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The Grunau Baby

Overview

In 1931 Edmund Schneider designed the Grunau Baby. Schneider’s company was based in Grunau, Germany.[i] With the great post-World War I interest in aviation there was a need for an affordable and safe glider with docile handling characteristics.[ii] The Grunau Baby met these needs for civilian and military aviation. Over 6,000 Grunau Babies were constructed. The U.S. Army Air Corps used Grunau Babies for flight training under the designation TG-27.[iii]

[i] The area is now called Jezow Sudecki and it is in Poland.

[ii] Pickledwings.com, Schneider Grunau Baby – A Soaring Sensation – Pickled Wings, last accessed 7/21/22.

[iii] Somanyaircraft.com, Grunau Baby (somanyaircraft.com), last accessed 7/21/22.

Aircraft and World Development

The first Baby was a smaller version of the ESG 31 Schlesierland. Schneider got permission to use glider champion Wolf Hirth’s name in the Baby’s sales campaign. Hirth had nothing to do with the aircraft though many believed Hirth designed the plane. Hirth’s name, along with the aircraft’s good handling and performance, made the Baby a commercial success.[i]

Another Schneider design had a fatal air crash at the 1932 German National Soaring Contest. Schneider hired Emile Rolle, a professional aeronautical engineer, to redesign the Baby. The revised version was the Grunau Baby II. A Grunau Baby II, built and flown by Kurt Schmidt, set a soaring record by staying in the air for 36 hours and 36 minutes on August 3-4, 1933.[ii] Hanna Reitsch set a glider altitude height-gain on February 17, 1934 while flying over the Campo dos Afonsos, in Brazil. She gained 2,200 meters (7,200 feet)[iii]. Hanna Reitsch, Peter Riedel, Wolf Hirth, and Heini Dittmar were part of a South American Glider Expedition, led by Professor Walter Georgii. Dittmar trained some Brazilian pilots and instructors. A pilot he trained, Decio A. Moracs, Jr., established the first Brazilian duration record in 1935.[iv] Hanna Reitsch used a Grunau Baby to become the first woman to soar over the Krkonose mountain range.[v]

The Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany from having an air force, as well as other restrictions on what Germany could have for a military. The Germans formed paramilitary organizations that served as training organizations for a future German military. One of these organizations was the German Sports Flying Organization, formed in 1933. There weren’t restrictions of gliders. The organization purchased Grunau Baby IIs. In 1937 the organization’s name changed to the National Socialist Flying Corps. The Grunau Baby was the primary trainer for many Luftwaffe pilots that served in the Spanish Civil War and in World War II.[vi] The U.S. Army Air Corps, the Royal Swedish Air Force, and other air arms also used the Grunau Baby to train pilots. The U.S. Army Air Corps gave it the designation TG-27.[vii] The Royal Swedish Air Force designated their Grunau Babies, built under license, the AB Flygplan Se-102.

About 1,000 Grunau Baby IIs were produced before World War II. Factories worked around the clock during the war. The Germans used forced labor to keep up with increased demand. Most of the forced laborers where French.[viii] Records showed Germany built 4,104 Grunau Baby IIs in Germany and occupied countries.[ix] In Brazil, Laminacao Nacional de Metas began construction of 30 Grunau Babies II. The company named the aircraft “Alcatraz”.[x]

When Germany surrendered the Allies prohibited the two Germanys from building aircraft, including gliders. Other countries continued to produce Grunau Babies. Edmund Schneider continued designing gliders. In January 1949, Keith Chamberlin, broke the Australian height record for a glider, in a Grunau Baby. He flew to 15,600 feet (4,700 meters), a climb of 14,400 feet (4,360 meters). He stayed aloft for 4 hours and 9 minutes.[xi] This convinced Edmund Schneider to emigrate to Australia.

Schneider came up with a two-seat glider, the ES-49 or Grunau Baby III. When the Allies permitted the Germanys to produce Alexander Schleicher began producing the Grunau Baby III. The Grunau Baby III made its debut at Mϋhlhofen in 1951 and it was delivered to Schleicher’s first customer on August 26.[xii] Japan also had a postwar ban on manufacturing aircraft. The first aircraft Japan produced after the ban was a Grunau Baby variant. This variant had a landing wheel.[xiii]

The first Brazilian Championship for gliders occurred in 1954. Aldo Weber Vieira da Rosa won the class B competition with a Grunau Baby and did the same in 1955. Antonio de Padua won the class B in 1956, also in a Grunau Baby. A Grunau Baby won in 1974.[xiv]


[i] National Air and Space Museum, Grunau Baby II B-2 | National Air and Space Museum (si.edu), last accessed 7/11/22.

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[ii] National Air and Space Museum, Grunau Baby II B-2 | National Air and Space Museum (si.edu), last accessed 7/11/22.

[iii] The Origin History, compiled by Ben B. Schenk, Origin history (grunaubaby.nl), last accessed 7/15/22.

[iv] The Grunau Baby in Brazil by Federico Fiori, Baby in Brazil (grunaubaby.nl), last accessed 7/21/22.

[v] Famous glider Grunau Baby II b and little look into history, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wj0rDaAX9Go, last accessed 7/15/22.

[vi] National Air and Space Museum, Grunau Baby II B-2 | National Air and Space Museum (si.edu), last accessed 7/11/22.

[vii] Somanyaircraft.com, Grunau Baby (somanyaircraft.com), last accessed 7/21/22.

[viii] The Origin History, compiled by Ben B. Schenk, Origin history (grunaubaby.nl), last accessed 7/22/22.

[ix] National Air & Space Museum, Grunau Baby II B-2 | Smithsonian American Women's History (si.edu), last accessed 7/16/22.

[x] The Grunau Baby in Brazil by Federico Fiori, Baby in Brazil (grunaubaby.nl), last accessed 7/21/22.

[xi] The Daily News, Pert, WA, January 10, 1949. ”Pilot Battered By Hail As He Sets New Record In Glider”, 10 Jan 1949 - PILOT BATTERED BY HAIL AS HE SETS NEW RECORD IN GLIDER - Trove (nla.gov.au), last accessed, 7/20/22.

[xii] Grunau Baby III, Grunau Baby III | ASSegelflug (alexander-schleicher.de), last accessed 7/20/22.

[xiii] The Origin History, compiled by Ben B. Schenk, Origin history (grunaubaby.nl), last accessed 7/22/22.

[xiv] The Grunau Baby in Brazil by Federico Fiori, Baby in Brazil (grunaubaby.nl), last accessed 7/21/22.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Robert Sacchi

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