Say Goodbye to the Tow Plane with a Jet-Assisted Sailplane

No one likes being overly dependent on others, right? Freedom is one of the great draws of being a pilot, and many say that feeling is no more distinct than while guiding a sailplane soundlessly, thousands of feet above the ground. But the sad fact is, you need help to get up there. Usually a tow plane or ground-mounted winch is required to get you into the blue yonder where freedom takes hold. Just part of the deal, with sailplanes. Or at least it was.

Enter Desert Aerospace and an idea that looks right out of a James Bond movie. How about taking that lightweight aircraft and giving it a retractable jet engine, deployed from a compartment behind the cockpit? It only adds 45 pounds to the weight of the plane but provides 240 pounds of thrust, enough to take the plane up to a good gliding altitude at a climb rate of more than 900 feet per minute. Not just handy for the beginning of the flight, but the engine can also give you a little insurance to make certain you return to the landing area if the thermals weren’t quite in the places you’d hoped.

Check out the video of the BonusJet in action and tell me you wouldn’t like to take at least one low level buzz over the spectators on a Saturday afternoon.

(Via Gizmodo, Image via Desert Aerospace/Bill Pearson)


  1. Bruce R. says

    Not much to say here for me. Very cool!!! I hope for J. Bond’s sake, he doesn’t need a guy to run it to stable speed for take-off, would kind of defeat the purpose, I’m not sure the guys Bond’s trying to get away from would help out in that matter. I’ll have to look more into this. I have to see the fuel tank size, where it is, (wing or belly tank), and if the wings are detachable in the case of a belly tank. I can’t tell the wing span, but a plane like this, would need a wide hanger to store it, and that would be kind of big, if a number of these beauties are kept at small local airports. Also, I think a jet, (which this should be classified as) requires a special type of aviation operator’s licence… “B”

  2. Andy Kerr says

    All planes are gliders once you turn the engines off. Even the space shuttle (which glides like a brick) is a glider. This is only for take-off and emergency assist—once they get to their desired altitude, they shut the engine off and glide. A good glider pilot can also find thermal updrafts to boost altitude.

    You’d think, though, that in the interest of independence, they’d install tricycle landing gear so that someone wouldn’t have to run along the runway holding the wing….