The AkaFlieg, short for Akademische Fliegergruppe Darmstadt [English: Academic Aviation Group Darmstadt], is one of TU Darmstadt’s many student groups. It was founded in 1920 when students saw themselves unable to fly propeller aeroplanes due to the Allies’ post-WW1 ban on German operation of motor aircraft. The group’s main objectives were to research the use of naturally occurring currents of rising air as a form of motorless flight as well as establishing the means by which to start constructing their own gliders.
Not much has changed since the early days in regards to AkaFliegs’s purpose: Its members are still students spending a large part of their free time designing and building gliders. They are able to work at AkaFlieg’s large workshop and the adjacent design office at TU Darmstadt’s city centre campus. A lot of time is spent designing and researching innovative concepts that will later find themselves integrated into new glider prototypes.
Since AkaFlieg’s aspiration is to not just design new gliders, but to do so utilizing technology that has never used before in the industry, research is a key part of the work conducted at the city centre hangar. The group finds itself in the advantageous position of being able to conduct this research independent of the market’s demands: Very much unlike the manufacturers of production aircraft, AkaFlieg does not have to consider the profitability of its research and is able to experiment freely. Its members have thus been able to complete a range of different projects like the D-28 airplane weighing in at a mere 54 kilograms, the “wing blade wing” D-40 or the D-43, which features a rather unusual side-by-side seat configuration. These and other AkaFlieg airplanes are more then mere experiments: High maximum speeds and good glide ratios are a part of their good flight characteristics. Some planes even set records or take home trophies like the D-36 did when it won the German Glider Championship in 1964.
AkaFlieg Darmstadt and nine other German Academic Aviation Groups or AkaFliegs make up Idaflieg [Short for German “Syndicate of German AkaFliegs”], an association that acts as a link between the individual AkaFliegs. By hosting regular events on different topics, IdaFlieg encourages the exchange of experience with constructing airplanes. The largest of these events takes place in the summer, lasts for three weeks and is hosted annually in cooperation with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). During the event, flight characteristics of different prototypes and regular production aircraft are determined in extensive trials.