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The Grunau Baby in Brazil


Compiled by Federico Fiori.


During the VGC meeting at Oberschleissheim, my friend Dr. Jörg Ziller invited me to visit Munich and his summer castle, at Tegernsee. On our way to Munich, we started a conversation about one of our favorite subjects, old gliders.

He said that I should write about the Brazilian gliders and their history. Since I am just a pilot, I know that writing, history and sailplanes are serious matters and because of this should be left to serious writers . Well, there is just one little problem there. Very few, in Brazil, have tried. So, I am sticking my neck out with a short article about one of my favorites gliders: The Grunau Baby

The Baby

The Grunau Baby was a very important glider for the development of the sailplane movement in Brazil, as it was all over the world. Also, it was the first glider produced in series in our country. Very few people know this, even here in Brazil.A lot of articles have been written about the Babies, and one thing is certain about them: No one knows exactly how many Babies have been produced in the world. So here I am contributing to make this confusion even bigger.As usual, you shoot at the pigeon, and hit the pterodactyls, which (according to Murphy's Law) will then fall over your own head, never over that of your mother in-law. This proves the cruel nature of things. But, what I am trying to say is that, searching for the material to write this article, I have found some interesting information, and some nice old Babies.

The first Baby in Brazil 

The German expedition of 1934 was responsible for a great impulse to the glider movement in our country. The stories of the flights are wonderfully described in Peter Riedel’s book: "Über Sonnige Weiten", and since the subject here is just the Babies, I will mention the Baby of the expedition in February 17th, 1934, Hanna Reitsch in her tiny Grunau Baby (D-Christian) established the female altitude world record of 2200 meters, flying over the Campo dos Afonsos, in the state of Rio the Janeiro.

The German expedition of 1934 was responsible for a great impulse to the glider movement in our country. The stories of the flights are wonderfully described in Peter Riedel’s book: "Über Sonnige Weiten", and since the subject here is just the Babies, I will mention the Baby of the expedition.

In February 17th, 1934, Hanna Reitsch in her tiny Grunau Baby (D-Christian) established the female altitude world record of 2200 meters, flying over the Campo dos Afonsos, in the state of Rio the Janeiro.

Sixty-one years later, I visited the Kovacs family, in Sao José dos Campos. Two things happened that day: Mrs. Kovacs made an excellent five o'clock tea, and Mr. Kovacs gave me the magazine "Asas" (Wings), from 1934.In this magazine, there was a small item. It said that a Grunau Baby was bought from the German expedition, by the Clube Paulista de Planadores. One point is not very clear in the article. Was this Baby the D- Christian, Hanna Reitse’s glider? Or was the glider to be sent from Germany? Further research solved this question, as we can see later.

The Babies from the Clube Paulista de Planadores

The well known glider pilot H. Dittmar spent some time in Sao Paulo teaching some Brazilian pilots and instructors. In 1935, the fruits of his works appeared. The pilot Decio A. Moracs Jr., flying a Grunau Baby, established the first Brazilian Duration Record. Later on,  Alfredo Schuring donated two Grunau’s to the club, imported from Germany. Some authors are not sure about this. The gliders could also be the Brazilian produced "Alcatraz”. Babies. I could not confirm this information from other sources, so the doubt persists. According to one author (I couldn't confirm this from other sources either), three more Babies were built at the club.The club changed its name to Clube Politecnico de Planadores, because the powered aircraft were used for primary instruction in a separate club.

The Grunau Baby built by Mr. Joao Luiz Job

In 1935, Mr. Joao Luiz Job built a Grunau Baby in San Paulo. Unfortunately, very little information exists about this glider. We can see by the picture that, like some Babies build in Brazil this ship had some modifications from the original German blueprints. The modifications include the wider cockpit and so on. The original registration marks of this glider were PP- 6.

The German Baby from Ponta Grossa

In 1932, a group of German descendants, from the Parana state, started an intense glider activity at the city of Ponta Grossa.They built a "Professor" glider and started to fly. Since they were very poor, the German government donated a Grunau Baby to the group. This happened in 1936., Later, with the beginning of the war, this ship was confiscated by the Brazilian Government. You see, this is another mark to the Babies! What a menace, it was a Grunau Baby in 1942! In 1942, this Grunau was given to the Baura Aeroclub, in the Sao Paulo state. This Baby is still in good condition, and flying at the club today.

The Babies from VAE.

