Don't be alarmed, this isn't a religious post. You are safe to read one slopers opinion on this Spirit aspect of slope soaring.
Charlie Richardson, founder of CR Sailplanes who made a huge positive cutting edge mark on the sport during the 80's and 90's said it best and I paraphrase -
"There is a certain Spirit about a neat handcrafted plane that one experiences that to me a foamy just doesn't have - I'll never own a foamy".
After building and flying both woodies and foamies I have to agree with CR. First of all do you realize when crafting a wood plane you literally get it inside of you? You sand and shape the wood to where it's inhaled and it becomes a part of your physical nature in a microscopic way. That's right, you and the model are one in nature sharing dust particles that don't harm your body. It's an organic relationship from the beginning. Foamies don't do that to you.
Balsa and plywood materials are an amazing thing for modeling that has been here for hundreds of years of modeling history not only with flying machines. They hold a great tradition with man and his exploration of invention and design. Foamies don't do that.
And, wood model airplanes can be easily repaired or restored to like new condition over and over again. Foamies don't do that.
Finally, when holding a woodie in one hand and a foamy in the other, you must agree the foamy just doesn't have the character and Spirit of a hand built wood model you spent more time crafting from sticks into a beautiful flying machine. If you disagree that's your opinion and I respect it. But you will have missed the essence of model airplane building and flying IMO. With the foam plane, the spirit is muted. There is a minimal sense of real craftsmanship unless you consider packaging an art in an odd sort of way. The only way a decently designed foamie pays you back is a good flight and a lucky crash landing on the deck which isn't all that bad a reason to like foamies over woodies. But this is missing the mark as far as the hobby is concerned. "BTW for your information, crash landing isn't landing". Oh sure some come into the sport to fly more than to design and build. In fact a lot of slopers dislike building altogether and resort to packaging foamies, bouncing them off the ground, never consider putting hand to balsa. This is a sad report that threatens the future and tradition of the hobby.
I for one will continue the wood building tradition amongst the hoards of foamy folks that deep down know they wish they had undertook or continued traditional building techniques that possess a lasting future and a proud past. One talented pilot admitted to me one day as we were getting ready go toss my woodie and he his foamie - "I sure wish I could build with the craftsmanship you do EJ, your plane looks so good and they fly great too". It's all a matter of choice as to what kind of hobbyist you wish to be. Do you choose trading in a great and lasting tradition for some cheap and quick thrills, or do you buckle down and do the work necessary to produce a beautifully built and flying ship that is a part of you forever. The choice is clear to me.
Woodies are alive and well in 2012... Eric Johnson