The Yorkshire Gliding Club, as it is known today, was formed in 1934 by a group of pioneering aviators including famous names such as Fred Slingsby, Phillip Wills and Norman Sharpe. Our airfield began life as a windswept heather moorland, with tracks cut into the heather to allow takeoffs and landings!
Despite the primitive nature of the airfield (most airfields were similar in those days), famous aviators such as Amy Johnson joined the club after having gained her Silver 'C' at Dunstable. Aircraft flown at this time included the Scud 2, Hols de Taufel and Dickson Primary. The club winch of the time was a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, bought for £50 and converted for another £50! Buildings consisted of little more than wooden huts!
In 1938, a horse was acquired to retrieve gliders and the winch wire! This proved successful until a Kite 1 hit 'Major' on its landing run. Thereafter when he heard the whistle of wind associated with a landing glider, the horse would gallop away - sensible horse! Flying from Sutton Bank, Lieutenant Dean Drummond experimented with two-way radio in a Kite 1. He later became famous in the Arnhem landings during World War II. By 1939, Slingsby Sailplanes Ltd were offering new gliders for the princely sum of £99. A Kirby Kite 1 cost £159! Sadly the outbreak of war ended gliding in the UK for its duration. Many members went on to serve with distinction.
The 1940s & 50s
The early post-war years were very difficult for the club. Much of the early infrastructure had disappeared and few of the pre-war membership returned. Some of the key benefactors in the early years continued to offer financial support. By 1947, the club had acquired its first open cockpit side-by-side T21 trainer from Slingsby's. This model proved to be a superb training machine and T21s saw service well into the Sixties. In 1956, Henryk Doctor was appointed Chief Flying Instructor. Henryk had a distinguished war service flying Mosquitos. His dry sense of humour and unique training methods drew great respect from club members throughout his years of service as CFI.
In the early Sixties the club made significant progress, encouraged by the vision and financial help of Eric Reed, chairman of the club at that time. Our unique circular clubhouse replaced the ageing wooden structures. Projects to ensure the continued development and growth of the club were implemented over the remainder of the 20th century resulting in the club becoming one of the leading clubs in the country.
As you will see on our other pages, the club operates a state of the art fibreglass fleet which allows glider pilots from the UK and further afield to exploit the superb soaring conditions that occur in North Yorkshire. Together with its great location and excellent facilities, the Yorkshire Gliding Club has successfully built on foundations laid in the past, to justify the efforts and vision of those who went before. Present day members and visitors alike are indeed fortunate to inherit the club as it is today.
This is not the end of the story. The firm intention is to ensure that successes over the past 80 years will continue into the forseeable future. If you would like to know more about the early days of Yorkshire Gliding Club there are publications available for sale from our office and, by arrangement, the club's archive can be made available for viewing. You can also watch the video below to gain an insight into the early days of British gliding!