The picture show a photo of an Grunau Baby  from the VARIG glider club, at the city of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brasil.Circa 1938.

In Feb. of 1937, the VAE - Varig Aero Esporte was founded, which could be defined as the sport division of Varig airlines, in the Rio Grande do Sul state, under the firm leadership of Captain Carlos H. Ruhl, who had arrived from Germany, where he had followed some courses in airplanes and gliders. The VAE was modeled on the German clubs and it was active until 1944. Many classes of pilots were formed, several gliders were imported and built at the shop, and also several records were established by its pilots.The imported gliders were very good. To give you an idea of the quality of the gliders, we can mention the Kranich II, the Waihe, the Rhön Bussard, the Wolf; the Grunau 9, the Grunau Baby, Höl's der TeufeL Zeuglings, and many others.Some still exist today, like the Kranich II, which was sold to the Aeroclube do Parana, and is still flying. Also the Wolf, which is at the Varig's museum, at Porto Alegre Airport, in the Rio Grande do Sol state. Others sutured accidents and were unfortunately destroyed, like the Waihe, destroyed in an accident during the Brazilian Nationals in 1968, and the Rhön Bussard, which was destroyed in an accident in 1960. In both accidents the pilots escaped unharmed.One Grunau Baby was imported from Germany, it was the PP-11, nicknamed "Corvo" (Crow). The fate of this Grunau is still unknown to me, like the other gliders built at their shop. What I am trying to do is to update this information, exchanging letters with the people from the museum.

Mr. Kurt and his gliders

Since the forties, under the leadership of Mr.Hendrich Kurt, a Swiss immigrant living at the city of Bauru, the Bauru aeroclub assumed an important role in the gliding scene in our country. Several gliders were imported, designed and built at the club's shop.

Mr. Kurt started building some "Zöglings", from the German blueprints. These gliders were appropriately called "Cangunis", because they were used to teach the beginners, in small hops over the grass. One of these gliders survived, and was restored some years ago by Mr. Kurt, who then test flew it at Bauru. He was more than 70 years old at the time! At the moment this glider is hanging from the roof of the hangar at the Bauru club.

After that, he build two "Hols der Teufel'. Then a Grunau Baby, three Olympia Meise, the Colibri, which I thought to be a Spalinger design, but Mr. Peter Selinger said (I have sent him a photo ) that it could be the Elfe 1, from Prof. Pfenninger, with a Horten wing and one of the most beautiful of the Brazilian designed gliders, and the HW-4 Flamingo, designed by Hans Widmer. Some good gliders were imported also, like the Spalinger S25 a and the Laister Kaufmam LK 10a.

Unfortunately, I don't know how many Babies were built by Kurt in Bauru. The photo that Mrs. Doris (Kurt's widow) kindly gave me, shows the Baby built by Kurt. We can see that, like many other Babies built in Brazil, this one had some modifications, like the nose, vertical stabiliser and rudder. This Baby still exists, but it is not flying, (while it is under process of restoration), and my friend Mr., Paulo Francisco da Silva (VGC member) told me a sad story about it. Some years ago, Mr. Kurt saw this Baby, and it wasn't in a very good condition. He asked the owner to leave the glider at Bauru, so he could restore it, but unfortunately, the owner did not agree with that. I don't know in which club this ship is stored at the moment.

Now there is only one Baby in Bauru. It's the PT-PBP, which is a original German built craft, the one that was sent to the pilots of Ponta Grossa, before the war.The story of this craft deserves to be studied more deeply, because this is an original pre-war German Baby, and it is still in flying condition.

The serial production of the Grunau Baby in Brazil

I think that very few people in (and outside) Brazil, know that the Grunau Baby was the first glider produced in series in our country.The entrepreneur Franciso Pignatari was at the time president of the powerful group Pignatari, a complex of several industries with activities in various areas.

At the end of 1940, an aeronautical section of one of these industries, the Laminação Nacional de Metais was founded at Utinga, state of São Paulo. It was headed by the engineer Jorge Rocha Fragoso.

In 1941 the construction of 30 Grunau Babies II was initiated, which received the name of "Alcatraz", this is the name of a marine bird from Brazil.

After that, another series of gliders was built, with the blueprints acquired from the IPT (Technological Research Institutes).

As we can see by the photos, the little "Alcatraz" also had some deterrence’s in relation to the German Babies. Without doubt, this small "Production line" was a significant contribution to the soaring sport in Brazil.

