car.
This one is a carbon version (as the C letter suggests in the name) while there were two earlier types as well. The original HS7 version is with glass composite construction and all flying elevator. Then the later B version was still made from glass but with conventional tail. This later carbon version has three advantages. First of all it is much lighter (235kg empty weight) , so assembly and poor weather performance is improved. Thanks to the strengthen construction it can carry much more water, up to 200 liters. And of course the black spars look much more sexy, almost like a Ventus;)
As usually right after the purchase I jumped into a refurbishment project. The elevators needed new paint as the original gelcoat was peeling off in big chunks. Maybe it was an isolated failure in painting practice. The rest of the painting was looking really good. As my painting specialist works in Hungary, so the logistics to deliver and return the 1.5m long fragile package was an adventure itself.;)
Instrument panel also needed an update according to my needs (LX160 out, LX7007 in, Nextel paint…).
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We made the bigger winter maintenance together with my son. Actually that work also made me sure that it was the right choice to pick a Mini C. The construction is really simple, as we already got used to it from Schempp-Hirth. The materials used are high quality and the composite parts also clearly show the perfect craftsmanship. When I removed the seat panel I was admiring the inner fuselage for long time…
Everything was easy to reach and the whole maintenance was only 1-1.5 day. I could not wait for the first take-off.
These Minis are priced somewhat lower than the LS3 mainly because of the trailing edge airbrakes. As the early Ventus has the same type I already could try it on my friends plane and found it acceptable. Actually later on it turned out a big advantage as I got more and more experienced with this system. You won’t believe how steeply you can land on a really-really small patch of grass!!!
But let’s get back to the first flight day. This time I had to assemble the plane alone. It was not easy because I did not know the tricks. Luckily there was a more experienced Swedish pilot who showed me how to lift the trailing edge a bit, and the wings slapped together as they were one all the time. The tail installation is also much easier than on the Jantar. Actually all the later Schempp-Hirth planes use the same method, needs less than 10 seconds to install and secure. All controls are connected automatically. This requires some care during installation. Airbrake and water valve needs to be locked when you insert the left wing, but you need to unlock the airbrake lever before you insert the right wing. With these small tricks it takes about 15-20 minutes from the trailer opening till installation of tail and wing wheel and closure of trailer (measured!;).
One important learning related to the tail. The sealing at the vertical and horizontal stabilizer connection point is important not only for aerodinamical reasons, but can minimize the play and wear of the front pin.
As with the other flapped planes the first tow was a dream. You start with -4 and can feel the aileron effectiveness right from the beginning. As you gain speed you can slowly pull down to 0 and +4 and the Mini lifts off gently. Usually I leave the flap in this position during the whole tow.
After the release I could feel how well it flies in the thermal. A bit more agile than the LS3, but the same slow and tight circling. In normal glide it was running well, 70-80km glides right at the first take-offJ Ok we had a nice weather that day.
One piece and hinged canopy was also a bonus for me. Just imagine my owl style head movement in crowded gaggles while I tried to search for planes behind the additional canopy frame right in my view with the Jantar…
Landing was just like with the Ventus, but I did not use the full flaps that time. With flaps down you can land much slower than with the standard class planes and that also makes an extra pleasure especially if the surface of the airport is no so perfect.
All in all I had this nice ‘got home’ feeling.
One last practicality: the storage compartment is somewhat limited compared to the Jantar. It is not fully closed towards the tail, so I usually put everything in the parachute storage bag and hook it’s holder on the headrest. Even the water bag is placed there and the tube can reach the mike area.
Then the first competition came where I could compare the performance with some other gliders. We flew 7 tasks (+ training day) mostly in stormy conditions. Usually the Mini can climb slightly better than most Jantars. ASW15, ASW19, LS1 and LS4 thermals similar way so I saw not big difference in gaggles. If you can fly alone you can select somewhat steeped bank angle and narrower circles to stay in the core. In normal conditions you cannot really run better than most Jantars and LS1/4s. This can make you feel a bit disappointed as the HC is 107 so you need to add some extra to get the same points. Actually on the last day I started to see some difference. At the end of the day we had to fly home in a dying condition. Long glides, 0,5-0,7m/s thermals only. In this situation both the Jantars and the best LS1 started to loose position and the Mini came home first from that gaggle. Similarly if the conditions were really booming I could gain a bit against a Jantar with whom we paired.
In rainy conditions it did not lose as much as the Jantar, but still was worth to get the wings dry as soon as possible. Most of the time we flew short tasks, except two days. On these 300+km days I started to feel the effect of bugs collected on the leading edge. Bugwiper is a must on these planes especially if you plan to fly longer than 3-4 hours.
Regardless of high handicap I still think Mini is really competitive and my final scores were rather connected some stupid decisions and surprises in the thunderstorms. If you would like to win in the Club class and not in love with flaps, obviously you can end up better with an LS1F or a std Cirrus. For example my friend Istvan sold his nice LS3 to switch to an ASW19 with lower HC. Anyhow I would not change this relaxed and enjoyable flight with anything else.
What would I change on it? Well, winglet installation could improve a bit, but unfortunately there is neither factory nor other certified solution for it. Still I think this is my last plane that I plan to fly till I retire from glidingJ
Cegled, 2014-07-27, Janos Bauer
ps: Thanks Gyuri for the corrections!