Thursday, October 12, 2006

Memories of the Club's First Glider

The WSC's first glider, the T31 two seater is being restored by the Vintage Gliding Association, eventually, it is hoped, for exhibition at the Pt Cook Air Museum. John Ashford has arranged for the T31 to be brought to Horsham in the near future for Joe Luciani to paint. The T31 won't be airworthy although the restoration group hope to get it it to that stage some time in the future. John hopes to rig it here, a b-----d of a job with seemingly thousands of pins, and cables to find holes for, and then maybe you young blokes can get to see what us old guys started flying in some 43 years ago.

The T31 was bought from Narromine in about April or May of 1963. I believe it had been repaired by the late Cleve Gandy, after a major crash prior it going to Narromine. The T31 was first rigged in the Nhill hangar before being aerotowed to Horsham. Reg Stewart, who with his “Silver C” badge was a big wheel, was pilot. The late Peter McKee was the back seat passenger. Peter Cohn from the Geelong Club did the tow in Jim Molyneaux's Tiger Moth. Jim had won the 'Tiger' in a 5 pound per ticket raffle from the Wimmera Aero Club.

The T31 came off tow at Dimboola when they got caught up in some showers and rough weather and landed in a paddock that was to small to tow out of again. So, a whole bunch of blokes set off to Dimboola and lifted the T31 over a fence or two until they got a paddock large enough for the 'Tiger' and T31 to takeoff from and continue the aerotow to Horsham.

The weather stopped any further towing that weekend. Ian Keyte did the first full weekend's towing the following weekend. On the second full weekend of operations I did 55 tows from Saturday morning to Sunday evening. This was from Robin Keath's private airstrip in the north west corner of the Natimuk Road and Curran's Road intersection. My very first tow instructions were to stay at about 45 knots and don't turn too sharp! That was it! Ah! for the good old days! No bureaucracy! No training! No paperwork! Just get out there and fly it!

After being tied up with aerotowing each weekend and helping build and then driving the Club's first winch, I didn't have my first flight in the T31 until the 3rd September 1963. I went solo on the 25th January 1964 after a rather spread out 17 flights. That first flight I still remember as somebody came down to the winch and told me to get up to the other end and get a flight in the T31. The T31 had two narrow boards leading up to the rudder boards. As I threw my heavy working boot over the side to get in, I clean missed the board and went straight through the fabric to stand there, straddling the cockpit side with both boots firmly planted on the ground looking, as usual, rather stupid. I was not popular! A large sticky bandage out of Tommy Thompson's black medical bag fixed the hole and we did the launch. I remember that launch very well as being a power pilot, the nose pointing up into the skies on the winch launch frightened the hell out of me. We just had too stall out at that frightening low altitude and crash and burn! We didn't and I am still here to prove it!

The T31 and the original winch were sold to a newly formed Queensland club in 1966 when the club bought a Kookaburra. This item was submitted by Max Hedt.

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