Other Babies in Brazil

Other Babies were built by pilots or amateurs, but it is very difficult to assess just how many, where and by whom.

A good example of this was told to Miss Claudia Figueiredo, during a flight, by Capt. Meneguini a 767 pilot of Varig Airlines. He said that one Baby was built by his father and a friend, in his father's garage, when he was young. During this flight, there was another coincidence. Claudia was one of the stewardesses, and the pilots were Captain Meneguini, who flies gliders and told her that story, and Captain Gerson Bergamin, who had had the chance to fly the Baby from the CPP. This glider is still in good shape, and this was the Baby used by Hanna Reitsch, in the German expedition. About a month ago, the president of the club, Mr. Annando R. Pucci gave me a call, and told me that the club was selling some gliders, including one SB-5 and this Baby. So, if anyone wants to buy the original Grunau Baby used by Hanna Reitsch in 1934, please give us a call. Of course, I tried to raise some money to buy it, but with two Grunau Babies and one Olympia Meise, I have too many gliders, too little money and absolutely no space available.

Stories like that exists and must be researched, before they fade away and be lost or completely forgotten.

The Babies at the Brazilian National championships

For some time, I have been trying to gather some information about the history of gliding in Brazil. Some good friends are spending time on this. and lending me a hand. Mr. Joseph Kovacs gave me some material about the Brazilian Championships, and Mr. Carlos Dufriche (he knows everything about aviation in Brazil!) gave, me a list of part of the gliders registered in our country.

 In this material I found some interesting facts about this Babies.

The first Brazilian Championship was run in 1954, and the gliders were divided into two classes, the first one - class A - to gliders with gliding ratio above 20:1, and the other - class B - to gliders with a performance below that.

The champion of class B was Mr. Aldo Weber Vieira da Rosa, flying a Grunau Baby, registered PT-PBN. Another Baby, from the Bauru Aeroclub finished in seventh place.

In 1961 I ( Mauro Lins de Barros) entered ITA - the aeronautical engineering school in São José dos Campos. One wednesday, probably late in the year, one of the two Grunau Babies from our gliding club ventured too far from the field when an unfavorable wind started. The pilot tried desperately to return but, perhaps half a kilometer before the runway, a wing struck the ground and the glider cartwheeled. Fortunately, he only suffered a dislocated arm and a few bruises. The Grunau was a total loss. I witnessed the whole scene from a distance. Incidentaly, the Grunau was of a light beige color with black registration in wings and fuselage.
Sincerely yours,
Mauro Lins de Barros

The next year, on the second National Championship, the champion was again Mr. Aldo Weber Vieira da Rosa. Other Babies finished in second and seventh places. This championship was held at Bauru.

The third Championship was held at Bauru again, in 1956. The winner was Mr. Antonio de Padua, flying a Grunau Baby. Second came another Baby, with Ms. Carmen Guimaraes. Other Babies finished in the fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth and tenth places.

And so on, during many years the Babies dominated the Brazilian Nationals in class B. Unfortunately, at the moment, I don't have the results of all of the National championships, but some surprises are still found, like I974, during the sixteenth National, when a Baby was the champion. Yes, it was in 1974.

The Babies registered in Brazil

My dear friend Captain Aldo Pereira, who has flown Junker 52 and DC 3 (and I am quite envious about that!!), introduced me to Mr. Carlos Dufriche, some time ago. Both gentlemen are well known authors of articles and books about Brazilian Aviation History. Well, Mr. Dufriche gave me a precious list of old gliders registered in Brazil. This list was the base of my research about gliding in Brazil. Of course, Mr. Joseph Kovacs is always guiding me in these matters, with his prodigious memory.

In the beginning, around the forties, there were no registration-numbers or letters on the gliders. Later on, registration was applied in the form of two letters (PP ) followed by one or two figures. Then, this was changed, into the use of two letters (PT) followed by three letters, like PT- PAK. Also we have some gliders with the first two letters PP, followed by three more letters, like the old registration of my Olympia Meise: PP-PCL. And the gliders that fall in the experimental category, received the letters PP, followed by the letter Z and two more letters, like the new registration of my Olympia: PP-ZVK.

So, here we have the list of the Babies:

PP-6 , PP-7 , PP- 11 ,PP- 12, PP- 13, PP-14, PP-15, PP-20, PP-21, PP-22, PP-23, PP-27.

Alter that, some changed registrations, or received new ones:


And: finally, the experimental:


The survivors

Some of the Babies still survive, in spite of bad treatment, new pilots, fungus, wet hangars, glass-ship-fanatics and so on, But, how many?Another good question. We must surely have some dismantled and forgotten Babies in hangars, barns etc. The registrations from the Air Ministry are also very, very confusing. So, I made, from memory, a short list of some Babies that we know to be in good condition (i.e. flying condition).

PP-ZTJ - This ship belonged to the Birigui Aero club. Maintained in very good condition, apart from some modifications, and in need of some minor maintenance. My friend Andre Maffini found it, and told me about it. Of course, I bought it (and almost went bankrupt again... Remember, there is the eternal unfinished Meise in my life). At the moment, this ship is stored at Mr. and Mrs. Kovacs garage, in Sao José dos Campos. Their kindness is amazing. My impression is that if one day I will arrive at their home with a Boeing 747 on top of my car, they will guard it in their garage, saying it is the most natural thing in the world to do...

PP-ZQI - This one was from Rio Claro Aero club. A friend of Miss Claudia Figueiredo from this club, told her about this ship. I went to see the Baby, a little suspicious, because Babies are a very rare breed to be for sale in Brazil. My fears vanished as soon as I arrived at the club. The Baby was beautiful! So, she bought the Baby, of course... At the moment it is in the hangar of the CVV-CTA Club, at Ipua, near São José dos Campos. Thanks to the goodwill of the president of the club, Mr. Paulo Bittencourt, and all of its members and friends. This ship also has some modifications, like a landing wheel, different canopy and spoilers. Well nothing that can't be reverted to the original configuration, designed by Edmund Schneider. Perhaps, after the completion of the Olympia, the other Grunau and some other old sailplane that appears on the road in the meantime...

 PP-ZQK  This Grunau-Baby is " living " in Rio Negrinho, a small city in the countryside of the beatifull state of Santa Catarina - Brazil . Later I can send photos to you, because for a while , the baby is changing the colors and I hope in two months will be OK. The Baby is in good condition and was flying until last december.

Carlos Machado  Februari 2005

PT-PCF - This ship belongs to the CPP Aero club. It is stored at the Jundiai Airport, near São Paulo City. A German Baby, it is the Hanna Reitsch glider. At the moment of this writing (1995), this Baby is for sale.

PT-PAK - Belongs to the Acroclube de Vôo à Vela de Nova lguaçu, at Rio de Janeiro. It has been kept in very good condition by the members of this club during several years of continuous operation.

This is the original German Baby from the Bauru Aeroclub ( Photo P.F.da Silva 1995

PT-PBP - This is the King of the fleet. It is the German Grunau of the Bauru Aero club.

The Babies PT-PAB, PT-PAY, PT-PAP, PT-PBJ, PT-PBK, PT-PBO, PT-PBQ, PT- PDH, PP-ZQK and PP-LYE, are still on the Ministry records, but I don't know their present conditions and locations.

PT-PDH This picture was taken by Jorge Neumann over Albatroz Glider Club in Osório, southern Brasil

PT-PDH is still flyable at the Albatroz Aero Club in the city of Osorio, 100 km from Porto Alegre.



Mr. Klaus Heyn versus the Brazilian Grunau Babies

At Oberschleisheim, I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Heyn. I had two photos of the Babies recently acquired, and showed them to him.

Well, only a few seconds using of his hawk like eyes were sufficient for Mr. Heyn to point out so many differences in relation to the original Babies, that he thought the two gliders were not Grunau Babies at all.

Back in Brazil, I started to learn more about the "Non-Babies". It wasn't very difficult to find some answers.

Well, the little gliders are Babies, but like so many Babies built in Brazil, both have some modifications in relation to their German brothers. And besides that, the gliders have been subject to several inspections, maintenance and overhauls, and it appears that at every one of these, some genius has tried to do something to "improve" the little Babies. I agree with Mr. Heyn. With so many modifications, they don't look like original Babies any more.

The PT-ZTJ looks like one of the original "Alcatraz", built around 1940 by the Laminação Nacional de Metais. Because of that, it has the different nose shape, a little more rounded, the struts are made of wood, like the Baby II, the, ailerons are also from the Baby II, different from the Baby llb. From the Baby llb came the air brakes. After some time, a wheel was installed behind the skid. The cockpit is also modified, with an enclosed cabin, and Plexiglas canopy. This Baby suffered some considerable modifications in the fifties, at the Aecroclube do Parana. Heresy'.? Most certainly so! But nothing that a well done restoration project could not fix, returning the Baby to its original configuration.

The ZQI, started its life as a Grunau Baby II, and also suffered some major overhauls. Now it has air brakes, like the Baby llb, different cockpit configuration, it still has the original ailerons from the Baby II, the wing struts are also like the Baby II made of wood, and it is equipped with a landing wheel behind the original skid. But, as I said before, nothing that can be reverted to the original configuration.

So, Mr. Heyn was right, they are not original Babies, but (at least some of them) can be reverted to their beautiful and original shape. Thank you, Mr. Heyn, for your comments at Oberschleisheim. Your eyes really go straight to the point.


With no doubts, this is not the definite history about the Grunau in Brazil. I think that, in the end, I have raised more questions then I supplied answers. But this is a part of the game, it is a good thing to raise questions, so that maybe other people could get interested in the subject, and try to gather more information, helping us to learn more about this nice little glider.


Interviews, information and help:

From São Jose dos Campos - Mr. Joseph and Mrs. Tereza Kovacs

From Rio de Janeiro - Captain Aldo Pereira, Mr. Carlos Dufriche and Ms. Daisy Keating and at last but not least, Ms. Claudia de Figueiredo Marques

From London - Mr. Paulo Roberto Montoro, Mr. Colin and Miss Anson, Mr. Christopher Wills and Mr. Geoff Moore, who put me in touch with everyone.

From Bauru - Mr. Andre Maffini, Mr.Paulo Francisco da Silva and Mrs. Doris (the widow of the late Hendrich Kurt).

From Germany -Mr. Klaus Heyn, Dr. Jörg Ziller and Mr. Peter F. Selinger. They always have information about old gliders.

The friends of the Aecroclube de Bauru and the Clube de Vôo à Vela do CTA.

Books, Magazines. publications. articles and lists

The magazine "Asas" (Wings), from February, 1934 - which was a precious gift from Mr. Kovacs.

The magazines "Flap", "Aero Magazine" and "Térmica', from several issues.

The records of the Brazilian National Championships, which were stored at Ipua, and belong to the ABVV (Brazilian Soaring Association).

"The Worlds Vintage Sailplanes 1908- 1945", the wonderful book by Mr. Martin Simons, Kookaburra, Melbourne.

"Die berühmtesten Segelflugzeuge" - by Mr. Georg Breitting, Motor Buch Verlag, Stuttgart.

'Uber Sonnige Weiten" - by Mr. Peter Riedel, Motor Buch Verlag, Stuttgart.

"Die Segelflugzeugen in Deutschland" - by Mr. D. Geismamm, Motor Buch Verlag, Stuttgart.

A Construção Aeronátitica Brasileira 1910 11976" - by Mr. Roberto Pereira de Andrade, Editora Brasiliense, Sao Paulo.

"A Historia da Aviação Brasileira - vol.II" - Edited by the INCAER.

"The Sky is my Kingdom" - by Miss Hanna Reitsch, Greenhill Books, London.

"Manual del Vuelo a Vela" - by Mr. Wolf Hirth, Ed. Labor, Spain.

"A conquista dos ares" - by Mr. Paul Karlson, Globo, Porto Alegre.

"Rosa dos Ventos" - A publication from the VARIG Airlines Museum, at Porto Alegre, which was sent to me by Ms. Lidia Marques (via Ms. Claudia Figueiredo Marques).

"The Grunau Baby" - An article published by the VGC, sent by Mr. Colin and Alice Anson. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the name of the author. Suspect number one is C.W. , of course.

"The RAB 1976, 1989, 1991" - A publication with the registrations of the Brazilian Sailplanes, edited once a year by the Civil Aviation Dept. of Brazil.

"The Dufriche's list" - So far, the most complete list of the Brazilian Gliders. It was generously handwritten by Mr. Carlos Duftiche, from his personal records. A priceless gift that I received, and always a source of correct and precise information.

Before I started to write this article about the Babies in Brazil, I had the good sense to study the history of them. That is why I mention sources from several countries, and thank so many people from various places for their information and help "above and beyond the call of duty".

The reader will observe that I wrote "Compiled by", not "Author" preceding my name. It is because I feel that I just got all the information from these various sources, and just put it together. So the merit is theirs, not mine.

PS - And please remember: If you found the article something like pure thrash, bury the telephone, fax and mailbox of Herr Ziller under your complaints. All this was his idea

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